Mayor: Cuts are coming

EAST LIVERPOOL — Reacting to voters’ rejection of a temporary .5 percent income tax increase in the Nov. 8 election, Mayor Ryan Stovall assured City Council Monday night that cuts are coming.

Saying he will be meeting next week with other city officials to work on the budget, Stovall cautioned, “There will be cuts. We know that. It won’t be easy. We will sit down, and there will be cuts in (the budget). That’s what people voted for, and that’s what’s going to happen.”

The income tax, which would have been in effect for five years, would have generated an additional $700,000 annually, with the bulk of that earmarked for the police department, which would have allowed for hiring more officers and helped with implementation of a drug awareness program in the schools.

Other departments also would have realized additional revenue, including $86,000 for the fire department and possibly a part-time inspector.

Asked by Councilman Craig Stowers if housing inspector Erik Adkins — who recently resigned to take another position — will be replaced, Stovall said not this year but possibly in 2017 if money becomes available.

Auditor Marilyn Bosco has estimated the city may end the year with a $13,000 carryover, but reported Monday night on a financial plan she has put together at the recommendation of state auditors which is not unlike those normally put into place when government entities are declared in fiscal emergency.

Bosco said the city has not been declared in even fiscal caution or fiscal watch but that state auditors will be meeting with her Dec. 8 to help with the 2017 temporary budget, looking at areas where savings can be made.

The financial plan, which will have to be adopted in legislative form by city council, is designed to eliminate all fiscal emergency conditions and identifies steps to restore the city’s fiscal integrity, according to its stated objectives.

Among the matters the city needs to address, according to the plan, are appropriations, financial reports, increasing operating revenue and reducing expenditures.

Collecting income tax delinquencies is noted in the plan as the sole method for increasing revenue, while expenditure-reducing steps include revising health insurance costs; reducing overtime costs; reducing operating supplies; reducing staff by attrition and replacing full-time employees with part-time; selling, leasing or trading non-essential assets; not placing any orders until a purchase order it signed; and reducing the amount placed into the capital improvement fund.

The plan also notes that the mayor will continue working to attract new business into the city.

A five-year forecast and addressing and implementing recommendations in the state auditor’s report of accounting methods will also be completed, according to the proposed financial plan.

Bosco said she modeled the plan after several from other communities, “picking and choosing” sections that best suit East Liverpool’s circumstances. She invited input from council members before the final legislation is prepared for their approval.

In other matters Monday, Councilman Ray Perorazio again broached the subject of giving a city businessman a discount on a high water bill incurred due to a waterline break, saying he had addressed the issue with the utilities committee and “it didn’t go nowhere.”

Perorazio said the business owner “wasn’t happy,” and said he had learned East Palestine “gives a break” in such instances, adding, “If we want to be a friendly city, why don’t we act that way?”

Referring to comments made earlier by Perorazio about the need to charge landlords $50 per day for infractions to the zoning codes, Councilman Bill Hogue noted, “We could say that fining people $50 a day isn’t very friendly,” to which Perorazio replied, “That has nothing to do with being a friendly town. They have to play by the rules.”

Councilman John Mercer, a member of the utilities committee, reminded Perorazio that the committee did, in fact, discuss his concerns about the water break and decided that the way the policy stands now is fine.

President of Council John Thoma called for an end to the debate, telling Perorazio, “It’s not that you didn’t get an answer. The committee has made a decision and you have to go with it. Not everything brought to the table you’re going to agree with. If we do (a break) for one, we have to do for another, and then another.”

In legislative issues, council approved an ordinance entering into an agreement with Farmers National Bank as the city’s depository.

Council members expressed their amazement and pleasure at the quality of the work done on two formerly abandoned downtown buildings by New Castle School of Trades, renovating them for a new vocational school.

Councilman Fred Rayl suggested changing council’s meeting time for the winter to 6 p.m., with some discussion held on changing to the earlier time for all regular meetings. The issue will be discussed at a meeting of the safety-rules committee at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 5 prior to that night’s regular meeting.

At 6:45 p.m. that night, the streets-lands-buildings committee will meet. The finance committee will meet at 3 p.m. Nov. 29 and the licensing-economic development committee will meet at 4 p.m. Dec. 7.