GIRARD Temporary budget aims to control funds
Girard's recreation program will take a large cut.
By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
GIRARD -- Mayor James Melfi has revealed a portion of his plans to increase revenue and decrease spending in the debt-ridden city.
Recreation will see a major decrease in budgeting, although parks and ball fields will remain open.
At the same time, the administration will propose a balanced, temporary budget to control spending.
The mayor announced some of his proposed measures Tuesday during a city council finance committee meeting attended by most council members and city workers.
Unice Smith of the state auditor's office said the temporary budget is needed because the city has been overspending by $400,000 to $500,000 annually.
Melfi proposed decreasing from 6.5 percent to 2.5 percent the amount of the annual general fund budget that goes to recreation, resulting in a $120,000 annual savings.
The salary of part-time recreation director Mark Zuppo would be decreased from $15,000 to $7,500.
Melfi said he doesn't believe recreational services will decline because the parks and ball parks will be maintained and city sports organizations will help with programs.
Other ideas: To generate revenue, Melfi proposed increasing building and electrical permit fees to generate $65,000 annually.
The proposals also call for implementing a charge for false police and fire calls that could bring in $5,000 yearly.
By removing the deputy auditor's position that is currently unfilled, Melfi said, the city could save as much as $52,000 in wages and fringe benefits. Eliminating the position of legal secretary will save $6,700 annually.
Also, the state auditor's office is looking at the possibility of charging the city of Hubbard for use of the Girard Municipal Court.
Because Hubbard has only a mayor's court, its criminal cases are filed in Girard.
Besides Hubbard, Girard is the only other municipality in Girard court's judicial district. The city pays for the court's operation.
Townships in the district cannot be charged for use of the court, Melfi said the state auditor has ruled.
The mayor's proposals must be approved by city council.
Councilwoman Kathleen O'Connell Sauline, D-2nd, expressed concern there isn't a dialogue between the mayor and council, and that changes will be done too quickly.
Melfi assured lawmakers they won't be presented with proposals that must be acted on and done immediately.
"We're not here to rush you," Melfi told them.
Background: The city has been under a state-imposed fiscal emergency since Aug. 8, and a fiscal oversight committee has been appointed, as the city faces a $1 million deficit by year's end.
Smith explained to council that when the temporary 90-day budget is proposed to council, it will be less than 25 percent of the current budget to cut down on deficit spending.
If the temporary measure is not in place by Jan. 1, Smith explained, "the city will not spend one dime" because the oversight commission won't allow it.
The permanent appropriation must be completed by April 1, Smith noted.
The local government services division of the state auditor's office has been conducting a performance audit of the city's operations. The audit will include recommendations to improve city operations and will be issued in January, Smith said.
The mayor will announce his recovery plan by Jan. 25. The performance audit and recovery plan, which must be approved by council, will be used to arrive at the 2002 balanced budget, Melfi said.