Mayor James Melfi will ask city council to place a police and fire levy on the ballot.
By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
GIRARD -- The city will have to trim $757,000 from its 2002 budget to keep it out of deficit spending, the state auditor's office said.
At the same time, the auditor has made a number of proposals to generate money, including a safety forces levy.
The shortfall in the 2002 budget was outlined Thursday to the city's financial planning and supervision commission by Nita Hendryx, who was assigned by the auditor as the city's fiscal supervisor.
The commission was appointed after the city was placed under fiscal emergency Aug. 8 by state Auditor Jim Petro.
Hendryx told the commission the city's estimated general fund revenue next year is $3.7 million. This is $757,000 over estimated expenditures.
"The money just isn't there," Hendryx told the commission.
Joe Gray, a commission member from the state's Office of Budget and Management, said he won't support anything but a balanced budget, even if there are employee layoffs.
If the present trend in deficit spending continues, Gray said, the city will be bouncing payroll checks.
The auditor's office made a number of recommendations to generate money, including a police and fire levy.
Levy: Mayor James Melfi, a commission member, said he would support a small levy, though he was not specific about the millage.
One mill generates $143,000 annually for the city.
Melfi said he will propose the levy to city council at its next meeting. He prefers it to be placed on the May primary ballot because the city must pay the elections board for a special election.
Melfi also said he is going to request that the municipal court pay a larger portion of its costs.
To operate the court, Judge Michael Bernard now receives $827,398 out of the general fund for operations. At the same time, the judge has $725,000 in restricted funds, that is, money that can be used for specific purposes, such as computer purchases.
The issue could result in a conflict between the commission and court.
Gray said the court's budget can be reduced and Judge Bernard would have to live within what is allocated.
If the court orders that his budget request is to be funded, the city will have to tell him it doesn't have the money to do it, Gray asserted.
Loans: To reduce costs, the commission approved some refinancing of loans on projects.
Rather than paying 5.75 percent to Second National Bank to pay for installation of underground utilities along State Street, the commission will pay a fixed rate of 4.73 percent for three years.
The city borrowed money at 5.41 percent over 19 years to construct the justice center. Second National will now charge 4.73 percent fixed for three years.
It restructured the loans from the Ohio Water Development Authority so the city doesn't default on any more loans. It has defaulted on two of four such loans.
Gray said that if the city defaults on any more OWDA loans, the authority can go to court and order water and sewer rates increased and garnish the money.
During the meeting, Melfi announced that the city health department has reached an agreement with LAS Recycling Inc. in Girard for tipping fees.
In a letter to the mayor from James Dobson, city deputy health commissioner, the landfill will pay the city 25 percent per yard of construction materials accepted by the landfill beginning in 2002. It will generate about $87,000 annually.
The mayor said a recent change in state law allows cities to collect such fees.