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GIRARD General fund deficit is worse than thought



Published: Tue, April 23, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Comments about the audits were limited because the reports haven't been made public.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- The city's general fund deficit is worse than anticipated.

Councilman Joseph Christopher, D-at-large, confirmed Monday that the state auditor has increased the deficit by an amount between $430,000 and $470,000.

The city's general fund deficit had been placed at $1.7 million.

The increase was made public by Christopher after a city resident asked during a council meeting if the rumors of the increased deficit were true.

State Auditor Jim Petro's staff has completed the audit for the city's 1999 and 2000 books, but won't release them until after the May 4 primary election.

Fiscal emergency

The city has been under a state-imposed fiscal emergency because funds have been in the red and it has defaulted on loans.

The auditor's staff met last Thursday with members of the city administration and lawmakers to discuss the audits.

Councilwoman Kathleen O'Connell Sauline, D-2nd, chairman of council's finance committee, said the upward revision does not increase the overall debt of the city.

Money is being taken out of the general fund and transferred to another fund.

Because the audit reports have not been made public, officials were reluctant to discussed them.

Christopher and city Auditor Sam Zirafi indicated some work done for the city was paid from another city fund when it should have been paid out of the general fund. As a result, the general fund must reimburse the other fund.

"It digs the hole a little deeper," Zirafi said.

During council's finance committee meeting before the council session, Mayor James J. Melfi said the city has to look at generating revenue.

General operating levy

He pointed specifically to a five-year 0.8-mill general operating levy that was allowed to lapse in 1999.

Zirafi wasn't auditor at the time and said he doesn't know why the issue wasn't placed on the ballot for renewal.

The issue generated $100,000 annually for the general fund.

"This is something we've always paid," the mayor said, noting the cost to the average homeowner would be $24.50 per half.

Melfi asked the finance committee to begin thinking about placing a new issue before voters, either during a special election or on the November general election ballot. A special election would cost the city $10,800.

Christopher and Melfi agreed that a 0.8-mill levy would not eat into the general fund deficit. Christopher said the 0.8-mill issue and increase in income tax or another levy could overcome the deficit.

Also, Melfi told the finance committee that he and Fire Chief Ken Bornemis have worked out staffing of the fire department.

The temporary staffing calls for the city to bring two part-time firefighters to full-time status and use additional part-timers to fill in on vacations. This would allow the station to be manned by five firefighters each of the three turns. The department has been working with four men on two of the shifts.

Melfi said the idea is to reduce overtime and increase service. A full-timer working overtime costs $31 an hour, while a part-timer costs $9 an hour.

In another matter, Melfi said he will call for a meeting of owners of Creekside Golf Dome and neighbors who have complained about loud music.

Three neighbors told could Monday their windows vibrate some nights.

"I've tried everything I can do," Melfi said, noting their complaints are valid. He also asked law director Mark M. Standohar to research what action the city can take to end the problem.

Creekside has added insulation to the dome to cut down the amount of noise filtering outside, the mayor said.

yovich@vindy.com




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