GIRARD Mayor finishes plan to get city out of debt

The Girard mayor says he despises tax and utility rate increases, but they're needed.
GIRARD -- Mayor James J. Melfi has completed his five-year financial recovery plan designed to dig the city out of debt.
Melfi finished putting the plan together Wednesday during a morning meeting with Nita R. Hendryx, the city's fiscal supervisor assigned by the state auditor's office.
The plan will first be given to city council members and then made public "within a couple of days," the mayor said.
Because the city is under a state-imposed fiscal emergency, the plan is required by law.
It will be presented to the state commission overseeing the community's fiscal recovery.
Melfi doesn't expect the oversight commission to act on the document until its March meeting.
He was supposed to have the plan to the commission by Jan. 25 but was given a two-month extension.
Parallels audit: He said his plan parallels the state auditor's performance audit completed Jan. 31, which calls for sweeping changes in the way the city does business.
The audit recommends increasing revenue through taxes and boosting water and sewer rates, while decreasing costs through an employee wage freeze this year.
The audit makes about 40 recommendations.
Melfi said his plans to call for water and sewer rate increases and an income tax increase or a levy to be placed before voters.
"I despise those type of things but realize the audit calls for them," the mayor said.
The audit has not set well with some city employees who have experienced layoffs within their ranks.
Firefighter Phil Cretella Jr., president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 2110, has termed it a "complete and total farce" and a "union busting" report.
Melfi has laid off 14 part-time firefighters, and the full-time workers have agreed to a wage freeze this year.
The audit recommends that city employees pay for a portion of their health-care package.
Cretella told city council this week that too much of the burden is being placed on workers.
He suggested calling back the furloughed firefighters before a firefighter or resident is injured.

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