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GIRARD Deficit's likely, official reports



Published: Wed, September 18, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Even the income tax increase on the Nov. 5 ballot won't erase the anticipated 2003 general-fund deficit.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- The city will have to find $1.1 million in revenue or make drastic cuts in 2003, a state oversight commission was told Tuesday.

The assessment came from Nita R. Hendryx, the city's fiscal officer named by the state auditor's office.

Hendryx explained to the seven-member Girard Financial Planning and Supervision Commission that the city's general-fund receipts for next year are an estimated $3.6 million, with $4.7 million in expenses.

This doesn't not include $700,000 to $750,000 the city will get if voters approve a 0.5-percent, two-year income tax increase on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.

Even if voters approve the tax increase, Hendryx said, cuts will be needed.

Added expenses, she explained, will include 3.5-percent wage increases previously negotiated as part of three-year labor agreements with city workers.

Also, the state auditor has ruled that $277,000 must be absorbed by the general fund. It will be added to the deficit because of a finding against the city by the state auditor.

The commission was appointed when the state auditor placed the city in fiscal emergency because of overspending and inability to pay on loans.

Chairman's comments

Joe Gray, commission chairman and a budget and management analyst with the state's Office of Budget and Management, said he won't vote for anything but a balanced budget.

Gray pointed out that it's against the law for city council or the commission to approve a deficit budget.

"We have to draw a line in the sand somewhere," Gray said.

After the meeting, Gray said if the budget isn't balanced, he will leave the commission. If Paul Steiner, a state treasurer representative, also walks away from the commission, it will leave five members.

Five members must approve any action the commission takes.

Gray cautioned that if the commission is rendered inoperable, the state's attorney general will impose a budget based on 80 percent of projected revenue.

Commission member Robert Delisio commented that city council isn't taking the commission's advice.

The commission opposed a tax increase, recommending instead the sale of city-owned Girard Lakes to generate income.

Last week, council voted 5-2 to indefinitely postpone legislation to breach the aged dam on Lower Girard Lake because of the cost and to seek bids to repair the valves so the water level can be controlled.

Lawmakers also advanced legislation to advertise for bids for an appraisal of the lakes.

Jerry Lambert, city service director, told the commission that Mayor James J. Melfi has asked the Army Corps of Engineers if a $1.14 million federal grant the city has can be used to repair the valves.

Lambert said the mayor hasn't received a response from the Corps.

yovich@vindy.com




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