The mayor and finance director said there's no other place to get the money.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
SHARON, Pa. -- City council won't allow the city administration to use $60,000 in street employee salary funds for road salt.
Council voted 5-0 Thursday to reject a proposal by Mayor David O. Ryan and Finance Director Michael Gasparich to transfer $60,000 in street salary funds into a snow and ice removal account.
The motion would have also moved another $20,000 from a street equipment repair line item into snow and ice removal.
Council members feared the transfer would mean immediate layoffs in the street department. "If you do this, are you laying off people tomorrow?" asked Councilman Ray Fabian, while Councilman Lou Rotunno accused the administration of pushing for street department layoffs.
Trying to make cuts
Gasparich said efforts would be made to cut spending elsewhere in the budget to offset using the $60,000 to pay for road salt. Some revenue items are higher than expected and could be tapped to restore that money to the street department, preventing any layoffs, he said.
The salt bill is due April 1 and the city has no other source of money to pay it as 2003 tax revenues are just beginning to come in, he said.
However, Council President Fred Hoffman warned that if the city can't find money to replace the $60,000 later, it will eventually reach a point where it can't pay its employees.
Ryan said later he doesn't know where the city will find the money for the salt bill. Sharon had budgeted $140,00 for salt and related supplies but has spent more than twice that amount. The $7,000 earmarked for snow-removal overtime ballooned to more than $16,000.
Ryan had warned in December that the budget passed by city council was tight and a bad winter could lead to layoffs to cover the cost of snow removal. However, he said Thursday that the proposed fund transfers are only accounting moves and don't mean that layoffs are coming.
He said he and Gasparich will try to find some other source of money for the salt. Gasparich said there isn't any other money available.
Officers plan to retire
In other business, council voted 5-0 to allow two senior police officers to retire a year early, saving the city between $15,000 and $17,000 this year and hopefully avoid police department layoffs later in the year.
The proposal came from the city's Fraternal Order of Police, which said Sgt. Mark Yassem and Patrolman Kenneth Mild are both 49 and could retire in 2004 at 50 under the contract.
They're willing to go now, provided that the city allows them to count $15,000 in unused sick days and $2,000 in longevity payments in computing their pensions, which are normally 50 percent of an officer's best pay year.
Both officers are making about $40,000 this year, which would result in a $20,000 pension. Counting unused sick time and longevity as part of their final year's salary would boost that pension to about $28,500 a year.
They would stop working now but use up their 2002 vacation time and unused sick days, remaining on the payroll into October.