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State panel continues to struggle with Campbell finances



Published: Sat, September 25, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



Fire and police chiefs explain the jump in overtime costs.

By MARALINE KUBIK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CAMPBELL -- The commission that must map the city's road to fiscal recovery is nearing the halfway point in its journey, but the end isn't in sight.

In July, expenditures in the police and fire departments were up significantly -- 41 percent, or $4,000, in the police department, and 49 percent, $9,800, in the fire department, compared with the six months before, said Nita R. Hendryx, assistant chief project manager with the state auditor's Northeast Region.

Hendryx is also financial supervisor for the city's seven-member financial planning and supervision commission.

Too much spending

The increases are especially problematic, Hendryx said, because even without overtime, the city spends too much on employee salaries and benefits. If Campbell is to regain its fiscal stability, costs must be cut, and so far, she noted, city council has failed to do that.

Expenditures for police and fire consume 70 percent of Campbell's general fund revenue.

Hendryx also reminded commission members that a recovery plan is due 120 days from the commission's first meeting, which was July 28. "We're almost 60 days into that," she said. If there is no plan in place by the December deadline, the state will reduce the city's appropriations to 85 percent, Hendryx said.

Retirement money

On a brighter note, Hendryx reported that the Public Employees Retirement System has agreed not to attach the city's local government money, which comes from the state, to cover past due contributions.

Until last month, the Mahoning County Auditor had held Campbell's local government funds to cover debts owed the county. By the end of the summer, those debts were paid in full, Hendryx said.

Mayor Jack Dill told the committee that the city is considering two proposals for the sale of its water treatment plant -- a lump-sum payment of $31,500 or a lease-to-own arrangement that would net the city an initial payment of $17,950 followed by a final payment of $22,500.

Aqua Ohio Inc., formerly Consumers Ohio Water, is interested in buying the plant. The mayor said, "I don't think we should be in the water business any more."

Selling the water treatment plant was one of the suggestions state auditors offered to help bring Campbell out of deficit.

Responding to the report of significant increases in expenditures in the police and fire departments, Nick Hrelec, fire chief, said, shaking his head. "They tell you they're up, but they don't tell you why," he complained. "It's basically because of vacations. It always goes up in the summer."

Firefighters work a 24-hour schedule, Hrelec continued. So, when a firefighter takes a day off, it's not an eight-hour vacation day, it's a 24-hour vacation day.

Chief of Police Gus Sarigianopoulos provided a written explanation.

"The minimum staffing for this department is sixteen officers," Sarigianopoulos wrote. At present, the department is operating with a staff of 13 full-time officers, but because of vacations, family leave and injuries, only 10 full-time officers are working.

Man hours

To cover all shifts each week requires 504 hours, the police chief wrote. Working 40 hours a week, the 10 full-time officers can cover only 400 hours. Part-time and auxiliary officers collectively cover 70 hours a week, the letter states, leaving 34 hours that must be covered by officers working overtime.

The commission's next meeting will be at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 20.

kubik@vindy.com




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