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Melfi's plan: Out of debt in 7 years



Published: Thu, June 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The city is $1.4 million in debt and has been in fiscal emergency for three years.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- How does the city plan to get out of its fiscal emergency by 2012?

A plan created by Mayor James Melfi to get the city out of debt depends on the following things:

*Renewal of the current fire levy;

*Passage of a one-quarter percent income tax for police levy in November;

*A favorable court decision allowing timber sale and mineral rights money to be transferred from the water department to the general fund.

If all these measures take place and the city can continue to keep health care and overtime to a minimum, the city could be $173,000 in the black at the end of 2012, Melfi said.

The city is $1.4 million in debt and has been in fiscal emergency for the past three years.

"This is not going to be quick," Melfi said Wednesday. "This city will do it's job. I will not put the community at risk by drastically reducing police and fire or closing the parks. I want to keep the streets safe and if the fiscal oversight committee doesn't like than they can run for mayor."

The mayor says he will give his plan to the fiscal oversight committee during today's meeting.

Creating a plan

During last month's meeting with the committee, chairman Paul D. Marshall, from the state Office of Budget and Management, told the mayor he wants a plan in place that shows when the city can get out of fiscal emergency.

"At the last meeting, Chairman Paul Marshall made some comments that gave the impression to some that the city has been left to wander aimlessly," Melfi said.

"Although these types of remarks will certainly create headlines, they obviously do not accurately depict the recent financial history our city."

Why in debt

The mayor said that city's financial woes can be attributed to increased employee costs, and three projects that took place before his administration.

Melfi noted that in 1995 the city purchased Girard Lakes for $2.51 million and then in 1999 spent $5.2 million constructing the new justice center and $2.25 million improving parts of U.S. Route 422.

Changes since then

"Many changes have occurred since the city has been placed in fiscal emergency on Aug. 8, 2001," Melfi said.

He noted the city reduced the police department from 27 employees to 19, eliminated the public ambulance service, reduced fire department staff by four, eliminated management positions in the street department, recreation and auditor's office, and cut eight part-time employees.

"We have done a lot and every year we have been able to balance the general fund and reduce the deficit," Melfi said.

sinkovich@vindy.com




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