CAMPBELL PRIMARY Voters to decide 5-mill levy, next mayor
Further city worker layoffs could occur if the levy fails, the mayor says.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
CAMPBELL -- Residents will vote on a 5-mill additional levy to help get the city out of fiscal emergency and eliminate one of the three mayoral candidates during Tuesday's primary election.
The state placed the city in fiscal emergency June 10, 2004, because of an operating deficit. The city has a $2.55 million general fund budget for 2005 and started the year with a $301,000 deficit, said John Leskovyansky Jr., Campbell's finance director.
Based on a variety of factors, the city could end the year with no deficit or the shortfall could increase to as much as $450,000, he said.
Rejected twice before
That's why the 5-mill five-year additional levy is so vital to the city's economic future, Leskovyansky said. The levy, rejected twice by voters, would raise $352,760 annually. In May, voters defeated the levy by 86 votes.
During the past two years, the city has reduced its work force because of the financial problems, said Mayor Jack Dill.
There used to be nine firefighters, but now there are six. The city's police department is at full force with 16 officers, but now has 13, with one of them off duty with a medical problem. The street department used to have six employees, but now has four.
"Our finances are pretty bad," said Dill, one of three candidates in Tuesday's mayoral runoff. "If this levy passes, we won't recall anyone. It will allow us to operate at our current level. If this doesn't pass, it will be very difficult to operate the city."
Further layoffs could occur if the levy fails Tuesday, he said.
Dill, a 58-year-old retired hardware store owner, is being challenged by council President Robert P. Yankle, who's held that seat since July 2000, and is a former 4th-Ward councilman; and Juanita Rich, a former 4th-Ward councilwoman who lost mayoral bids in 1995 and 1999.
Under Campbell city charter rules, the top two finishers in the primary advance to the November general election.
Elected to three two-year terms as mayor, Dill says he is running again because he wants to see the city progress.
"We're finally doing some economic development with our brownfields, and having some companies with small staffs come to the city," he said. "Within a couple of years, we should be on our feet."
But, Dill admits, the city's tax base shows little sign of growing.
"I have more churches than I have businesses in this city," he said.
Rich, a 52-year-old surgical technologist, said the current administration's inability to handle the city's finances is the cause of the fiscal emergency.
"We're not going forward, and I won't sit back and wait for things to get better," she said. "People are concerned with the city being in fiscal emergency, that the streets are in need of repair and vacant lots aren't being taken care of."
City officials should have seen the financial problems coming years ago and addressed them at that time before the state declared Campbell to be in fiscal emergency, Rich said.
"It's poor financial planning that led to the levy," she said.
Based on her discussions with city residents, Rich doubts the levy will pass Tuesday.
Levy is vital
Yankle said passage of the tax levy is vital to the economic survival of the city.
"The money is not there even though we've cut and cut and cut," he said.
The safety and drug supervisor at the Mahoning County Engineer's Office for the past 14 years, Yankle said he can do a better job than Dill as mayor. Yankle, 51, said if elected mayor, he would concentrate on attracting businesses to the city.
Yankle said of Dill: "He's a nice guy," but he added that Dill hasn't "been aggressive when it comes to obtaining grants and helping the city's finances."