By Denise Dick
Without additional revenue, more layoffs are likely.
BOARDMAN — There’s been no decision by township leaders regarding a next step while working with a smaller work force and decreasing revenues, but trustees are hoping for input from the public.
Trustee Larry Moliterno said he hopes the topic is a subject of discussion at trustees’ April 9 meeting.
“I’m trying to work with the other two trustees to figure what the next step is,” he said.
Moliterno met in recent weeks with the leaders of township unions and department heads to try to reach some consensus on moving forward to address the township’s financial problems. Because of shrinking revenue, the township in February laid off 30 full-time and 12 part-time employees.
Trustees have said that without additional revenue, more layoffs are likely.
Among the issues discussed with employees were ideas for generating revenue. But Moliterno declined to enumerate on those ideas until further investigation is complete. Some may not be realistic, he explained.
A levy on the ballot in either an August special election or the November general election has been talked about among trustees although no decision about the type of levy, the amount or when to seek it has been made.
Trustee Kathy Miller said she believes that ultimately a levy will be necessary this year, probably in November, but she’s looking for guidance from a citizens business committee for what type of levy and how much. Jim Rosa, a certified public accountant with Hill, Barth and King, has volunteered to help with the township’s financial plan and is assembling a committee of business people to assist.
Miller, however, wants more information from the township administration regarding specific items contained in each budget line item. She believes the township’s budget documents should be user-friendly and easy for the average resident to understand.
Trustee Chairwoman Robyn Gallitto said she supports dedicated levies for specific departments.
The township is waiting to hear from unions to see if they’re willing to make concessions in order to save jobs or possibly bring people back, she said.
The road department accepted a contract change that allowed two mechanics, which service all township vehicles, to be in a different classification. The mechanics were near the bottom of the road union’s seniority list and among the employees laid off. The change allowed the two mechanics to return to work.
But the changes made by road department employees, while helpful, aren’t enough to correct the township’s budget problems, Gallitto said. Road employees also approved a three-year contract with no raises.
All department heads, she said, are paying 15 percent uncapped for their health care contribution. That amount is up from 10 percent.
“All these steps that are being taken are small steps, but they’re steps in the right direction,” Gallitto said.
Last November, voters rejected a 4.1-mill operating levy that would have generated about $4 million annually.
“We have to decide on a way to get input from the public,” Moliterno said.
Among those options are town hall meetings, surveys or focus groups, said Jason Loree, township administrator.
Even if the township mounts a successful levy effort, the administrator said it’s unlikely all laid-off employees will be called back.
Loree recommends establishment of a plan if a levy is sought, to show the public how the money will be used. Trustees also have talked about the need for a strategic plan to move ahead with township finances and operations.