Budget balanced for 3 reasons, auditor says
By jeanne starmack
The 2010 budget city council recently passed balanced for three main reasons, says Tina Morell, city auditor.
Morell cited a health-care- benefits change that saved $111,000; $18,000 saved when the city opted not to fund the school’s juvenile-diversion officer in 2009; and $80,000 saved when the city closed its health department last year.
The general fund includes $3,735,945, and the total of all city funds is $8,849,146.
The budget passed March 10, with one dissenting vote from Councilman Dan Yemma.
Yemma said he has questions about the budget’s carryover from 2009 to 2010. He said Morell indicated in December the carryover was $40,000; then during a preliminary estimate of reciepts, the carryover was $254,000. Yemma said that even with money the city received by the end of the year, “that’s quite a difference.”
He also believes the current budget has “an increased reliance on the general fund.”
He said the city always charged a portion of administrative salaries to the sewer plant, but in the current budget, the salaries are charged 100 percent to the general fund.
Mayor Terry Stocker said the “determining factor” in allowing the city to maintain services without layoffs was the health-benefits change.
The city now has a four-tier rather than a two-tier system — instead of just single and family plans, the coverage includes single, family and breakouts of employee/spouse and employee/children.
The breakouts will save money because they won’t cost as much a month as the straight- family plan does.
The new health-care benefits system also has a spousal rule, which means that spouses will have to leave the city’s plan if they are offered coverage where they work and would pay less than 35 percent of what the city pays for their coverage.
Yemma said he didn’t agree with causing financial pain for a “select few” employees whose spouses will have to go off the city’s health-insurance plan.
“Maybe we should have increased the contribution for everyone,” he said.
Struthers passed a similar benefits requirement in December or council members.
Other savings included a $22,000 workers’-compensation rebate because Morell was able to show a pre- existing condition contributed to an employee’s injury.
The city will not fill a patrol officer’s position that will be open when the police chief retires this year, Stocker and Morell said.
A captain will move up to chief, and a patrol officer will move up to captain when that happens, leaving the opening.
Stocker said other measures included only part-time labor for the parks and no raises except for those specified in contract obligations.
Yemma said the city could do away with the step raises