By Ed Runyan
Current events such as the closing of the RG Steel mill this summer and calls for more police after a deadly downtown shootout would have suggested Warren’s budget for 2013 might look different from the 2012 spending plan.
In reality, the 220-page budget discussed at a finance-committee meeting Thursday contains relatively few differences that will affect services to city residents.
Income tax revenue?
It’s estimated to be about $500,000 lower in 2013, partly because income taxes from RG employees who live in Warren might drop from $250,000 to nearly zero.
But taxes paid by other companies — known as profit taxes — are likely to rise.
The net change is estimated to be $265,000 more in 2013 — to $17.5 million.
They are projected to rise only about $200,000 over the 2012 total of $5.7 million, partly because the city started a wellness program at the start of 2012, said Auditor David Griffing. The program is expected to cut costs by encouraging workers to get an annual physical and exercise more through reduced-priced fitness memberships.
Catching health problems early is expected to reduce the number of major surgeries employees will need, Griffing said. By way of comparison, Trumbull County officials are expecting an increase of about 15 percent on the county’s health-care bill.
Police department wages?
The estimated total for 2012 is $3.5 million. The budget for 2013 is $3.5 million. “All pay rates are the same as they were for 2012,” Mayor Doug Franklin said Thursday. The only wages not in writing yet are those of police dispatchers, who are in negotiations for a new contract.
Franklin recently told citizens attending a public meeting that a shootout near downtown that killed one man and put two Detroit natives in jail might indicate the need for more police officers, especially narcotics officers.
“There’s one common denominator — drugs. They are the single, largest problem we have. We are trying to find ways to put our drug unit back in place,” Franklin said.
“We hope to add more officers next year,” Franklin said at the recent swearing-in ceremony for two new police officers.
But the mayor’s budget, his first since taking office early this year, doesn’t include any money for a police department drug unit or additional officers.
The fire department’s staffing is affected by a federal grant that recently was extended through May 26. Without that extension, the fire department would have dropped back down to 55 officers from the 70 to 75 it has now, Franklin said.
Finance Committee Chairman Al Novak said the city loses relatively little income-tax revenue from the closing of RG Steel because the mill is in Warren Township and Howland Township.
But the closing means millions less in revenue for the departments that provide water and waste treatment.
When asked if he’s concerned that the budget doesn’t provide money for more police officers, Novak said the county drug unit, the Trumbull Ashtabula Group Law Enforcement Task Force, is applying for grants so it can expand its efforts here.
The total 2013 budget is $26.1 million — almost the same as the 2012 budget projection of $26 million.
The city is expecting to spend $29.9 million in 2012, but about $1.8 million of that comes from the fire-department grant, $330,000 from a signing bonus for a gas lease at the Old Avalon Golf Course that is being spent on demolition and $1.7 million carryover from 2011 to 2012, Griffing said.