By EMMALEE C. TORISK
If two renewal levies don’t pass in November, city officials could be forced to make drastic cuts, said Mayor William J. VanSuch.
The city relies upon the funds generated by both in order to operate, he added.
The levies “are needed to maintain what we have,” VanSuch said. “We’re putting them up to the vote of the people, and hopefully they continue to support us in our efforts.”
Layoffs in the city’s police and fire departments likely would result from failure of a five-year, 3-mill renewal police and fire levy, which would generate $198,197 annually.
All money generated by this levy — which originally was passed in 2003 and is now up for renewal for a third time — is used only for police and fire department wages, as well as for equipment needs within the two departments, said Michael Evanson, the city’s finance director. The money is divided equally between the police and fire departments.
Passage of this levy would not incur any additional expenses for city residents. The levy now costs the average homeowner with a $100,000 house $105 a year, or $8.75 per month, Evanson said.
In addition, both the general fund and the city’s park operations would be affected if the five-year, 1 percent income-tax renewal levy, which generates about $400,000 annually, isn’t passed. This tax would begin June 1 if the levy is passed.
Evanson added that a majority of that amount — 90 percent — goes directly into the general fund, and is then used by all departments within the city, while the remaining 10 percent goes toward the city-owned Roosevelt Park.
He said, too, that only working adults would be taxed, and that the amount generated annually is dependent upon that number — but $400,000 is “a good approximation.”
VanSuch added that it’s imperative both levies are renewed, particularly since the city’s five-year forecast indicates deficits for 2013 through 2017. The city has built up enough of a cushion to address the negative balances, he said, but it’s only a matter of time before this “accumulation of money” eventually dwindles down.
Also on the ballot are two charter amendments that would allow the mayor, with majority approval of council, to hire the police and fire chiefs without giving a written civil-service exam or considering the most senior rank in the department for the position.
VanSuch said city council initiated this action to add “an element of accountability” to the hiring process.
“I have the right to nominate somebody, but they have the final say-so,” he said, adding that the amendments, if passed, will not affect the current police and fire chiefs. “Both the mayor and city council will be responsible.”