April 17, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria officials weigh potential budget cuts

ELYRIA — The city’s safety will remain a top priority in 2013.

That much is known as city officials acknowledge they will have a tough go this year crafting a budget with at least
$1.7 million less in the coffers than last year due mainly to state cuts and a significant loss of income tax revenue from mass layoffs at Invacare.

Mayor Holly Brinda said even if she could, she would not make any cuts to police or fire.

Both departments are operating with federal grants that stipulate manpower stay consistent, but beyond that, Brinda, who is just starting her second year in office, said both departments are operating at such lean levels that cuts right now wouldn’t be appropriate.

Reductions are coming, and more than likely it will be an across-the-board cut to every department.

Finance Director Ted Pileski said the 2013 budget has a lot of holes in it — a $640,000 cut in funding from the state, the evaporation of the estate tax, which will cost Elyria more than $900,000, and a reduction of roughly $125,000 in income tax withholdings from the laid-off Invacare employees.

“There is no way to make up that kind of revenue without bringing in a lot of new jobs or asking residents to approve new tax revenue,” he said. “Absent both of those items, we will have to continue to attack this by cutting expenditures.”

Brinda said she is working through what the budget will be and so far all capital expenditures and equipment requests have been eliminated for the year. Operational costs and overtime are being cut by 10 percent. Hiring has been frozen.

To find every dollar that is out there, the city also is looking to collect on delinquent fees and taxes.

Brinda said she is not looking to do any layoffs.

“The city is operating at a very lean level right now,” Brinda said. “As a part of the performance audit, we may do some reorganization of some departments, but that will come after the performance audit is final.”

It will be at least another two months before a final budget is presented to City Council.

As is the case each year, department heads devise individual budgets and request what they would like to see in funding for the year. That is when requests for new equipment, additional training and more employees are made.

After that, Brinda and Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka decide which requests are fulfilled.

“Obviously we are trying to make this so people can’t feel it, because our goal is deliver service first,” Brinda said. “I know some people think the way to get voters to pass tax issues is to punish them, but I disagree with that philosophy. We need to put all of our resources into delivering the best service possible.”

Pileski said budget requests for this year total more than $31.4 million, which is more than the city spent from the general fund in 2012 — roughly $30.6 million — and is also more than what he projects as likely revenue for 2013 — about $29.1 million.

Pileski said he has concerns because the city has big expenses to handle that cannot be pushed aside for a better year.

The street fund, which is mainly the source for road maintenance, will probably need an infusion of at least $400,000 from the general fund. The fund stays pretty flat with about $1.71 million in revenue — about $315,000 from license plate fees and $1.43 million in the city’s share of gasoline tax. But to fulfill all of its spending needs, more than $2 million is needed.

“The request came in at $3.09 million, and I have it pared down to about $2.35 million, so either we will have to transfer money in or cut more from that fund,” he said.

Also on the expense sheet — the demolition of the old City Hall, which could cost as much as $500,000.

Losses in funding, big costs pare budget

The Elyria city budget will lose at least $1.7 million in revenue for 2013 in a number of different areas. Among them:

  • $640,000 — loss of local government funds from state
  • $900,000 — elimination of the estate tax
  • $125,000 — income tax loss from Invacare layoffs
  • $400,000 — infusion for street fund
  • $500,000 — demolition of former City Hall

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.