December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria mayor laying groundwork for income tax push

Mayor Holly Brinda gives her state of the city address before guests and members of the Elyria Rotary Club. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Mayor Holly Brinda gives her state of the city address before guests and members of the Elyria Rotary Club. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

ELYRIA — Tuesday’s Address could also be called Mayor Holly Brinda’s subtle laying of the groundwork for a November income tax push.

During the nearly 90-minute speech, Brinda, who is starting her third year in office, would highlight a financial or operational accomplishment in the city only to follow it up with grim words about bigger woes to come.

The $3.4 million windfall from previously uncollected insurance funds was a godsend for the city, but the upcoming expiration of two federal grants paying for police and firefighters will put the city in the hole to the tune of $1.34 million.

This good news-bad news dichotomy dominated her segment on safety and the state of Elyria’s Police Department.

Budgeted for up to 85 officers on the payroll, the department employs 79 — four are new recruits and are not counted in manpower numbers, said Police Chief Duane Whitely. The reduction in staffing in the department means overtime has reached near-record numbers and officers are dealing with more intense operations.

“These guys are on top of the crime in this city, but we don’t have enough of them,” he said.

After the address, Brinda said safety will be a big part of her campaign to hopefully convince City Council members to place a tax measure on the ballot. She has not done any community polling to justify the use of safety and the Police Department as the foundations of her message, but the realities of current life in Elyria speak loudly, she said.

“The city shut down the Narcotics Unit a few years back and that gave the drug dealers time to get a foothold in our city,” she said. “Our officers are doing everything they can to combat that in our neighborhoods to break the cycle of drugs and burglaries.”

Brinda pointedly said Elyria needs more officers.

She wants the budget to fund 90 officers.

She believes a scenario that will put the Fire Department at 65 firefighters is best for the city. Combined with 90 officers, the price tag would be $2.1 million, the mayor said.

Brinda said in the coming weeks she will continue the conversation on how to increase revenue. If placing an issue on the ballot is the favored choice, she said she would favor reducing the income tax credit for residents who work outside the city. Currently, the credit is 100 percent.

Finance Director Ted Pileski has yet to run the numbers on how much of a rollback would be needed to generate the revenue required to aid the safety forces.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.