The budget includes no raises or new positions, but some new hires may be made for unfilled positions. Mayor Chase Ritenauer said after the council meeting that while Lorain could use more Street Department workers and police — Lorain’s workforce has decreased from about 600 workers to 450 employees in the last decade — the budget was reasonable given the hard economic times.
Lorain has lost about $4 million in state taxpayer funding since 2009, and austerity measures in Washington, D.C., have reduced federal taxpayer grant money. Passage of a levy in 2012 that raises $5.3 million annually allowed Lorain to increase Street Department workers from 14 to 21 last year. Lorain has about 95 police officers.
Ritenauer vowed to be “very watchful and mindful” of the budget. The budget includes a $1 million rainy-day fund and a projected year-end surplus of $229,000.
The budget includes a $3.5 million hospitalization fund, an increase of 15 percent from last year’s fund. The fund pays for city workers’ health care and Lorain officials said they had a large amount of claims last year and needed to bolster the fund.
However, Councilman Brian Gates, D-1st Ward, said the increase was excessive. Gates unsuccessfully tried to reduce the increase to 9 percent, which would have put the fund at about $3.3 million.
“We’re leaving a lot of money in that fund that could and should be allocated in other areas,” Gates said after the meeting. “We have plenty of needs in the city.”
In other business:
- Council approved seeking bids for $9.6 million in street repairs. Work is expected to begin in June and conclude in October or November. Ritenauer said about $12 million in road upgrades will be done this year.
- Ritenauer said he will accept a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today. The money will be for stormwater treatment west of Lakeview Park to comply with federal clean water laws to reduce bacteria and ecoli levels in Lake Erie.
- Council approved renewing the contract with Berresford LLC, a brokerage company, to remove steel byproducts from the former RTI Steel site on East 28th Street. Lorain gets between 10 percent and 11 percent of profits from byproduct removal and is projected to receive about $725,000 this year. Councilman Eddie Edwards, D-5th Ward, said Lorain officials need to do a better job of monitoring scales that weigh the byproducts before they’re trucked out. “We’re letting the fox guard the henhouse,” he said.