New Waterford officials seek higher levy to cover state funding cuts
NEW WATERFORD – State level funding cuts are beginning to catch up.
As the village awaits an estimate from the Columbiana County auditor on how much a 1-mill addition to the current 3-mill operating levy will generate, Fiscal Officer Dave Slagle compared it to a V8 running on a few spark plugs.
“It’ll run but it’ll miss,” Slagle said, pointing out that nearly $33,000 in cuts were implemented last year.
The 1-mill in additional money will appear on the May 7 primary election ballot as a replacement for the 3-mill levy, for a total of 4 mills, Slagle said Tuesday while noting council approved the issue at its Jan. 8 meeting.
If voters approve it the money will be used for general operating expenses.
Mayor Shane Patrone said the 3-mill issue was passed five years ago last November as a renewal and if approved in 2013 it won’t be collected until 2014.
In light of the state Local Government Fund, personal property, and inheritance taxes drying up, Slagle said asking voters for the increase is a forced move.
He explained that village officials “all understand … they’ve seen the cuts that were made and there weren’t any raises … no raises for street and police department employees.”
The last pay raises were made in 2006.
Patrone said that LGF cuts, which have hit local governments for a couple of years, are a big concern.
“A lot of villages like New Waterford rely heavily on it,” Patrone said, noting the village has received two cuts of around $17,000 apiece.
“We don’t have a lot of money,” he said.
“The village is constantly losing money … we don’t want to ask for more … its just the facts.”
If voters said “no” in May, Slagle said city council will probably place the issue on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.
If it goes down then, it will lead to layoffs, he said.
The village has been efficient in its finances, Slagle, a retired Salem firefighter, said.
In 2012, the village started and ended the year with a balance of $316,000, but the frustrating aspect is the ending balance includes nearly $33,000 in cuts council authorized.
“You would have thought with the cuts we made we would have broke even … but with the loss in revenue we just can’t get ahead,” Slagle said.
“The losses are coming as quick as we make the cuts … the state funding cuts are happening faster than we can make cuts.”
As appropriations stand there is enough to make it through the year.
“Provided there are no emergencies,” Slagle said, adding that he was unsure of the political climate regarding the replacement levy.
If the issue fails, Slagle said, “All I can say is we won’t have any money. We’re down to a minimum on the police department.”
Patrone, who believes the village is on the rebound, said he hoped residents understand the village struggles to make it each year.
“We’ve eliminated the custodian, reduced a lot of bills and we now we’re looking at electricity (street lighting),” he said.
Patrone said he doesn’t want to cut into the police department that has three full-time and six part-time officers. There is one officer on duty per shift and Slagle said the police chief patrols, answers calls and handles court duties to cover a shift.
“They’ve eliminated all overtime,” he said.
Before he was hired last year, Slagle agreed to serve as fiscal officer at a reduced pay and took the job for $5,961 a year less than his predecessor.
That was one of a number of cuts that, over 12 months, has saved $32,931.
The village switched to a new electric service which has saved $12,000 annually.
Other yearly savings include: a new dumpster service, $2,340; new Internet service, $1,113; new cell phone service, $1,297; AT&T for the fire department, $2,316; First Communications, $4,309; and Worker’s Compensation, $3,595.
Slagle pointed out that voters have eliminated 6.95 mills of general operating revenue beginning in 2004, but Patrone noted past councils, unlike the current one, were argumentative.
“That was a problem in the past,” he said.
“They (voters) did pass the 3-mill renewal,” he said, “we’re asking for their faith.”
Larry Shields can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org