MINGO JUNCTION - Village Council met in special session Friday afternoon and approved by a vote of 3 to 2 to apply to the state auditor and Jefferson County Common Pleas Court to transfer $250,000 from the community complex fund to the general fund.
And, more than 1,200 village employee overtime hours this year were questioned by council members and two people in the audience during the special meeting called to discuss finances.
Village Administrator Charley Bowman suggested the $250,000 be placed in a contingency fund that will require the village administration to explain how the money will be spent and seek approval from the village council before the money can be used.
Councilmen John Bracone and John Brettell opposed the second and third reading of the ordinance that was originally brought in at the Oct. 9 meeting.
"What happens in 2014 when we have no money to transfer to the general fund? If we don't make cuts in 2013 we will have to make cuts in 2014. Cuts are inevitable. It's coming down the road. It is a fact of live. Make the cuts now and be done with it," said Bracone.
"We may still have to look at cutting people in 2013," replied Bowman.
According to Councilman Mike Herrick, "We are never going to build a community complex in this town. When it comes time for the renewal of this we should look at putting the money into another fund.
Village Treasurer John Angelica said he will apply to the state auditor for permission to transfer the $250,000.
"If we receive that permission, we then have 15 days to apply to common pleas court for permission to move the funds. I along with the mayor and village administrator will attend a court hearing to explain why this transfer of funds is necessary," said Angelica,
But several council members said publicly they will oppose using the contingency fund to pay for overtime for village employees.
Bowman said the village has incurred 1,222 overtime hours this year.
"We are going to address that issue. But we have to negotiate with the employee unions," said Mayor Ron DiCarlo.
"If you ask for permission to pay for overtime you won't have my permission," declared Councilman John Fabian.
Bowman started the special council meeting with a short report on local government fiscal emergencies.
"This is something you should be aware of in order to keep us out of a fiscal emergency. We have been told by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency that if we don't pay our bills they will go to the secretary of state and have us placed in a fiscal emergency. That would mean the state would appoint a commission that would include the mayor and a group of people to put together a financial recovery plan. And they would set the rates and fees for the next two years or as long as necessary to achieve financial stability," explained Bowman.
"In my view that would be pretty irresponsible to get into that position. The Regional Income Tax Agency is predicting our income tax collection will be down 36 percent. I think we will be down about 18 percent. I am walking you through all this as part of my proposal to keep you out of a fiscal emergency next year," said Bowman.
Bowman also suggested shifting village administration and employee salaries to different funds to ease the stress on the village general fund.
"We just received good news today from Comcast that said we will receive an unexpected $28,000 from television cable fees. If we make it to the end of this year without using any of that $250,000 contingency fund we may have to look at using that money in next year's first quarter for employee wages. Moving the $250,000 from the community complex fund to the general fund is a prudent move to maintain the services we now have. But we may still have to look at personnel layoffs. I don't want to lay anyone off because you have very good employees here," cited Bowman.
"As we start working on next year's budget, it's not going to be pretty and it's not going to be fun. My goal is to keep the village out of state receivership," added Bowman.
Bowman also said the former RG Steel plant in Mingo Junction is now one of five sites in Ohio under review by an unknown steel firm seeking to expand into the United States.
"I am in contact with Frontier, who now owns that property, on a daily basis and it is my feeling they will not make a move on the site if someone is interested in developing something there. But we will have to see how this proceeds," noted Bowman.
"You are in a heck of a position here trying to solve this issue. But something has to be done about the employee overtime," stated village resident Joe Balzano.