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Pool will not open in ’13

November 15, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

STEUBENVILLE - The Belleview Pool will not open in 2013, the victim of budget cuts by the city as officials work to eliminate an $822,968 general fund deficit by Dec. 31.

City Manager Cathy Davison said Wednesday night the parks and recreation board agreed earlier in the evening "to not open the pool next year."

The decision was made during a one-hour-and-45-minute executive session that included Davison, three members of the recreation board and the three City Council recreation committee members.

During a 15-minute public session, Davison reviewed the city's budget forecast for the remainder of the year and noted the recreation department has long been an integral part of the general fund and the city.

"But it is very difficult for the city to earn income. The only way for us is through the city income tax, the operating levy and some fees. We are now receiving very little revenue from the state through the Local Government Funds and right now it appears we will only receive $167,000. We used to receive more than $1 million," Davison told the recreation board members.

"Statutorily we have to have a balanced budget by the end of the year. And we will not be carrying any cash over into next year. As of Oct. 31 we are forecasting a carry-over deficit of $62,044 into 2013," Davison added.

"We have had conversations with the YMCA about a managing partnership for the pool but have not heard a proposal back from the YMCA. (Recreation Director) Troy (Kirkendall) has done an excellent job operating on a shoestring. We saw a loss of $61,305.15 at the pool in 2012. The city's general fund has been picking up the loss each year but we can't continue that," said Davison.

She also cited a projected $236,109.40 operating loss at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center this year.

"The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local union also says that all part-time employees must be laid off before a full-time employee is laid off. We fought that issue last year and a grievance was taken to arbitration. But we have part-time employees at the MLK Center who may be affected," Davison said.

At that point the recreation board moved into an executive session to discuss personnel and heard an objection from city resident Lori Mason.

"I protest the executive session because you are violating Ohio's Sunshine Law. You are discussing a position and not a person," Mason told the board.

"I talked to the law director and he said we could move into an executive session to discuss personnel. This is legal," replied Davison.

Davison was scheduled to meet this morning with the city board of health to discuss the health department's budget.

"We are looking at different ways we can collaborate with the county. We are looking at our health department. We have not yet held formal discussions with the Jefferson County Health Department. A decision must be made by the city's board of health," Davison said earlier this week.

She was set to meet today with the AFSCME Local 2015 representatives.

And Davison is set to meet in a closed-door executive session at 5 p.m. today with City Council to continue reviewing the forecasted general fund deficit and the 2013 budget.

"We are looking at the reduction of five to seven jobs. First we will look at reducing the jobs through attrition. We have a number of city employees with 20 years or more service. Because of the changes in the state pension plans, some employees are considering their retirement options now as opposed to continue working. If we don't see enough employees retire we will have to look at layoffs," Davison has said.

"I am also asking for authorization to go with Ohio Rural Community Assistance Program for a study of our water rates and the possibility of restructuring those rates. There is a possibility the Ohio Water Development Authority could come in and change our rates if they determine we cannot make our debt service payments and not carry a deficit," Davison cited.

"And we are looking at changes in the water fund. We are looking at changing our collection process. We currently use Capital Recovery Systems but are considering a law firm collection agency that has the ability to take delinquent accounts to court in order to collect those accounts," said Davison.

"We are facing hard times. Difficult decisions have to be made. Jefferson County is starting to prosper but the city isn't seeing the financial impact. Jefferson County has the third highest unemployment rate in the state. And looking at the unemployment rate on a county-by-county basis, Jefferson County had a higher unemployment rate in September than each of our surrounding counties," Davison said Tuesday.

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