STEUBENVILLE - City leaders will ask representatives from the three city employee unions to discuss cost- cutting options in order to erase a projected $822,968 general fund deficit by Dec. 31.
Members of City Council, City Manager Cathy Davison, Law Director S. Gary Repella and Finance Director Alyssa Kerker met for two hours and 10 minutes behind closed doors Thursday night to discuss the budget and personnel.
Davison has said Ohio law prohibits the city ending the year with a budget deficit.
"The council agreed to continue its internal discussions at 5 p.m. Tuesday to discuss personnel and contract negotiations," said Davison after the meeting.
She said the 5 p.m. meeting Tuesday will also be in executive session.
"We have reviewed our options and will continue that process. I don't want to discuss those options until after the information is presented to the three city unions. I want them to have all of the information first," said 6th Ward Councilman David Lalich, who is also finance committee chairman, following the closed-door session.
"Fourth Ward Councilwoman Angela Suggs was out of town because of her job, but she called in and we included her in our discussions," Davison noted.
Davison said she sent letters Thursday night to the Fraternal Order of Police Ohio Labor Council, the International Association of Firefighters Local 228 and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2015, "asking them to work with us and look at the needs of our community."
"I feel council members and administration are coming together to find an answer," Davison said.
"Council members instructed me to send a letter to the unions. I will be asking all union and non-union employees to share the burden of the city budget deficit equally," Davison stated.
The police union contract expires in May while the firefighters contract ends in December 2013 and the AFSCME union contract is set to expire in March 2014.
Davison held preliminary talks Thursday morning with AFSCME Local 2015 representatives and is set to meet Monday with officials from the firefighters union.
She also met for nearly two hours Thursday morning with the city's board of health to discuss the general fund budget deficit as well as the health department budget.
"The board of health agreed to review the budget and all of its options," said Davison.
On Wednesday night, Davison said the parks and recreation board agreed to not open the Belleview Pool in 2013.
"We have had conversations with the YMCA about a managing partnership for the pool but have not heard a proposal back from the YMCA. 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.
Davison also cited a projected $236,109.40 operating loss at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center this year, "but we do not plan to close the center at this time."
"The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local union has said that all part-time employees must be laid off before a full-time employee is laid off. We have part-time employees at the MLK Center who may be affected," Davison said.
Davison said earlier this week the city is considering asking the Ohio Rural Community Assistance Program for a study of its water rates and the possibility of restructuring those rates. The authority could come in and change the rates if it determines the city cannot make its debt service payments and not carry a deficit, she said.
"We are looking at changing our water account delinquent accounts 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.
"Just as we do in our homes, we must all work together to make our budget work. Our city is not feeling the effects of the oil and gas boom in Jefferson County because we do not share in the county's sales and usage tax dollars. Except for a very small amount that is awarded for recreation in the city we do not share in the county tax. We have seen our Local Government Funding from the state continue to decrease as well as the state inheritance tax. We are facing hard decisions as we move forward," stated Davison.