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Council, state auditor official to meet

December 15, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

STEUBENVILLE - City Council members and administration officials will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday with a representative from the state auditor's office to discuss a performance audit of city employees and services.

City Manager Cathy Davison said the city's finance office is projecting a balanced budget for 2012 and a cash surplus carryover into 2013.

"But as of now we are projecting a little over $800,000 projected general fund deficit for 2013 that we need to eliminate. The performance audit will give us suggestions on how we can operate more efficiently moving forward," Davison said.

"As of this point we anticipate a carryover of $422,000 into 2013. We have reached that level by working more efficiently and by clearing purchase orders from our books. We also laid off the four part-time recreation aides last week, and the Community Service Program supervisors are finished for this year," Davison explained.

"We will finish this year with a balanced budget but we are facing a general fund deficit next year and need to plan for the future of our community," added Davison.

Davison also said five current city employees have indicated an interest in the pending $10,000 retirement and resignation incentive program.

City Council is expected to vote at the Tuesday night regular council meeting on the incentive program.

Interested employees will have until Dec. 27 to officially sign up for the incentive program and will have to leave on Dec. 28.

"We are going to continue to look at additional cost-saving measures, including our employee health care and our building and engineering fees. Our fees are based on 1964 levels and need to be updated. Unfortunately some people still believe these fees should be free but we cannot continue to operate that way. Building and engineering fees are charged all across the country," said Davison.

"We are also looking at a lighting assessment. The city currently pays for all street lights and traffic signals. Part of the performance audit would be a calculation of a fee for street lights," she added.

"One employee represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2015 is set to be laid off. But that number may change as we move into 2013. Additional jobs may have to be cut in 2013," Davison said.

"We need to develop a long-term solution and not go through this every year. We need to look at efficiencies and determine the services we can provide for our residents. We can't operate one year at a time. We need to look at an overall long-term plan for the future. We have to change how we do business moving forward," Davison stated.

"I have been asking for solutions and suggestions since August. We have heard the complaints, but it is time for all of us to work together on a solution," commented Davison.

Earlier this week Davison said city officials are considering the sale of 9 acres of city marina property.

"The marina area north of the boat launch area has long been under used. There is interest in river front property, and Progress Alliance Executive Director Ed Looman showed the property to an interested developer already and there may be more parties interested in looking at the property," Davison said Wednesday night during a special parks and recreation board meeting.

"If the property is sold my recommendation would be to put the proceeds from the sale into the recreation operating fund. The site has everything a developer would look for with access to river, rail and highways," Davison noted.

City officials are planning a townhall meeting for January or February to discuss financial issues facing the community.

"We want to have a citywide meeting after the first of the year to discuss our strategies as we face a projected budget deficit in 2013. The citizens have to know we are researching every way possible to deal with these issues," Councilman at large Kenny Davis said at the Wednesday night meeting.

"Cathy has given us a report on peer cities on their staffing levels and how they operate. We want to get ideas from other communities. We want to educate people on what we are up against. This will help residents understand why we are doing what we have to do," Davis explained.

"The townhall meeting will be a two-fold meeting. One we will discuss plans for the future of the city. We will details what financial issues we are facing and how we hope to deal with those issues. Second we will discuss the health care program we have for city employees," said Davison.

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