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Columbiana forced to tighten belt to avert layoffs

March 4, 2009

COLUMBIANA - Major cuts to the police and parks departments highlight the city's 2009 budget, and the city may be laying off park employees before the end of the year.

The budget predicts an $18,000 shortfall over the previous year, with revenue predicted around $35.735 million and expenses predicted around $35.753 million. If the budget predictions are correct, it should still leave the city with a balance of close to $8.88 million at the end of the fiscal year.

Nationwide economic hardship is finding its way into Columbiana, and Finance Director Kevin Smith noted the city will see an estimated 6.5 percent decrease in income tax revenue over the previous year, prompting some of the budget cuts.

Funding for Firestone Park may be the hardest hit, and Smith said he is hoping increased rates for use of the public swimming pool and pavilions will generate more revenue for the parks. In addition, he said he is looking at options for cutting back on park employee wages, including hiring less summer help and eliminating overtime hours.

"There could possibly be layoffs at the end of the year," he added.

The city spent a total of $374,000 on the park fund in 2008 and is projected to spend $334,000 in 2009. The city paid about $185,000 in salaries and wages for the park department in 2008 and is expecting to pay only $164,000 this year.

In the police fund, overtime pay, a topic of great discussion at council meetings in the past several months, will be cut in half, from about $126,000 in 2008 to about $63,000 this year. Smith said the hiring of three part-time police officers, the last of whom was approved for duty at the council meeting, will help to eliminate overtime pay.

"I think with this one, we should have enough, because this one's available to work any hours," City Manager Keith Chamberlin said of the new part-time officer.

Council member Jim King questioned whether it was realistic to think police overtime will decrease by 50 percent this year, but Council member Bob Bieshelt estimated the city could eliminate all overtime if it handles its schedules effectively. He said it is up to Chamberlin and police Chief John Krawchyk to keep police overtime in check.

"The only thing that's going to save us from laying off any police officers is control of the overtime," he commented.

Overall, the city will go from having spent $1.21 million on the police fund in 2008 to spending $1.17 million on it in 2009.

Another topic of conversation centered around an estimated 10 percent increase in the city's Workers' Compensation payments.

"We've called three people now to see why it was such a big increase because we were told it was supposed to be a decrease," Smith said.

Chamberlin noted the city used to belong to a group plan for Workers' Compensation but was ejected from it. The city will rejoin that group next year, saving up to 71 percent on Workers' Compensation.



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