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EP looks to trim budget

August 31, 2012
By KATIE SCHWENDEMAN - Staff Writer ( , Morning Journal News

EAST PALESTINE - The village must trim $242,000 from the estimated 2013 budget and Finance Director Traci Thompson asked council where cuts should be made.

Thompson said she has already targeted about $138,000 in cuts, but needs direction on where to cut the remaining $104,000.

The cuts are needed in the general fund, which is where the administration, finance, police and fire departments get their revenue. The targeted cuts are through not fulfilling funding increase requests from the fire department and a request of an additional full-time officer on the police force.

Village Manager Pete Monteleone said he had requested the extra officer when he was police chief. The officer was never added, although a request to hire more part-time officers was approved by council this week since the funding was already available.

According to the estimated budget, the village is projected to operate on $5 million, with $1.7 million targeted for the general fund. The police department is the largest chunk of the fund, accounting for just over $842,000. The other three departments are projected to operate on roughly $300,000.

Councilman Don Elzer said the village should look at increasing revenue instead of making cuts.

"If you're $104,000 short, somehow we need to look at where we can get $104,000 extra ... It's my contention we always look at cutting; I'd like to look at how we can increase revenue," he said.

Thompson responded that the only way to increase revenue in the general fund is to increase income tax that would require approval on an election ballot.

Elzer then suggested the village put more emphasis on marketing its assets, such as the housing developments, the park, and water and sewer services.

He asked if money could be taken from the water and sewer fund to be spent on marketing.

Thompson said the money couldn't be taken from there since it is an enterprise fund. In order to market, money would have to be spent from the general fund that already needs trimmed in the first place, she said.

Councilman Fran Figley agreed marketing is needed to sell lots at the housing developments, but pointed out the village is already paying on several debts for those developments.

He said the village is paying about $3,000 a year in real estate taxes on every vacant lot at Leslie Run Estates and had previously borrowed money to put a pumping station at the Vineyards.

In a document Figley gave council members earlier this year, he noted that Leslie Run Estates and the Vineyards are costing the village about $1,374,000 combined annually.

Thompson said about $6,300 was borrowed for the pumping station five or six years ago and the village is to recoup that money through tap-in fees for both water and sewer. The fees are $750 each.

Figley also said the village has more than $916,000 in outstanding debts as well.

"It's almost 25 percent of our total income, our total revenue," he said. "We already have a beautiful city, a beautiful park, beautiful people. We have everything in the world, but we have debt."

He suggested the village "whittle away" at the smaller things that are costing money and proposed they ask the county to forgive them for the taxes at Leslie Run Estates.

Monteleone said re-investing in the village's services, like the police and fire departments, will draw people to the area.

"They were all talking about it in Wellsville," he said about the recent restructuring at the police department.

Councilwoman Endia Wisser said the department was able to do that because Monteleone "used what he had to make it turn around," when he was chief. Kevin Dickey is now at the head of the department and continues to work closely with Monteleone to aid with the transitions.

"I think if we all work together we can make this turn around," Wisser said.



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