EAST LIVERPOOL - A 2013 budget totaling $16.7 million, including a $4.8 million general fund, was passed Monday night by City Council with one member opposed due to cuts to the fire department.
A retired city firefighter, 1st Ward Councilman Ray Perorazio questioned a $77,000 cut to the fire department, saying more manpower is needed, noting, "Firefighting is a young man's game" and, "When we have 11 firefighters (fighting a blaze), we absolutely don't have what we need."
Auditor Kim Woomer conceded the fire department budget is $77,000 less than last year, based on what the department actually spent in 2012 and figures in the amended certificate from the county auditor's office.
She agreed about the safety factor, saying, "Do you think I don't lay next to that scanner and worry every time they go out to a fire?"
With two firefighters recently hired at a new lower salary and lower insurance costs, Woomer assured Perorazio, "Nothing is going to happen to the fire department. We have to make adjustments as we do every year. As we get more money in, we put more money into the budget. I don't think anyone has asked who hasn't gotten what they asked for."
Woomer did caution that with the potential for three firefighters to retire in the near future, each will receive a pay-out of about $70,000 which has to be accounted for in the budget.
While resident Virgil Reynolds called from the audience, "Put a fee on WTI," Woomer pointed out that the hazardous waste incinerator does pay a $160,000 annual fee to the city.
This prompted Perorazio to reiterate his concern that "nobody else is paying a tipping fee."
Fifth Street businessman Brian Kerr also voiced his concern about the budget, saying he didn't understand why the fire department budget was cut when two senior firefighters retired and two new men were hired under the lower wage scale.
Council also approved a resolution opposing the passage of House Bill 5 which proposes uniformity for municipal income tax.
Councilman Sherrie Curtis has said she is concerned the bill is a step toward centralization of tax collection and could result in a delay in receiving tax revenue as well as possible loss in revenue.
In other legislative matters, council also passed an amendment to the ordinance establishing a hazardous materials regional response team to include a provision holding each member responsible for its own liability insurance and Workers Compensation coverage.
Councilman Chuck Wade, a former insurance agent, called it a "hold harmless agreement" and said, "We need to do this."