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Voters to decide on income tax increase PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, August 06, 2013 1:21 AM

BY NANCY SPENCER

Herald Editor

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DELPHOS — Delphos City voters will decide on a 1/4-percent income tax increase on the Nov. 5 General Election Ballot.

Council passed on third reading the ordinance and resolution necessary to place the income tax increase on the ballot at Monday’s meeting with Councilman Jim Knebel the lone “no” vote.

If passed, the increase will generate approximately $400,000 to help minimize a more than $860,000 loss in the Water and Sewer funds that will be left by the closure of Reser’s Fine Foods in September.

The city also lost $400,000 in utility fees when Chef Solutions filed bankruptcy in 2013 and $60,000 in income revenue when I&K Distributions was sold to Lipari Food. The city has also seen reductions in Local Governments Funds from the state. The city received $240,000 in LGF in 2008 and in 2013, received $79,000. The elimination of the Inheritance Tax cost the city $70,000 in funds.

Fourth Street resident Tim Honigford addressed council for the second time, armed with questions.

“If we make cuts of people in the fire and police department, what will that do to the overtime in those departments?” Honigford opened.

Auditor Tom Jettinghoff had overtime hours for every department dating back to 2005 at the July 30 special meeting. In 2012, fire, police, water and wastewater were the top four in overtime. While the fire department had the second least amount in total paid in wages of the four at $471,010, overtime was nearly 20 percent of those wages at $93,570. The police department’s overtime was almost 10 percent of its total wages of $831,435 and water and sewer were 7 percent and 4 percent, respectively, of total wages of $364,005 and $415,781.

The 2011 figures were similar with the fire department overtime at 16 percent of total wages; the police department, nearly 13 percent; the water department, 7 percent; and the sewer, 3 percent.

Safety Service Director Greg Berquist fielded the question.

“Actually, it will reduce the overtime because it is built in contractually with the unions,” he said. “So if we reduce bodies, we reduce overtime.”

Honigford also wanted to know what would happen if the city went to an all-volunteer fire department.

“Can we do that?” Honigford asked. “What would happen to our homeowner’s insurance if we did?”

“We have considered it,” Berquist began. “We have to find out all the ramifications.”

Fire Chief Dave McNeal, who was in attendance with many other city employees, said the city currently has an ISO rating of five inside the city and nine outside the city. The ISO rating is on a scale of 1-10, with one being the best. The ISO rating is used by insurance companies to determine rates for fire loss coverage.

Honigford also asked if the bonds for the debt for the utilities’ construction was secured, which Berquist replied they were not.

“Those are state bonds and they are not secured, so if we default, the state will be out the money and we will be in trouble,” he added.

Honigford added that he would like to see the proposed cuts happen as soon as possible.

“The cuts are reasonable for the financial shape we are in,” he said. “They’re not pleasant but it happens.”

Third Street resident Bev Jettinghoff spoke about her frustration with the state of the city’s finances and how it came about.

“You guys had no concrete plan to pay back the debt,” she said. “You should have had something in writing before this was all started. I think you went in with a hope and prayer. You [council] need to take responsibility for what you did. We elect you to make these decisions for us with us in mind.”

Councilman Jim Knebel replied.

“I would vote for it again under the same circumstances,” he said. “We had a company that needed us and a city that needed us. It wasn’t just for the company.”

Berquist agreed.

“There isn’t just one reason we built the new wastewater treatment plant. It was a combination of the combined sewer system and the loadings from I&K.” he said. “The city was under findings and orders by the EPA who were threatening to fine us monthly until we found a solution.”

With the staff reduction of four firefighters on the table to stabilize the General Fund, which is projected to be nearly $300,000 in red at the end of the year, Berquist asked council in a resolution to apply for a firefighter grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The grant request will include the salaries and benefits of three full-time firefighters and to fully train six part-paid firefighters to a Level 1 Firefighter.

The deadline for applications is Aug. 30. Berquist said the grants will be awarded through September 2014.

“We are competing with the nation for this one,” he said. “We don’t know how it will turn out but we might as well put our application in. There’s nothing to lose.”

Berquist will also submit an application to participate in the Ohio Public Works Commission State Capital Improvement Program for upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant. The grant is an 80-20 match for $1,006,000. The city’s share is $201,200.

The plan includes separating the common air header at the plant into five components so it performs more efficiently.

“Right now, it’s either on or off,” Berquist said. “If we do this upgrade, only the portions of the header that need to run will run.”

The grant application also includes the purchase of two sets of trains with upgraded membranes and a computer system upgrade.

Also passed on third reading was a measure allowing Berquist to apply for OPWC funds for an East Second Street capital improvement project from Douglas Street to Main Street. The proposed project is estimated at $188,757 with the city’s share $37,751.

The lighting project at the Wastewater Treatment Plant was heard for second reading.

Berquist presented the project to council during a May Utilities Committee meeting. It consists of replacing old and outdated lighting at the Wastewater Treatment Plant with T-5 and T-8 bulbs.

Funds for the project will come from a recent $66,000 AEP grant the city received from another energy-savings project.

Last Updated on Wednesday, August 07, 2013 12:03 AM
 

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