Northwood Mayor Mark Stoner is considering another round of city layoffs due to further decreases in income tax revenues this year.
“I have proposed cutting five full-time jobs, and one person would go from full-time to part-time,” Stoner told The Press last Wednesday.
The layoffs would include two full-time police officers, tax clerk, court clerk, and cleaning lady. “And the city clerk would go from full-time to part-time,” he said.
Administrator Pat Bacon has already informed the employees of the proposed layoffs, said Stoner.
“We just don’t have the money to continue paying them,” said Stoner.
“I’ve done everything I could to not affect the residents with these cuts,” he added
City council learned at a meeting on Feb. 25 that income tax revenues dropped 16 percent in January and February of this year, compared to the same period last year.
“If the city continues to lose revenue at that rate, we could see a loss of $700,000 in revenue by the end of this year,” said Stoner. “That’s big.”
Stoner said he also is seeking salary cuts from union and non-union city employees.
Bacon, he said, is meeting with the unions and asking for widespread pay cuts.
“And that’s for everyone in the city – police, fire, and streets departments, administrator, and finance director,” said Stoner.
Even if there is an agreement on the pay cuts, it wouldn’t avert the layoffs, said Stoner.
“There’s just not going to be enough money to avert all that. It’s a shame. I don’t know how to express how bad I feel about this.”
Stoner said he has also suspended fire inspections of commercial buildings.
“I don’t know that the residents really are that concerned about that. They’re concerned about police, fire and streets. And they’re still going to have all that,” said Stoner.
“I’ve had people who own a commercial business in Northwood tell me `That’s why we have liability and fire insurance,”’ he added.
Last fall, the city cut over $600,000 in expenses, with few departments spared the budget ax. Among the cuts: 10.3 percent from the police department; 10.7 percent from fire; 14.1 percent from dispatch; 15.1 percent from the baseball program; 37.1 percent from the zoning department; 24.1 percent from the streets department, 29.1 percent from the mayor’s office, 15.1 percent from the finance department, 30.6 percent from the city administrator; and 13.8 percent from the court.
Personnel cuts included one full-time police officer, animal control officer, a court employee, and secretary, a traffic camera operator, one crossing guard, and two streets department employees. Other positions, such as dispatcher, zoning assistant, and tax compliant auditor, were not filled due to attrition.
There was some discussion at a Finance Committee meeting on Feb. 22 of instituting a refuse fee as a way to increase revenue, said Stoner.
The city currently pays for garbage pickup as part of its contract with Waste Management of Ohio, which owns the Evergreen Recycling and Disposal facility, a solid waste landfill, at Wales Road and East Broadway. Northwood receives 22 cents per ton tipping fee, and 23.75 cents per ton host fee from Evergreen, which automatically deducts a monthly charge for unlimited garbage pickup for residents.
That could all end, however, with city residents picking up the tab.
“Instituting a fee to every resident for trash pickup would generate money, depending on what we charge the residents,” said Bacon.
“I’m sure it’s a shock to council,” Stoner said of the proposal. “This is uncharted territory for us, and a lot of communities, who have never had to deal with something like this.”
The public, he said, is more likely to accept a refuse fee compared to an increase in income taxes or the elimination of income tax reciprocity for residents who work outside the city.
“From talking with the residents, they see that as the lesser of two evils,” Stoner said.
Councilman Dave Gallaher said he does not support a refuse fee.
“Personally, I don’t care for the idea,” he said. “If the price of gas goes up, I can choose to drive my car less. People can put less trash out, but the fee is going to be the same. It affects retired people on fixed incomes, people who are unemployed. And there’s nothing you can do to lower the fee. If you need a new car and you can’t afford a Cadillac, you can buy something smaller. That’s a choice you can make based on your earnings. But that refuse fee is a flat rate. It doesn’t matter if the people recycle, or have one can or six cans, you can’t lower the fee. That’s what I don’t like about it.”