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Council hears 2013 budget overview, 2014 outlook

The finance committee of Ironton City Council got a verbal review of expenditures in 2013 and a forecast for this year’s budget.

City of Ironton Finance Director Kristen Martin said the city ended 2013 with a $634,000 surplus, but it wasn’t all from budgeted sources. A $250,000 donation from sale of Sherman-Thompson Towers and a pair of bond closings contributed to the carryover, of which $390,000 is earmarked for 2014 projects.

“The Memorial Hall project has been earmarked for $150,000 and $170,000 will go toward new police cars,” Martin said. “The $250,000 from the Sherman-Thompson deal was spent on unbudgeted, unscheduled events.”

The unforeseen event to which Martin referred was the repairs and upgrades made after a sewer backup problem closed down the city center last August.

“We closed an insurance claim on the sewer issue,” Martin said. “But it was just for a fourth of what we spent on new paint, carpet and other repairs.”

President of council Kevin Waldo said if the person who put the men’s briefs that caused the backup in the toilet “knowingly and willingly” then they should be prosecuted.

Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship told Waldo there is no way of knowing if it was done purposely or even how long the briefs had been in the sewer line.

“If it happens again, we need to investigate,” Waldo said. “I was told it was done on purpose and we do not need to be a facilitator to this kind of behavior.”

Martin said the city saved $60,000 in 2013 by switching to a landfill in Kentucky and $150,000 through a one-time reprieve on paying the second of a two-part workers’ compensation payment arrangement.

The city’s street fund ended 2013 with a $25,000 surplus and the health department fund carried over $28,000.

“There’s never one thing that’s the hero,” Martin said. “It’s always multiple things.”

The city paid $917,000 toward debt service in 2013, Martin said, $316,000 of which was for water filtration.

The finance committee discussed the 1 percent income tax rate at length; the rate was set in 1969 and has remained unchanged in the 44 years since. Waldo asked Martin if she would look into the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index to see how much the value of a dollar has increased since 1969.

“In 1969, just about everyone in Ironton had a job or at least could get a job,” Waldo said. “Now only 16 percent of our residents receive a taxable income. If the people want the services, wouldn’t they vote for a half percent increase? The people who don’t work don’t and won’t get taxed but they receive the services anyway.”

An increase in the city’s water rate was mentioned briefly.

“It pains me to talk about raising rates but being here day in and day out and seeing it firsthand makes a difference,” Blankenship said. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that Ironton residents have high water bills and it just seems that way because there are multiple items put on one bill. In reality, we have one of the lowest water rates among comparable cities.”

The last item on Martin’s agenda for the meeting was to begin talks about solving the city’s antiquated method of tracking employees’ hours, which is currently all completed on paper.

City officials met recently with Kronos Inc., a workforce management company with equipment in 51 different agencies and businesses across Ohio. Initiating the Kronos system requires a one-time setup fee of $4,000 and a $510 monthly payment from the city.

“It’s well worth $500 a month,” Waldo said.