By Sue Botos
What finance Director Mike Thomas referred to as “moving parts” have fallen into place, and City Council has been presented with a draft of the 2013 budget by the Finance Committee. Council will hear the reports of city directors on Friday, and will hold a public discussion on Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. in City Council chambers, prior to expected approval of the measure, which by city charter, must be accomplished by March 31.
The proposed general fund, which provides salaries and operating expenses for city departments, is $8,862,245, leaner than the $9,612,772 budget of 2012. Much of this number reflects a reduction in equipment repair and purchase and staff cuts, particularly for the Rocky River Municipal Court, which has trimmed its roster due to the expected drop in revenue resulting from the new North Olmsted Mayor’s Court. Clerk of Court Deborah Comery has estimated the loss at about $500,000.
Although the court has been self-sufficient, its budget must be reflected as part of the city’s general fund.
City officials had been concerned that a temporary appropriation would be needed for the month of January, as negotiations with some city unions continued. At a special meeting last week, council approved the recommendations of fact-finder Richard Novak, who had been consulted after talks with the police division had hit a standstill.
“We were very pleased with the fact-finder’s observations and our exhibits,” commented Mayor Pam Bobst, who said that administrators and union representatives spent six hours with Novak, resulting in a 45-page document. She explained that two issues regarding firearms certification and uniform allowance for new hires represented the sticking points.
Education differentials for rookies was also discussed. “We don’t anticipate a significant number of new hires during this contract,” noted Bobst, who observed that there would be no changes regarding these issues. She said that new hires would still receive the same education compensation upon completion of the two-year probationary period.
Other items previously agreed upon were also covered in the report, including a wage freeze for the coming year.
Ordinance sponsor Ward 1 Councilman Thomas Hunt noted, at the Jan. 7 City Council meeting, that the fact-finding report was issued on Jan. 3, and needed to be approved within seven days.
Service department workers have also agreed to defer pay increases for the coming year. Council approved the contract outline, which also covers some recreation department employees who are members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers at last week’s legislative session. “This mirrors the police agreement because there are no wage increases in 2013 and 2014, along with a wage opener in 2015,” Council President Jim Moran stated.
The 2013 appropriation also reflects a 2.5-percent wage increase for firefighters. In order to balance the 2011 budget, collective bargaining units representing police, firefighters and service workers agreed to freeze their wages, forgoing 2.5-percent raises. Last year, only firefighters voted to continue the deferment to 2013. In addition to the negotiated wage increase, firefighters will receive a 1-percent equity adjustment on July 1, which was agreed upon in 2008.
Although the budget is leaner than last year’s version, Bobst stated that administrators were able to do away with monthly mandatory furlough days for non-union employees, a measure put in place to cut costs last year. She noted that the move resulted in a 4.6-percent reduction in salaries for non-bargaining workers, who will not receive raises once again this year.
“When you’re in the negotiating process, finalizing the budget does not happen automatically,” Bobst said of the prolonged period before the appropriation was presented.
Moran agreed that despite a leaner budget and “challenging times,” residents will not notice a change in city services.