A final Finance Committee meeting was held last night to discuss the income tax increase. Council will vote on Tuesday (August 8) at 3:00 PM. I expect it to pass without much opposition. Most Council members seem to feel that the voters have the right to decide, so the issue will likely be on the ballot in November.
Last night the administration made the case for the tax increase for more than an hour, followed by four public speakers, all of whom opposed it.
DPSS Enzo Cantalamessa spoke at length after distributing a five page document outlining the administration’s position. (Enzo_memo ) There are a lot of words in the document but nothing we have not heard before and we still have seen no numeric argument for the tax increase. Budgets are done on spreadsheets for a good reason, and it would be nice to see a mathematical argument made for their case.
Chief of Police Merkel spoke again, and gave some specific examples of what cuts in service the public should expect if the tax fails. He expects to close the “street crimes unit” which works on drug cases, since most of the cuts will be to younger cops, older cops will move to street duty and few crimes will receive follow up investigation — probably only those involving aggravated violence. Burgler alarm responses will be reduced.
Fire Chief Nussle said failure to pass will mean there will likely be only two operational truck crews at the one operating fire house on Main. Fire inspections have already been eliminated. The average fireman is already 46+ years old, and the age will rise.
[See yesterday’s post for copies of the two Chief’s prepared reports.]
City Engineer Paul Makosky, who has been very successful bringing state and federal grant money to Warren for fixing roads — more than $35 million — told the audience it costs $150,000 to pave a mile of city streets, and we have 185 miles to pave. Mayor Franklin called fixing streets, “a public safety issue.”
Councilman John Brown (D-3) continues to be the main critic of the tax increase and the threat that the police and firemen bear the brunt of the pain. He called “page two, point #1” of Enzo’s memo untrue, asking how only police and fire can be made to suffer when the city employs 400 people.
Doug Franklin said that more than fire and police will be laid off, and challenged Brown to show them how to cut $1.3 million without laying off police and firemen. Al Novak (D-2) supported Brown’s argument, and called for a reduction in the number of management personnel at the city by creating a Department of Public Works to oversee a broader range of city works.
The public speakers were unanimous in their opposition and had similar themes. Several, including Liz Ballant of the SE side, asked why the Mayor and other officials aren’t offering to take pay cuts as part of this emergency situation. Former City Councilman Ron White of the SW side said he would not support a permanent increase until he has seen how the administration deals with upcoming union negotiations. White said, “once you have money, everybody wants the money.” White “might support” a temporary increase.
Greg Greathouse of the north end asked why it is always police and fire on the chopping block, and echoed Mr. White’s question of why the Mayor waited so long to act on a financial situation that was years in the making. Debbie Magos of the NE side hammered home this same point, noting that the Mayor’s spending down of more than a $1 million surplus, and procrastination in taking action, had painted us into a corner; she added that a tax increase will further discourage businesses from starting or expanding in Warren, and will speed the city’s downward spiral.
Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold (D-6) is hosting a town hall-style meeting this Sunday, August 7 at 6:00 PM at Restoration Church, 760 Main Avenue, the former Rebecca Williams Community Center.
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