Falling city revenue



As stated in yesterday’s post, the need for the income tax increase stems primarily from the falling revenue in the city’s General Fund, from which it must pay the salaries of the police and fire departments, the operations department, and most other goods and services. The exceptions are the Enterprise Funds: water, waste water and sanitation,  which are self-funded and operating within their budgets.

Since 2003, revenues have fallen $6.3 million, or 21%. Cuts in the GF budget have been just over $5 million — not enough to keep up with the fall in revenue. 2017 revenues are expected to be approximately $23 million — about what they were in 2000.

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Why I’m voting “yes”


vote-yesI will be voting “yes” on the Warren city income tax increase in November. I realize this will surprise and disappoint some of you. There are many reasons to vote “no” and I am confident that I have heard them all. Many of them have merit, but in my mind, they are outweighed by two more important reasons to support the increase.

The first reason relates to scale and speed. Opponents of the tax often site examples of waste or mismanagement in the city budget. Their examples are often accurate, however, most of these fixes lack the scale to solve the problem at hand.

For example, some people would like to reduce City Council by two positions and eliminate the position of Council President — a do-nothing job. That would save about $35,000 per year, however, the gap in the city budget is approaching $2 million; it would require nearly 60 fixes of a similar scale to bring the budget into balance.

Lead time is important also. The city might save hundreds of thousands of dollars by changing our street lights to LED bulbs, however doing so will require the permission and cooperation of Ohio Edison. Legal action could be necessary and a resolution could take months or years. This is time we do not have as the situation is urgent.

This is not to say that these ideas should not be pursued — they should. We should be looking for savings wherever they can be found, but that search does not replace the immediate need for the income tax increase.

The most important reason I will be voting yes, is that however unpleasant the tax increase may be, the consequences will be much less unpleasant than those I fear from the  failure to pass it. The citizens committee, which examined the proposal, determined that the tax is needed, despite the fact that the city has cut approximately $5 million from its spending in recent years. However, the cuts did not keep up with the steady drop in city revenues over the past 15 years.

As Warren continues to shrink (we lose about 10 people per week) so do our tax receipts and other fees collected by city government. The biggest loss has been in the reduction in funding the city receives from the State of Ohio, which is down over $1 million per year in the past five years.

In 2017, Warren’s general fund revenue is expected to be approximately $23 million — about the same amount it was in the year 2000. The citizen’s committee concluded, and I agree, that we have a serious revenue problem which only the tax increase can correct now. If you are concerned that the citizens committee is just a political tool of the administration, I can assure you that they are not. They asked tough questions and they are independent, knowledgable and non-partisan.

I know many of you blame the administration for this predicament and do not want to “reward” them with additional tax money. I certainly understand this emotion, but, as the committee report stated, failure to pass the tax increase will not punish any politician. They will still have their jobs and their paychecks. Failure to pass the tax will punish the city, you, and your neighbors, and it is for the good of the city that I urge you to vote for passage.

We all have our opinions on what should happen if the tax fails, but that is out of our hands; what will happen is this: 10 or more police will be laid off. The city will possibly reject the SAFER grant, which would have added 15 firemen, and instead will lay off 10. If they keep the SAFER grant they may then have to cut 20 police. The operations department, which has shrunk from nearly 100 people 15 years ago to 20 people, will also take a hit. Our city will be dirtier and more dangerous.

We can survive the effects of the tax increase if we are smart about the future, but I’m not sure that we will survive if our police and fire departments are cut by 20% or more.

It isn’t just the cuts themselves, it’s the public relations disaster that will result if those cuts lead to more gang violence, more drug activity, a deadly fire or two, and the word-of-mouth cancer spread throughout Trumbull County saying that Warren is too dangerous a place to risk a visit for a summer concert, a hot dog or a slice of pizza, let alone to consider buying a home and making a life here.

Warren already teeters near the tipping point. Let’s not weigh down the wrong end of the equation in anger, because once we tip the balance towards extinction we may never be able to tip it back again.

For the good of Warren’s future, vote yes for the income tax increase on November 8th.

[I am sorry that we are unable to take comments or questions here. Please leave them on the Warren Expressed Facebook page, or email me at info@warrenexpressed.org and we will respond to you as quickly as possible.]

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Mary E. Williams


This is the third of three interviews with contestants in one of the November 8th Trumbull County Commissioner’s races. You can read the background on the series in a post earlier this week. The following remarks were excerpted from a conversation on September 15th with Cortland resident, Marry E. Williams (R):

13924969_918810331599187_742824455782399354_n“I’m on two school boards so I see what education can do for someone, and what the lack of a good education does to hinder success. We have jobs here but there is a big disconnect between what employers need in skills and the reality of who is available here for them.”

“I’m on the TCTC board; they do a great job but we need more like them. Students need technical skills, but they also need life skills — understanding the importance of being on time, how to dress professionally, etc. I would use the Commissioner’s position to bring groups together in partnerships that encourage mentoring relationships between employers and students.”

“Similar programs would also benefit people with drug problems. Drug use is a symptom of hopelessness, which arises from an inability to see opportunities ahead. We need to show people the path forward to give them the hope and the knowledge to succeed.”

“Agriculture is a big industry in Trumbull County and one of our biggest employers. I will encourage more people to enter the field, even in small ways.”

“We are currently losing population, and that trend is projected to continue. So we don’t need additional homes, but we do need to find productive uses for vacant land. Agriculture is one option worth investing in as a form of economic and personal development. Gardening on our vacant lots teaches self sufficiency and aids healthy eating.”

“Other development opportunities I will pursue include providing Wi-Fi coverage for the whole city of Warren, and more bike trails, because people chose where to live by how they spend their time. We need better public transportation. My grandmother lived in Warren until she could no longer drive. Then she had to move closer to family members who could help her. She had to leave Warren and this is one way the city suffers economically.”

“We fall very short of the ideal when it comes to transparency in Trumbull County government, and I will open everything up as much as possible. I also believe that county employment should reflect the racial make up of the county; I’ve seen the numbers and we fall way short of that goal.”

Mary has a web site and a Facebook page for those who wish to know more.

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Dan Polivka


This is the second of three interviews with contestants in one of the November 8th Trumbull County Commissioner’s races. You can read the background on the series in an earlier post. The third interview will appear later this week.

polivkadan2010_r175x200The following remarks were excerpted from a conversation on September 28th with incumbent  Dan Polivka (D):

“Fiscal responsibility is important to all Trumbull County families and I will continue to make that my number one objective. About 18 months ago the county was considering a sales tax increase. I insisted we hold public hearings first. Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa and I studied the budget and determined that our insurance and workman’s compensation accounts  were overfunded, compared to the actuarial requirements, by nearly $5 million. We scrapped the tax increase and have been gradually drawing down the overfunded balance, allowing us to maintain services without increasing risk in the insurance accounts.”

“Combining Warren’s 911 services, and coordinating bulk salt purchasing, saved both city and townships money and allowed the county to operate more efficiently. I will look for more shared services opportunities.”

“I pushed to combine the Trumbull County Engineer and Sanitation departments, saving one $80,000 salary, but more importantly, allowing us to work more efficiently. In the past we might repave a road only to have a new sewer line tear it up shortly after. Now these activities are closely coordinated, which saves time, money and people’s frustration.”

“I will continue to be a major supporter of the Trumbull County Land Bank and the critical work they are doing to remove blight from our communities. I am a member of the Land Bank Board, and was proud to recently second the motion to renew the contract with Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership to manage the Land Bank for the next three years. Under their leadership, our Land Bank has been recognized as one of the very best in Ohio. We need the expertise TNP provides, and the pride and positiveness they bring to their work.”

“Finally, I will continue to make the county a more business-friendly environment, and to grow our economic development programs, which helped bring the power plant to Lordstown, the Golden Triangle project grant, the embarkation hub at the Vienna air base, and 16.2 miles of bike trails  to Trumbull County.”

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Citizens’ group reaches agreement with Mayor


men-making-handshake-agreementMayor Franklin and DPSS Cantalamessa created a citizens’ committee to consider the need for an income tax increase. The committee presented a list of suggestions to Franklin and Cantalamessa for steps that, if taken, would gain the committee’s support for the tax. After more than a month of negotiations the two sides have reached an agreement.

The formal statement from the committee follows in this post. The administration’s multipage response can be downloaded for printing and/or reading.  Click this link: citizen_comm_agreement. You will be taken to a second page where you will have to click the link again. Unfortunately we are unable to take comments here. Either make your comment on the WE Facebook page, or email them to me at info@warrenexpressed.org. I will comment in a few days after giving the issue more consideration.

The committee statement is as follows:

City Hall has provided a response to the citizens committee’s outline regarding the income tax increase and you will find that response attached.  City Hall agrees with nearly every point as presented by the committee. The only area of contention was in defining dollar amounts for both the reasonable reserve and for economic development.  The administration agrees in principle to these two items but wishes to keep the amount undefined pending verification of actual cash receipts received if and when the levy has passed.  The committee agrees to accept that condition since the administration also agrees to continue to meet with this committee on an ongoing basis to monitor all the proposals in the document.

With this understanding, this committee unanimously and strongly endorses the support of the proposed temporary income tax levy.  Although many political arguments can be made for or against the levy regarding its timing, the truth this bipartisan committee revealed is the need for an increase in tax was inevitable.  When you cast your vote regarding the levy, you are not casting a vote for or against an individual politician or the administration.  You are actually casting a vote for or against your neighbor, your community and yourself as well as the future of Warren.  It is our hope that you will carefully consider the future of our community and this plan and join us in supporting and passing the temporary income tax increase. 


Paul L. Clouser on behalf of the Citizen’s Committee.

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