Last updated: August 24. 2013 5:21PM - 68 Views

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LIMA — With the ordinance in question defeated, Lima City Council’s human resources committee wrapped up discussion of alternative savings Monday night, leaving the issue to resurface when the finance committee starts budget discussions around the end of the year. “I have no problem seeing this with the finance committee,” human resources chair Derry Glenn said. “If we do go to the finance committee, we need to get involved. We all should be involved in this,” he said.The city is trying to fill a $2 million hole in the general fund, created largely by state budget cuts. The administration has said it needs to begin cutting now to prepare for state cuts that won’t be fully implemented until 2013.Even with savings such as $500,000 from leaving positions vacant and other measures (such as furlough days and increasing some employees’ health care contributions), the Auditor’s Office estimates a general fund cash balance by 2013 of about $2 million, roughly the amount spent each month by the city. A balance that low could put the city on fiscal emergency status with the state.“This budget is going to be the toughest budget,” Glenn said.The committee took up the issue when an ordinance to increase health care contributions of non-union employees and allow for furloughs and unpaid leave was introduced. A group of employees suggested there were better ways to save money. At Monday’s committee meeting, Finance Director Steve Cleaves reviewed the city’s budget history and the employee suggestions.“We have been reducing the general fund consistently for the past 10 years,” he said. “The suggestions in the employee recommendations were good. But we’ve been doing some of them. We need to do more.”He said Lima had a balanced budget for a couple of the past 10 years, as recently as 2008. “But then we got the state balancing their budget on us. They brought us $2 million in cuts,” he said. With the recent ordinance’s failure, Cleaves said the city is back to square one on budget-cutting plans.“What we’re going to do now is continue what we’ve done in the past and ramp up,” he said.Layoffs are part of the equation, Mayor David Berger said last week, but not before the 2012 budget, which goes into effect in July. With labor costs making up 80 percent of the general fund budget, cutting staff can’t be ruled out.Layoffs should be a last resort, city employee Larry Stayonovich told the committee.Cleaves said Monday the city is looking at every suggestion. He expects several thousand in cuts from the police and other departments and roughly $700,000 in overtime cuts from the fire department.There are many cuts expected, he said, but not $2 million worth.Cleaves also reviewed a few of the employee suggestions during Monday’s meeting.He said contracts for temporary help will probably be reduced, but that work won’t be made up with regular employees.“If regular employees have time to clean the building, we have too many regular employees,” he said.Closing Schoonover Pool is an option that would save about $30,000 a year, he said.Any new proposals to cut spending would have “trigger points” for making and restoring cuts tied to the city’s fiscal health.Cleaves said the mayor’s budget proposal is due in mid-December and discussion of cuts will begin again then. The city’s budget runs January to December, but council generally passes a temporary spending ordinance until the budget is passed.You can comment on this story at LimaOhio.com.

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