Cost-Cutting Plan Outlined

City Manager Cathy Davison outlined a sweeping cost-cutting plan for City Council on Tuesday that includes proposed health care changes, elimination of a holiday pay for nonunion and union employees, reduced work hours in the city health department and a potential street lighting assessment.

Davison met with council members for 90 minutes to discuss the administration’s plans to reduce a projected $242,000 deficit in 2013 as well as projected deficits in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Davison said the projected $1.1 million deficit for 2013 was dramatically lowered after the city received $348,263 in estate tax revenue last year.

“We also saw a substantial increase in our city income tax revenue in the fourth quarter of 2012. The Regional Income Tax Agency has told us that increase may be from a one-time payment. We still have some work to do with RITA. And the increase in the fourth quarter could have something to do with new jobs being created in the city,” said Finance Director Alyssa Kerker.

“We all have to remember this is 2013 and not 1964, when Steubenville and Weirton had the highest per capita income in the United States. We no longer have thousands of people working in the steel mills. I am interested in every city employee having a job and health care,” said 1st Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto.

“We can make up the budget difference in 2013 with minor changes. But we have to look at 2014, 2015 and 2016. The police department contract expires in May, the fire department contract will expire in November and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union contract ends in March 2014. We need their help, but we also need to make plans if the unions don’t agree to help,” Davison said. “I am recommending the elimination of one of our two holiday pays. I would suggest the July holiday pay. And we can start with our nonunion employees.”

City employees are paid their holiday rate in special pays in July and December.

“We keep going after the nonunion employees. I don’t want to take a holiday pay off of the nonunion employees until the unions agree to give it up,” responded 2nd Ward Councilman Rick Perkins.

Davison said she has been notified the city’s board of health proposed a 35-hour work week for all employees “that will keep all of their employees working.”

“They will essentially give up their paid lunch hour, and Health Commissioner Patty Reda will stagger their schedules so operational hours will not change,” Davison said. “We would not lose any services currently offered by the health department.

“We are looking at a street lighting assessment on property taxes. Our bond counsel will be forwarding information to our law director for us to review,” she added. “We are also considering the potential elimination of two full-time employees within an agency in the city and one part-time employee. And you will have to decide what you want to do with the council clerk position.”

“We will work with (law director) Gary Repella on that, but ultimately it’s our decision. That is our clerk, and we will decide,” replied 3rd Ward Councilman Greg Metcalf.

Davison also said the city’s planning and zoning commission again will consider an increase in building fees when it meets Monday.

Davison said two AFSCME union employees have received layoff notices and been given the opportunity to “bump” a junior employee or go to one of three vacancies.