NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – The new plan to get Niles out of fiscal emergency includes some items from the previously passed plan and suggestions by newly elected Mayor Tom Scarnecchia.
WKBN 27 First News obtained a copy of the plan from the Ohio Auditor’s office, which is overseeing the city’s fiscal emergency guidelines. Scarnecchia’s new plan contains 13 items totaling a savings of over $1.8 million.
At the Jan. 27 meeting of the Financial Planning and Supervision Commission overseeing Niles’ fiscal emergency, it was determined that the Niles general fund was $1.5 million in debt.
When asked why his plan exceeded the amount needed to be cut, Scarnecchia told First News, “I’m probably not going to get it all.”
Scarnecchia took office Jan. 1 and inherited a plan previously approved by the commission. At the Jan. 27 meeting, Scarnecchia was given time to develop his own plan.
13 points of Scarnecchia’s new plan:
- Police department manning: $125,000 in savings from concessions in the police department’s union contract eliminating minimum staffing.
- Answering service: $1,000 in savings by eliminating the Niles answering service which has already been implemented.
- Dispatch: $124,000 savings by reallocating the cost of dispatchers into a new enterprise fund.
- Reduction in manpower: $600,000 in savings through 12 layoffs scheduled to take effect Feb. 10.
- Wellness Center position: $5,000 in savings by eliminating one part-time employee.
- New Business: $8,000 of additional income tax from a new business described as only “Container Co.”
- Impound lot: $44,000 of additional income with the creation of a city owned impound lot where towed vehicles would be taken. The income would be generated from the fees to remove the vehicles.
- Early response: $74,000 of additional income from a fee to be charged to the ambulance company servicing Niles. According to Mayor Scarnecchia, the fee would be $50 per call, and the $74,000 figure was based on last year’s 1,481 EMS calls in Niles. The fire department will no longer be responding to EMS calls. “The ambulance company can just charge the insurance company,” said the mayor.
- Wellness Center: a total of $153,000 in savings and new revenue from the Niles Wellness Center. Included in the total are $50,000 for the naming rights based upon a percentage of the naming rights paid for Youngstown’s Covelli Centre; $67,000 in new revenue from a 25% increase in all fees; and $36,000 in “staffing savings”.
- Park levy: $100,000 in additional revenue from a “replacement” park levy also on the March 15 ballot. Niles would not get the extra money until 2017.
- Eliminating employees: $130,000 in savings by eliminating two park employees.
- Reduction in force: $300,000 in savings from more layoffs. Mayor Scarnecchia says the layoffs would be “across the board,” including additional cuts in the police and fire departments.
- Health care: $200,000 in health care cost savings. The mayor was not specific on how it would be done.
Scarnecchia said the cost savings in his plan would only be implemented if a 0.5% income tax increase on the March 15 ballot fails.
“We are in financial crisis now,” Scarnecchia said. “If we do not get this income tax, we will be in such dire need that we will be shutting down most of the city services because we don’t have the money.”
Scarnecchia has said the union contract with employees of the income tax department prevents him from outsourcing the work to the Regional Income Tax Authority (RITA). But he said everything’s now on the table.
“We may even have to look at RITA again and fight the unions” Scarnecchia said.
Scarnecchia’s plan is currently being reviewed by the fiscal supervisors in the Ohio Auditor’s office. A final plan is expected to be approved by Niles City Council at its Feb. 17 meeting and by the commission at a Feb. 18 meeting.