Thursday, January 8, 2004

Panel looks for good ideas


Citizens group seeks savings, opportunities

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDEPENDENCE - Seven residents have been named to a committee that will spend the next four months looking for ways to save this fast-growing city money and attract new businesses.

Members of the Independence Citizens Finance & Economic Development Committee say they have no agenda other than making their city a great place to live.

"I think it was a show of wisdom on the mayor's part to get a diversified group of people with a broad range of experience, put them together and see what they can come up with,'' said committee member Darrel Herald. Since moving to a new subdivision in Independence last year, the 42-year-old vice president with Provident Bank has followed city issues closely.

"Our role as a committee is to present ideas,'' Herald said. "It's up to the mayor and city council which they choose to act on."

Other committee members include Cindy Dobias, Jim Kudera, Michael Little, Dave Millward, Tom Nicodemus and Larry Staverman, 67, a retiree and two-year Independence resident who previously worked in sports marketing.

Mayor Chris Moriconi decided to form the group after residents packed city council meetings last fall to discuss which of three tax proposals to levy.

Council ultimately imposed a $12-a-year auto tax, effective this month, but noted it would generate only one-fourth of the revenue needed to offset a $610,826 shortfall.

Because of community interest in city finances, Moriconi invited residents to serve on a special committee.

After its initial meeting on Jan. 26, the Independence Citizens Finance & Economic Development Committee will offer monthly recommendations at informal city caucus meetings on how to trim the budget.

"By April 1, I'd like to have their recommendations, if any, regarding any areas of the budget where there's room for savings,'' Moriconi said.

The mayor said he would give the committee, chosen from 20 applicants, free rein to explore budget issues.

"The committee has multiple purposes,'' Moriconi said. "It's not just about going in there and saying, 'Turn off the lights an hour earlier to save money.' "

The committee's goals are threefold:

• To review city finances and recommend areas of potential revenue growth and possible savings without dramatically reducing services to citizens.

• Review areas of current zoning for new job opportunities in additional commercial or light industrial development.

• Explore how the city can effectively market itself to new businesses.

E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com




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