Friday, October 1, 2004

Proposed cuts languish

By Kevin Aldridge
Enquirer staff writer

GREEN TWP. - A trustee in this western Hamilton County township is pushing for budget cuts to strengthen the dwindling general fund.

"We've got to put the horse back in the barn," trustee Steve Grote said. "People are getting tired of paying property tax levies. It's too expensive."

He wants to move forward with proposals he says could save the general fund more than $150,000. But so far, trustees Tony Upton and Chuck Mitchell have given the recommendations a lukewarm reception.

The cuts would involve getting rid of the position of lodge manager, increasing employees' share of health and dental insurance costs by 15 percent and eliminating non-mandated state pension benefits for department heads. Grote has been pushing for the cuts for weeks.

Mitchell and Upton could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Hamilton County's second-largest township - has a $2.5 million annual shortfall in its general fund, which threatens to affect basic services such as police and fire in the next two years. The township, whose annual budget runs about $25.8 million, has struggled in recent years, largely because of cuts in state funding.

Trustees placed two property tax levies on the Nov. 2 ballot to keep the township in the black. The levies combined would generate $2.7 million.

Trustees voted Monday to suspend the sidewalk repair program for next year. Township Administrator Kevin Celarek said the move would save about $150,000.

Grote said he estimates the township could save roughly $70,000 by consolidating the lodge manager position with the senior citizen manager position.

Grote said the township's lodge has operated at a loss of about $1 million since 1999.

Grote said ending non-mandated state pension benefits for department heads would save an estimated $35,000 a year.

All public employees in Ohio make pension payments equal to 13 percent of gross salary. Each employee is supposed to match the amount taken out, just as with Social Security.

The township is paying the matching portion for its police chief, fire chief, administrator, development director and maintenance director, Grote said. Grote contended this is the equivalent to an 8 percent annual raise.


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