Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Norwood may delay payments



By Steve Kemme
Enquirer staff writer

NORWOOD - To eliminate its projected $1.5 million year-end deficit, Norwood officials are considering delaying payments to employees' state pension fund and postponing the payment of large bills until next year.

Mayor Tom Williams and several city officials met in private for 90 minutes before Tuesday's council meeting to talk about possible actions to reduce the deficit.

"We're exploring every option we can," Williams said.

Temporarily suspending city payments to the state pension fund could knock $800,000 off the deficit, Norwood Treasurer Tim Molony said.

Last week, the state auditor's office declared Norwood in fiscal watch, which gives the city access to state technical and support services.

The city also could reduce its deficit by working out a delayed-payment schedule with its largest vendors, such as Cinergy, Cincinnati Bell and Rumpke.

City Council also voted unanimously Tuesday to freeze wages for all appointed employees. There are about 35 appointed employees, and the freeze would affect fewer than 10 between now and the end of the year, Molony said.

The vast majority of Norwood's employees are union members or elected officials.

The freeze will save about $2,000 this year, Molony said.

Councilman Mike Gabbard questioned whether it was fair to deny a handful of appointed employees a raise when most of them have already received pay increases this year.

But Councilman Will DeLuca said the city's dire financial situation mandated the action.

"Everybody deserves a raise," he said. "But when times are tough, we have to do everything we can to save a penny."

At Williams' request, the Ohio Auditor's Office will begin Oct. 26 to conduct a performance audit to measure efficiency and effectiveness. Layoffs and other cost-cutting measures could occur as a result of the audit's recommendations.

The audit won't be completed until March.

"Everything is on the block," Williams said.

E-mail skemme@enquirer.com




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