Niles leaders disagree on where to make cuts to balance budget

NILES, Ohio (WYTV) – Niles Mayor Tom Scarnecchia presented yet another fiscal emergency recovery plan Monday evening, only to find out that city council wants it tweaked.

The City of Niles needs a balanced budget out five years, which must include money for capital improvements. That’s a tall task for a city in fiscal emergency.

Two weeks ago, the state commission overseeing Niles’ fiscal emergency decided if there was no viable recovery plan by July 25, a 15 percent budget cut would automatically go into effect.

“If we don’t go ahead with the plan by the end of this month, there will be sanctions on us,” said a frustrated Scarnecchia.

The mayor’s amended plan has seven new provisions, starting with the long talked about idea of contracting with RITA (the Regional Income Tax Agency) and eliminating the tax department.

“I know we had problems before. I’m not taking that away but right now, it’s been really good so why would we want to take all that money and give it away out of our general fund?” said Third Ward Councilwoman Linda Marchese.

Service Director Ed Stredney said the reason why is because it could mean an extra $400,000 a year in tax collections.

The union representing the women in the income tax department signed off on hiring RITA as long as they were given jobs elsewhere. Niles Treasurer Janet Rizor-Jones said, “I don’t think in the long run that the city is going to benefit from it.”

Councilman Steve Mientkiewicz had a problem with spending only $120,000 a year on street resurfacing. He wants $150,000, saying he’s worried about the side streets.

But every time council suggested adding something, that meant in order to keep the budget balanced, something else would need to be taken away.

“I don’t know where else to make any cuts that aren’t drastically going to alter people’s lives,” Stredney said.

Scarnecchia is proposing a $10 increase to license plate fees.

Also in the mayor’s plan was buying three new police cars this year and next, and then none for the next three years.

He also wants to create a capital improvement plan for the water and sewer departments, borrow $1.6 million to fix up city buildings, and repay a $959,000 advance from the water department to the general fund.

There are no layoffs in the mayor’s amended plan.