The Brinda administration is listening to you, the taxpayers. We heard you loud and clear that you do not want to pay more taxes for police and fire services despite the city’s revenue losses from the state and federal governments. To balance the budget and keep the city safe – by for example maintaining the Police Narcotics Unit to keep drugs and drug dealers off the street, and keeping three fire stations open to protect your lives and property – the City must make reductions in all departments.
We told voters in Issue 14 campaign materials that city-wide reductions would have to be made to maintain safety as a priority. As a result, a total of 54 positions have been reduced, involving all departments in the City. Please note, we did not eliminate any police officers – but we did eliminate a police department clerical position. Here is accurate information regarding the two most scrutinized departments in the local media. In addition, operating and capital expenses have been reduced and some programs have been cut.
The largest department personnel reduction in the city is taking place in the Fire Department. As a result of a new labor contract unanimously supported by City Council, the Fire Department will have 12 fewer employees in December 2015 compared to January 2014. The reduction is being achieved by not back-filling 7 firefighter positions resulting from attrition that were held open since 2014 and 3 firefighter positions in 2015 – as well as the layoffs of a mechanic and a secretary. This new contract allows the City to keep three fire stations open most of the time and maintain 60 front-line firefighter positions, which is the number recommended in the recent Performance Audit by the State Auditor.
The firefighter agreement also included monetary concessions in 2015 that do not have to be repaid, estimated by the Finance Director at between $392,510 to $412,510 to prevent further layoffs in 2015. And like our other employee unions, the firefighters also agreed to reduce longevity for new hires and accept a modest 2 percent wage increase. The firefighter union has also agreed to discuss further concessions in the summer of 2015.
It is expected that the Elyria City Health District will lose 2 employees through attrition as a result of the budget cuts. Like all other departments in the City, the Health District was given a target number to provide reduction scenarios to the Mayor and Safety Service Director. As the Finance Director adjusted the budget based on changing projected revenues and the administration scoured for all cost-savings, over a two-month period we were able to reduce the amount of reductions in all departments and the Health District – in their case from a projected $500,000 to $250,000. As Mayor, I requested that the cost-savings go into the Health District to relieve the immediate financial strain and allow a new Health Board to make best decisions about cost-saving arrangements with surrounding communities, the County, and related organizations and agencies. A State of Ohio Innovation Grant has been secured to support this process and the Health Commissioner supports this conversation moving forward.
Other cost-saving adjustments have also been made in the Health District. A previous, informal arrangement that had Elyria Health District personnel providing services to the citizens of Lorain was discontinued by me because the City of Elyria was not receiving financial reimbursement from the City of Lorain and the two boards could not agree on a contract. The City of Elyria is open to future discussions in this area, but as Mayor I have an obligation to protect Elyria taxpayer funds and that is exactly what I have done.
Holly C. Brinda
City of Elyria
131 Court Street
Elyria, Ohio 44035