Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Monroe deciding on cuts


$750,000 shortfall projected by city

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MONROE - For the first time in its short history as a city, Monroe is facing budget cuts.

Officials here blame a slow national economy and fast local growth that has the city's general operating fund of $10.5 million projected to come up short this year by about $750,000.

"Our population has grown and the economy went to hell. We've done a lot of building and now it's time to pay the piper," said Mayor Michael Morris.

Tonight, interim City Manager William Brock will outline the city's budget problems, which primarily affect funds for police, capital projects and the city's general fund, at a meeting of council's Finance Committee at 7 p.m. in the council library next to council chambers.

The $750,000 in possible cuts would be a first since Monroe, whose population has gone from about 4,000 in 1990 to more than 8,500 today, became a city in 1995.

Morris pointed out that 65 percent of the city's land use is designated for commercial or light industrial, and is particularly vulnerable to a sluggish economy and its lack of new investment and building.

Brock said that even as new residents arrive, "their taxes don't cover the costs of services they incur ... so you have to look to commercial and industrial growth, but that has been slow."

He said the cuts will not include layoffs of city workers, but that "we are looking at everything we are doing."

In the police budget, professional development and travel will be cut and some jobs that might come open because of attrition might remain unfilled this year, or be covered by overtime shifts.

Also hit will be street resurfacing programs and all park improvement projects for the remainder of the year. In the general fund there will be no professional development, travel or new computer or office equipment purchases.

"You have to remember that we are still a young city and we didn't have a lot of programs to begin with so we don't have a lot of programs to cut from," Brock said.

On the table for discussion are: going to the voters this fall for a property tax increase, or raising the city's 1 percent income tax. Another option is increasing city fees.

E-mail mclark@enquirer.com




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