Thursday, May 8, 2003

Norwood cinches up its belt

By Dave Eck
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NORWOOD - City officials are facing tough decisions after voters Tuesday soundly defeated a pair of 2.5-mill tax levies for the police and fire departments.

The levies would have raised about $960,000 a year for each department - providing funds for equipment and freeing up money from the city's already-strained general fund, officials said.

For the police levy, the final vote in unofficial results was 1,164 votes against (68 percent) to 555 in favor (32 percent.)

For the fire levy, it was 1,129 against (66 percent) to 577 in favor (34 percent.)

The police levy could have helped provide new cruisers, upgraded radios needed to communicate with Cincinnati and Hamilton County, and covered mobile data terminals in police cars, Police Chief William Schlie said.

"I don't know where the money's going to come from," he said. "We'll have to knuckle down. We're going to provide the best service. Then again, police departments have to have equipment to do that."

The fire department is in need of a new paramedic unit, officials said.

"These (levies) were just to offset the overall equipment needs and the expected expenses that those departments require to run," Councilman Joseph Sanker said.

Council members said it will be difficult for the city to buy new equipment now. Without new revenue, Norwood could have a budget deficit of $200,000 to $500,000 this year, Sanker said.

"This was one way to help balance the budget," he said. "The people somewhat decided that right now they didn't want to pay any more for services."

Councilman Thomas Williams is looking toward the city administration to help deal with the budget issues. Council and Mayor Joe Hochbein have had a rocky relationship for about the last year.

"I guess the next move is to wait and see what the administration does," Williams said. "They have to get involved in this ... and come up with some suggestions. It's time for them to earn their salary, do their job. You're paid to lead - lead."

But the mayor said Wednesday he didn't support the levies because council has moved too slowly in encouraging development, and the purpose of the money was too vague.

"This City Council is attempting to balance the budget through these additional taxes instead of encouraging development," Hochbein said.

And he blames council for not acting on proposed developments more efficiently.

"To a great extent it's a problem they created by failing to move forward on these developments," Hochbein said. "The mess they are in is of their own making."

Hochbein plans to retire May 31.


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