Monday, July 7, 2003

Monroe auditor report, tax vote delayed

But deficit tops agenda

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MONROE - Even though there will be no tax issue vote nor auditor's presentation, Tuesday's Monroe City Council meeting is expected to feature more questions from residents about city financial woes.

An independent auditor's report, originally scheduled for presentation to council, has been delayed until August because of city officials' difficulty in supplying financial information to the auditing firm, said Monroe's Acting City Manager William Brock.

Brock also said the council's vote on a possible tax issue for the fall ballot, which was originally scheduled for Tuesday's meeting, will instead happen next month before the state's deadline of Aug. 21 to file issues for the November ballot.

He said council and city officials want to allow more time to gather public opinion about either an income tax or property tax increase that might go before voters.

"I think there will be a lot of people who will turn out for this public hearing," Brock said the council meeting in Monroe's city hall at 7:30 p.m.

If so it could be a repeat of the record, overflow crowd that showed up for council's last meeting where more than 120 residents jammed into city hall. Many vented their irritation at council and city officials for allowing a growing budget problem to go undiscovered and unresolved.

Brock said city officials will present council with a projected operating budget for 2004 of $11.5 million, with an estimated deficit of $1.2 million, to council for review and later submission to the Butler County Auditor's office. Without a new tax increase the city faces layoffs, cutbacks in city services and the halt of capital improvement projects.

Council was leaning toward either a 4.84-mill property tax increase, which would cost the owner of a $150,000 home an additional $222 annually, or increasing the city's income tax from 1.0 to 1.5 percent. But the complaints recently voiced to council now have some members considering either a different size tax issue or delaying going to voters until next year.

City officials have blamed financial mismanagement by two former Monroe officials, City Manager Donald Whitman and Finance Director David Collins, both of whom were pressured to resign earlier this year.

Whitman has made limited public comments since his firing, but said he relied on Collins to provide accurate budget information. Collins has not responded to requests for comment.



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