COUNCIL AS A WHOLE COMMITTEE MEETING
JANUARY 10, 2017
Council President Ms. DePledge opened the meeting at 7:00 p.m.
Ms. DePledge: If there is anyone recording this meeting as courtesy to the public will you please identify yourself so that the fellow attendees know that they are being recorded.
Kristi Garabrandt-The News Herald
Members of Council in attendance were Mr. Zuren, Mr. Meyers, Mr. Kasunick, Mr. Spotton, Mr. Evers, Mr. Hoefle and Council President Ms. DePledge. Also attending was Council Clerk Mrs. Simons.
Those attending from the Administration were Mayor Morley, Fire Chief Whittington, Police Chief Reik, CBO Menn, Service Director Rubertino, City Engineer Gwydir, Finance Director Schindel and Law Director Klammer.
01-10-(01): A Resolution for a 4.5-Mill Fire Levy.
Ms. DePledge: This was discussed in a Finance Committee and it is on the agenda for this evening. Is there anybody wishing to speak about the Fire Levy at this time?
Chief Whittington: Did you want me to speak now or during my report?
Ms. DePledge: I think that the earlier the better.
Chief Whittington: Thank you Madam President. We had a staff meeting yesterday and this…I guess concerns or to just make sure that we are on the same page. I know that this is a way to make the city better and we want to be involved and we want to make sure that we participate to the level that we need. A couple of the concerns that I had and maybe to just get addressed are that I talked to Ms. Schindel and the Mayor the levy isn’t enough to carry the Fire Department. My concern is that is there some kind of perception or concept that the levy is just all of the funding that we get? I am still going to need General Fund money, because right now the operating part of the Fire Levy is about $1.6 or $1.7. We also have part of the General Fund where we have pensions, health care and worker’s compensation. There are a lot of things that aren’t necessarily in the operating side. So if this levy is written just to replace that $1.6…I think that the language needs to be clear. I don’t want a situation where we change Mayor’s or Council and then someone comes to me and says “this is just your money. This is the Fire Levy and this is it.” My main concern is that the way the levy is written isn’t enough to self sustain the Fire Department. If the intent of Council is to just supplement the Fire Department with the levy I am okay with that and it most certainly helps. I think that when we talk to the residents and they have to know that the levy isn’t just to sustain the Fire Department. That is the one concern that I am not sure if the intent is planned out by Council on what that levy was for or whatever the case maybe. I think that the levy should be written as a permanent levy and I don’t think that we should have to renew it. You are running the Fire Department or a portion of the Fire Department out of a levy. So to have to go every five or ten years…from a planning perspective it would be very difficult to have to renew it. I think that we would be looking to see and make sure that it is a permanent levy and the way that it is written and I would differ it to the Law Director that the Millage continues to be collected appropriately. Just like our current Capital Levy when it was written it was for a half mill and we renew it every five years. The Millage is actually affected by property tax and income tax. Instead of the half mill…we only collect about .28 and I think that along with the fact that it is a permanent levy it should have the ability to continue to get $4.5 Mills every single year and not be affected. I know that we can write it specifically that way. If someone could clarify at the intent…was it Council’s intent to just fund the Fire Department out of it? Or was it to supplement? That is something that is important for me to know. I most certainly…when we are making decisions over there that would be a big gap. If I don’t have enough money to run the Fire Department that is going to become a problem. I would just open up for discussion on what the thoughts were on the $4.5 Mills?
Ms. DePledge: Mr. Zuren?
Mr. Zuren: I would like to respond to that. My interpretation of this levy is to support the Fire Department. If the Fire Department needs more money for whatever reason to run efficiently then I would fully support money coming from the General Fund. This is not the only money that the Fire Department is going to get over the next five or ten years. I would fully support anything and the Fire Department is vital to this community and I would support it every way that I can.
Chief Whittington: I just don’t know if that needs to be reflected in the language. I would make sure that the Law Director has some kind of input on that. So when you write that on the ballot. I can’t most certainly persuade on how the language is written but the concerns about making it so that it allows for whoever is over there fighting for a budget has the ability to use the General Fund money outside of the levies. I also think that there needs some consideration in making it permanent and being able to adjust the millage. Obviously those are just my opinions on that.
Ms. DePledge: Mayor Morley?
Mayor Morley: As we have discussed in the staff meeting and we had a pretty good discussion for our first meeting of the year. My concern is and also part of the Chief’s concern…not on the millage but it is on being a ten year compare to permanent. The Chief is worried that if I am replaced or the person after that is replaced…and they come in and say “this is what got passed and this is the permanent levy and this is all of the money that you have to spend.” If that is the type of person that comes in then he is still on the opposite side. Ms. Schindel and I have talked about looking at five, we looked at permanent and then we went to ten after some of the Chief’s concerns. His concern is and he has voiced it especially in staff is that this Council is not here and I’m not here and someone new comes in or new Council comes in. He is worried that here is your $1.7 Mills and run it on that. We already know at this point with Ms. Schindel sending you the information that we are at $2.2 or $2.3 Mills really to run this department. I understand his concern but again we have not been able to pass a levy in this city since 1982. This levy at $4.5 Mills I imagine will be tough for us to pass, but if we can’t get our residents behind the Fire Department then we’re really never going to honestly get anything passed. The other option that I brought up to Council and we were talking about this was that Cleveland passed a 2 ½% income tax. Ms. Schindel and I looked at that and we have 1,100 residents that work in Cleveland. We were thinking that maybe it’s not going affect them and maybe they would come out and vote for that. We’ve tried everything before me and I am sure that it will be tried possibly after me on getting some sort of levy passed. Our commercial and manufacturing business have been doing better but we still need more money to come in. We figure that the $1.7 Million…if they get the levy passed that it will open up at least $1.7 Million in the General Fund. Not saying that any other money won’t go to the Fire Department. We have discussed that before.
Ms. DePledge: To address your concerns Chief Whittington. I was looking through the resolution again and the legislation for the levy and I don’t see anything in here and the Law Director can correct me if I’m wrong or if I’m missing it. I don’t see anything in here where it is just a five year or ten year levy. It does appear to me that it is an ongoing permanent levy. I do kind of agree with you that think the initial thought with Council was that this levy would cover the entire budget of the Fire Department. I think that is what the intent was, but the $4.5 is insufficient to cover what you need and we all know that now sitting here today. I don’t think that we knew that when we were meeting. So we can and again I will have to look at the timing as for how many meetings we have to do this. We can do some oral amendments to the legislation this evening so that we can vote on it and make sure that we are moving forward and getting it to the Board of Elections in a timely manner. I think that both of your concerns are valid and I thank you for bringing them up and we can address those tonight.
Chief Whittington: Very good and thank you. The reason that I bring them up is because I want to get behind it. I think that everyone…we battle and we look at different ways at life. This is what’s in front of us so I want to be behind it and I want my people to be behind it. I want other city workers to be behind it. I think that’s the reason I bring these concerns to get clarity not because I want to muddy the waters. Most certainly just want to get clarified so that we can diffidently move forward in a way that is efficient.
Ms. DePledge: I think that all of our departments have always worked together very, very well. I think that it is important that everybody understands what this money is for and how it is going to be allocated. And that it is not just solely…it is solely for your department but that additional funding is still needed.
There were no further questions or comments.
There was no Legislation Pending.
There were no further questions or comments.
Mayor Morley: I know that the media said that we were…this is the medical marijuana would be on the agenda tonight. If you have grabbed an agenda it is not on there. If people get up to speak I will be more than happy to talk about some of the things. I have scheduled an Informational Meeting on January 31, 2017 at six o’clock p.m. The investor’s developers will be here to answer and put on an informational meeting to cover everything. Everyone is more than welcome to come to the podium if they have questions and I will answer what I can tonight.
Ms. DePledge: Mr. Klammer you had stepped out and I don’t know what you have heard of my discussion with Chief Whittington. Essentially what I had said is that perhaps we could make some oral amendments to the legislation tonight so that Council could vote on it and we can move it forward and to keep it going timely to the Board of Elections.
Mr. Klammer: I don’t know that I want to make…I don’t know that I have all of the answers for the things that he just raised right now. I would rather not amend this right now.
Ms. DePledge: Okay.
Mr. Klammer: I was double checking the three readings part here to see what our time frame is. Ms. Schindel has already talked to the Board of Elections about their turnaround time for the certification for resolution number one and she has indicated that they can do that the same day. So there won’t be any delay with it sitting at the Auditor so I think that our time frame is still solid.
Ms. DePledge: So if we do this in two weeks?
Mr. Klammer: Well if you’re going to do and I don’t know if you intent to do three readings on this because it needs to be there by February 1st. I know that Council in the past has always done three readings on resolution number one. We always did those back to back in the same week.
Ms. DePledge: What if we just put it on First Reading and we don’t take a vote on it and we do a Second Reading with the amendments in two weeks?
Mr. Klammer: then you need to do resolution number two after you get the certification and get it to the Board of Elections by February 1st. So you are really pushing it so if you’re going to do three readings on these you are going to have to schedule some special readings like we’ve done in the past.
Ms. DePledge: Well it looks like it’s going to be Special Meetings. I don’t think that anybody…I’m not comfortable pushing this through without making sure that the Chief’s concerns are addressed.
Mr. Klammer: I don’t have the answer to all of his questions. He did raise some yesterday but I didn’t know what…
Ms. DePledge: I can just take an informal poll of Council. Is everybody in agreement with that? That we would just set this aside and we will make some amendments and have some Special Meetings. They will all be announced to the public as well. So that we can incorporate the Chief’s concerns into the legislation before we…
Mr. Klammer: I may have a different thought by the time you get to my Director’s Report. I just want to check a couple of things.
Ms. DePledge: I thank you for your input. Thank you Chief Whittington and Mayor Morley for your input.
There is nothing under Miscellaneous.
There were no further questions or comments.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:12 p.m.