The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

March 22, 2011

Plan to cut hours backfires for Bula

Two leave rather than take reductions

ASHTABULA —  City Council initially tried to save $54,000, but Monday night was forced to pay out $75,000 instead and may pay more.

It all started when council two weeks ago voted to reduce the work week from 40 to 20 hours with no benefits for the systems analyst, Charlene Pfouts, and treasurer Lori Mackey. Instead of taking the pay cut, Pfouts, who makes $58,125, a year, decided to quit. Mackey, who makes $49,000, is undecided. The income tax administrator, Marge Pavolino, who makes $50,878 a year, had her pay cut 10 percent, so she decided to retire this year. All of these budget cuts total about $54,000 or more in savings to the city.

The plan apparently backfired and council Monday approved paying at least $75,000 to the three women for unused vacation and sick time and severance pay.

Monday's legislation authorizes payouts of unused sick leave, vacation leave and longevity pay to certain non-union personnel appointed by council, including those three positions but also the city auditor, deputy auditor and clerk of council at the end of their employment.

Council gave out such packages to nonunion employees it appointed in the past, but it was recently brought to the city’s attention such measures should probably be done in ordinance form, an official said.

Monday’s vote was 5-1, with Ward 3 Councilwoman Ann Stranman casting the lone no vote. Ward 4 Councilwoman Julie Lattimer was absent.

The legislation is consistent with what city officials have previously agreed to in various union contracts. However, Pfouts, Mackey and Pavolino, are not members of any union, and only Pavolino is actually eligible to retire.

Adding to Ashtabula’s financial woes:

n City Council unanimously voted Monday to take $209,650 out of the street improvement fund to help Saybrook Township pay for improvements on Wade Avenue, leaving only about $290,000 to fix the city streets this summer;

n  Municipal Judge Albert Camplese has ordered the city to restore about $180,000 that had been deleted from the Municipal Court’s 2011 budget;

n City Manager Anthony Cantagallo said he needs to repair the roof of City Hall and the air conditioning and heating system at the Justice Center;

n The city also has an obligation to reimburse $250,000 to the Workers Compensation Fund that it borrowed in 2009, and

n The general fund is fully appropriated, and no part of it has been set aside for the payment of the foregoing $430,000.

Council needs to address these mandatory obligations, and there are three police officers and a police dispatcher laid off, Stranman said.

In addition, more than $2 million is spent annually to provide the 160-or so employees of the city with fully-paid health insurance with no deductible and $10- to $20 co-pays. Dental and vision coverage are included in that package, according to city records.

With the exception of the past three years, city employees have received regular pay raises and increased benefits. This was accomplished with a declining tax base.

Fifteen years ago there were 41 active-duty employees in the police department; today there are 27, according to the police records.

In comparison, Conneaut did away with department supervisors getting severance pay two years ago when they retire, instead they have to use it up in comp time, city officials said.

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