Jones plan: Schools pay city

By Micah Panczyk<p> Record-Courier staff writer Published:

In an effort to bypass layoffs of city police and fire personnel, Ravenna Mayor Paul Jones is proposing a financial package that includes a payment request of close to $170,000 from the Ravenna schools. The plan, submitted in a report Jones filed with the city budget commission last week, amounts to $994,927 in revenue Ravenna could either save or generate in 1998. "The most important news to come from this analysis is that the city will not be forced to lay off any police or fire personnel in 1998, despite the (cemetery) levy's failure," Jones said. Last fall Jones said the failure of the 1.29-mill levy to benefit Maple Grove Cemetery could result in cuts to the city's police and fire services. In the new plan, Jones advised that the city request nearly $170,000 from Ravenna schools for "special services that we provide the school system." These services include the DARE program, a school resource officer, crossing guards, security for special events, ambulance coverage and K-9 searches, Jones said. "It's safe to say that these and other services amount to well over $167,000," Jones said. Ravenna Superintendent Philip Warner said he was "shocked" by the request. "We don't have that kind of money to put into those services," Warner said. "Just like anyone else, the city is going to have to decide if they can afford to fund these services. It's like what the board of education had to go through over the last decade in trying to balance its budget." Warner said the schools already split the cost with the city for ambulance service to special events. And the schools did not request a police officer to serve as a school resource officer, Warner said. "It's my understanding that's paid through a grant," he said. Warner also cited free use of school property the district provides to the city. "The Ravenna Board of Education provides at no cost school facilities for the Ravenna recreation and parks departments," Warner said. "They use nearly all of the elementary schools, particularly in the winter time for basketball for boys and girls of all ages, adult volleyball, cheerleading clinics, and there's been an agreement by the board that we would not charge for that." Despite the mayor's announcement in October that police and fire services could be cut if Issue 5 failed on the November ballot, voters rejected the measure _ a verdict that sent city officials scrambling for ways to save or generate revenue. The 1.29-mill levy would have generated $191,336 annually for maintenance and improvements to Maple Grove Cemetery on North Chestnut Street. "The city must now do more with less," Jones said. "Administratively, we department heads will have to do without some planned capital expenditures and programs. In addition, some work will have to be done in house and not contracted out."The principal revenue increase in Jones' plan would come in the police department, which could see an influx of $416,000 according to the report. The city expects to gain $100,000 from the U.S Justice Department from the police department's efforts with the local Consortium Drug Task Force to seize illegal drugs, according to Jones. In addition, the police department is expected to receive about $150,000 in grants for 1998, according to the report. Coupled with measures that could save up to $104,436 in police expenses, these potential sources of revenue could amount to $520,435 in additional money for the department this year, the report said. Other key revenue savings and generation are expected from the city administration, EMS service, and the water and fire services, which could realize in 1998 about $120,000, $119,000, $70,000 and $66,000 respectively, according to the report. About 70 percent of the city's general fund is spent on police and fire protection what Jones called the city's most essential services. The general fund's year-end balance has been shrinking for the last 10 years because operational costs have risen faster than revenues, Jones said previously. Coupled with this consistent decline, the failure of Issue 5 threatens to hamstring the city financially _ a prospect that spurred the report Jones issued last week. The average cemetery budget projected over the next four years is about $309,000 a figure which, due to necessary equipment expenditures, is higher than expected budgets after 2001, Councilman Mark Gabriel said previously. The city must cover about 64 percent of this figure, Jones said. The remainder falls to Ravenna Township. In addition to furnishing funds for the cemetery's maintenance and capital improvements, money from the levy would have helped the city meet the roughly $60,000 in back payments it must make to the township annually for the next five years. The total of planned savings and new revenue does not include funds the city will earn through a non-emergency medical transport service it expects to begin this month. Although it is not yet clear how much this service will muster, it could eventually gross more than $400,000 annually, Jones said previously. "The city must be creative to develop programs that will generate additional revenues for the city's general fund," he added.

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