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Failed Levy Could Mean No More Crossing Guards, Summer Concerts

Zilka says passage of levy is critical to avoid financial crisis.

Stressing the need to pass the Paramedic Levy in the November General Election, Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka outlined a list of potential cuts residents could see if the levy failed in November, including the elimination of crossing guards, Safety Town and several recreation programs.

Zilka said in his State of the City address on Sept. 13 that despite significant cuts, the city will be thrown into a financial crisis if the levy fails. 

“We looked at a scenario where the 2.0-mill levy goes down, and it is not good,” Zilka said in his speech. City leaders are reviewing programs that could be axed if the levy fails. 

"Eliminating crossing guards will save $51,000," Zilka said. “What price do we put on child safety?” Zilka said in his address. “This is what we’re facing.”

Other items, still under review, that could be eliminated include park attendants, Movies under the Stars, the summer concert series and the Green Box Program.

Dial-A-Ride, a service primarily for older adults living in Avon, Avon Lake and Sheffield Lake who cannot drive and need rides to medical appointments, errand and shopping, could end as well.

That would save the city another $39,000.

Sports grants, up to $20,000 each for programs including the city's baseball and soccer program are also under review for cuts, it the levy fails.

Even with cuts in place, “we’re still not where we need to be. We’re not pulling any punches here," Zilka said, adding the city will be “thrown into a financial crisis in 2013” if the November levy fails.

See the mayor's State of the City address online.

Contacted after the speech, Zilka said if the levy failed, he would recommend making other cuts to minimize the number of personnel cut. Cutting personnel from the fire department would be counter-productive because the city would then need to pay overtime to cover the shifts of cut firefighter/paramedics. Last year, city officials said the fire department might need to cut eight paramedics if the levy failed.

"If we cut eight (paramedics), we have a much higher overtime situation," Zilka said. "We have to have fire and police staffed, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Based on need to provide paramedic service 24/7 we can't cut personnel without having overtime escalate dramatically.

“Do we announce we’re not going to have paramedic service on Saturdays, from midnight to 6 a.m.? We can’t do that. We can’t not have that service available.”

He noted that the fire department, along with the police and service departments, need to be fully staffed, especially in the winter. A reduced staff could also affect response time, he said, especially if mutual aide is required from neighboring cities.

The cuts are difficult, he said.

"I have to make $1.2 million (of cuts) total," Zilka said. "It's a very difficult thing. We have department heads who have cut to the bone and we (are) asking them to cut more."

Currently, the Avon Lake Fire Department has an operating budget of $4 million annually. The general fund provides $2 million towards those operations, while an approximate $400,000 is provided through soft billing. The current 1.25 mill levy provides $1.07 million, leaving a gap of more than $526,000 necessary to retain current operations. The 1.25 mill levy expires Dec. 31, 2012. The proposed 2.0 mill levy (Issue 10) would cover that gap, while providing the necessary funds to support future capital purchases as necessary.

"Let me be clear. The 2.0 mill emergency levy, Issue 10, is absolutely essential for our community,” said Zilka. “To continue to provide the citizens of Avon Lake with the level of safety forces that they are accustomed to, the funds that would result from this levy are essential.”

The paramedic levy if passed, will cost property owners an additional 6.2 cents a day ($22.97 more annually) per $100,000 valuation.

None of the items listed are definite yet and the mayor is continuing to review departments. He said the city is reviewing scenarios for both a passage and failure of the levy.

On the cutting block

  • Crossing guards
  • Park attendants at Veterans Park and Weiss Field
  • Greenbox program
  • Dog warden
  • School Resource Office
  • Grant program ($20,000 each to soccer and baseball and a contribution to the swim team)
  • Dial-A-Bus (transportation for elderly who have no way to get to appointments)
  • Safety Town
  • Movies Under the Stars
  • Summer Concert Series
Carol September 20, 2012 at 12:32 PM
I agree with Avon Laker1234......I was just in a PTA meeting where Bob Scott was basically threatening and scaring parents by saying the music , arts and PE programs, etc will be cut if the levy is not passed....there is such incredible waste in this school system....how about getting rid of lunch monitors and the like?..he admitted that teacher salaries are about 83%of the budget!...Honors classes at the HS are a joke...and more technology is not the answer...it's just more money. He kept talking about how they save $100,000 a year by going paperless in a lot of ways....it's a start, but more is needed. It all adds up and across the board cuts are needed...AND when there are surplus years, money should not be squandered by adding new programs or entitlements, etc.I am tired of paying for other people's kids to get free lunches, school fees, and ability to play school sports for free!....so all these little incremental taxes/levies add up and we get tired of paying more when we see the mismanagement and waste....the same goes for the paramedic levy....it's just a scare tactic....they need to take a hard look at what really needs to be cut.....but they won't....and we will suffer and pay more for less.
william September 20, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Carol, " Honors classes at the HS are a joke ". Are you trying to say that kids dont benefit from having honor classes available to them for those kids that are lucky enough to have the god given ability, along with their hard work.
Jean M. Gallagher September 20, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I am in total agreement with Jeff's remarks. The special election in August was a waste of taxpayers' money. The paramedic levy should not have been so overreaching. I did vote for the levy in August after considerable thought since I did not approve of the big jump in mills. Why so greedy, folks? You couldn't manage with a smaller increase? I'm afraid both the paramedic and school levies will fail in November due to requesting such large increases.
Nicole Davis September 20, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Carol, do you understand how the free/reduced lunch program works? Do you think the money comes out of the school budget and therefore these levies? Here is more information about how the school gets federal cash reimbursements for offering the program: 5. How much reimbursement do schools get? Most of the support USDA provides to schools in the National School Lunch Program comes in the form of a cash reimbursement for each meal served. The current (July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013) basic cash reimbursement rates if school food authorities served less than 60% free and reduced price lunches during the second preceding school year are: Free lunches: Reduced-price lunches: Paid lunches: $2.86 $2.46 $0.27 Free snacks: Reduced-price snacks: Paid snacks: $0.78 $0.39 $0.07 taken from: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/lunch/aboutlunch/NSLPFactSheet.pdf
opinionsarelikenoses September 20, 2012 at 02:15 PM
So you want the best for your child, you want them to have a great education but you don't want to pay the good teachers to teach them? And you don't want to challenge them with honors classes? Sounds like you want a school system like the city of Cleveland. I,m pretty sure many parents in Cleveland would love to send their child to Avon Lake for an education. As far as your comment about mismanagement goes, do you have specific facts to back that up? Last I knew, everything is an open book. The board made reductions in staff and teachers through attrition and buyouts that saved $1.4 million; teacher wage freezes; and several thousands in savings through renegotiated technology and equipment leases and consortium purchasing.
George Z September 20, 2012 at 03:33 PM
A few of those items are pretty important, but what is the "Greenbox Program"? What do the "attendant's" do @ Weiss / Veterans Parks? School Resource / Movies / Summer Concerts probably aren't something local gov't should provide (at least when it comes to giving up Dial-A-Bus / Safety Town. BTW -- $20k each to Soccer & Baseball -- for what? Seems high or am I just critical? I'd have more respect if local gov't would come out and say we have cut this and are saving X jobs versus the threatening atmosphere. Focus on bringing businesses here and these items will fix themselves. We're becoming Bay Village and should be Avon when it comes to tax base.
Carol September 20, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Yes, I know how how the school lunch program works and I should not have included that in my comment...I also happen to know that a lot of the honors classes ARE a joke.....some of them do the same thing as the regular classes but get field trips etc and get a whole point bonus gpa....for no real challenge.....my child's honors English class teacher showed them YouTube videos that have nothing to do with English class and were pretty innappropiate. I know because my kid has some honors and some regular classes. I am not talking about not paying teachers, etc....I am tired of paying for sports and school fees, class fees on top of everything else we have to pay for. Go ahead and approve your levy....They will keep coming back for more and more......
Noone September 20, 2012 at 03:55 PM
@George Z The Greenbox is a free supervised craft and activity program designed for children 5-12 years of age. Each Greenbox location is staffed with two attendants who assist participants with the activities. Greenbox Locations Eastview School ~ 230 Lear Rd. Redwood School ~ 32967 Redwood Blvd. Westview School ~ 155 Moore Rd. Bleser Park ~ 32800 Electric Blvd. Belle Road Park ~ 360 Armour Rd. Sunset Park ~ Division Rd. & Stoneybrook Overlook Park ~ Oakwood Dr. & Forest Blvd. Resetar Park ~ 31755 Electric Blvd. Wedgewood Park ~ Wedgewood & Jaycox
Frank Abbat September 20, 2012 at 07:40 PM
I agree with Avonlaker1234 about the need to look elsewhere to cut costs instead of frightening citizens by cutting safety issues. For example, I have spoken to the Mayor about the cost of the brush chipping service mentioned by Avonlaker1234. There are 2 trucks driving around the city with 2 or 3 workers making numerous stops to pick up twigs and brush. Can you imagine the cost of fuel and the inefficiency of handling services this way? When I lived in other communities residents brought their brush to a central collection point where workers could then either mulch chip or shred. Avon Lake could do that at its site on 83 and save the fuel and wear and tear on the vehicles. This is just one example. Just my 2 cents.
AvonLaker1234 September 20, 2012 at 07:52 PM
I think having the brush service is good; prevents illegal dumping but why not do it twice a month? And again - what about sharing services with other communities? This would cut out a ton of management (guess management doesn't want to cut themselves!) and duplicate cost of equipment, etc. Just think how much we'd save if 2-3 cities shared police, fire, maintenance crews, etc.? One chief salary - not three; one supervisor - not three; 1 to 1.5 set of trucks - not three. If I didn't have to work in the real world to pay for my ever increasing taxes I'd run for office - can't take the pay-cut! ;-)
Victor Mooney September 20, 2012 at 10:39 PM
The financial crisis we are in, as a country, is because government is full of fools who only know how to negotiate upward — with your tax money! How broke is America, while we’re giving out raises to teachers? Well, in Cook County (Chicago) the Treasurer recently reported that the debt is $108 billion. Most of that is for pensions for overpaid government employees: $108 billion in one county, in one city. In particular, the Chicago school district faces a $700 million deficit. Yet the debate was over how much of a raise to give Chicago teachers? This teacher strike is exhibit A for everything wrong with government. Remember, this strike was about failing employees who are paid an average of $71,000 per year, plus gold-plated healthcare packages, plus $2.4 million per teacher in taxpayer-funded retirement packages. Yes, I said each teacher gets $2.4 million in retirement. Each. [The above is from Wayne Allyn Root writing for Personal Liberty Digest]
AvonLaker1234 September 21, 2012 at 01:51 AM
I don't agree with you villianizing teachers. The reality is schools/cities fail when their is breakdown in the nuclear family. If in a school Mother's Day and Father's Day becomes confusing (where are the parents; who is the parent) then you see where the real problem lies...how are the teachers solely to blame - where are the parents? Also, the benefits teachers earn, yes earn, are what they are given by law. Yes, I wish via my private sector job I too had a guaranteed pension (who doesn't) but the private sector moved years ago to shifting the risk; perhaps it is about time our govt does the same and shift away from pensions for all. The entitlement programs across the board need to be reduced otherwise what is happening in Greece will happen here in 10-15 yrs.
Ronald Baker September 21, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Victor please for the sake of the children tell the truth. Wayne allyn root is a complete nut. 2.4 million dollar retirement all as a tax burden to poor you. I think you are even nuttier for believing his hogwash. I never met you but after reading your comments the name victor and mooney immediately bring to mind looney. I think ill call you victor looney. Takenthe foil off and scratch your head once in awhile.
Andrea S September 21, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Do you have any idea how cuts to schools affect home values!! People WANT to move to towns which have good school systems and services. I took several AP classes in high school and I think they are invaluable, along with sports and music programs. Music programs have been shown to have a positive impact on SAT scores. Clubs and sports are activities which not only instill teamwork and leadership in the students, and get them off the couch and involved (exercise is good) but they also make the kids look good on college applications, as do AP classes. Higher graduation rates and college acceptance make Avon Lake look GOOD. I have lived in 8 or 9 states in the last 25 or so years and every single time I moved we chose where we bought a house based on which town's school had the best reputation. And REALLY, you want the lunch program for kids who can't afford lunch or might not even get dinner once they get home, to be CUT?! Avon Lake has one of the lowest real estate taxes and city income tax in the area, be grateful for what we do have. The money situation is only going to get worse once GenOn closes.
Andrea S September 21, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Whoever suggested sharing emergency services is nuts. Do you really not want to have local police, fire, and ambulance available? Think how much more time it would take to answer a call if they had to come from another town? They are already working on outsourcing or sharing the call center. These people do a lot to keep us safe and we should be grateful. Additionally, many of these people you want to cut live in Avon Lake, let's support our community! I don't want Avon Lake to turn into the City of Cleveland, where when I had a car accident and the other driver was threatening me they absolutely refused to send an officer, after many phone calls and cries for help I ended up having a fire truck sent to help me fend off the crazy man.
Andrea S September 21, 2012 at 02:38 AM
I bet if they started cutting more programs that affected seniors things would start to pass, as they'd stop voting everything down ;)
Jeff September 21, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Another question I had... regarding these levies based on millage, I understand that revenue has decreased due to depressed property values over the last several years. What happens when property values return to their previously high levels? I assume the levies will not be decreased if or when the then-current millage rate is providing excess funds? If these funds are being pulled from the general fund, I would guess that any excess will just be shifted to other projects?
T.C September 21, 2012 at 02:47 PM
My your memory is short. Let me remind you that in 2003, when the levy was bringing in more than they needed it was reduced from 1.54 to 1.25.
Jeff September 21, 2012 at 03:23 PM
T.C., no, not due to my short memory... I had just graduated high school! What did I care about levies that are paid through property taxes back then? But thank you for the info, glad to know that they do keep it in check!
George Z September 21, 2012 at 03:28 PM
This levy is billed as the "paramedic levy" but has: Crossing guards Park attendants at Veterans Park and Weiss Field Greenbox program Dog warden School Resource Office Grant program ($20,000 each to soccer and baseball and a contribution to the swim team) Dial-A-Bus (transportation for elderly who have no way to get to appointments) Safety Town Movies Under the Stars Summer Concert Series The debate basically boils down to would we rather have the above list or more paramedic's? I can live w/o all of those items versus the alternative. Cut those items and come to us when something important is needed (which the debatable exceptions of the bus // dog warden). I don't want to be Cleveland, but it's OK to say "no" every once in a while. I do with my personal spending - they can also.
SW September 21, 2012 at 07:07 PM
My sentiments exactly! All I keep thinking as I read thru all of this, is Why are they calling it a "Paramedic Levy" and burying all these other little services in there?! I'm sorry, but all of these items do not fall under the same umbrella of importance. If you are in a time period of running a tighter ship, then you cut things like free movies and concerts. You don't cut EMS workers or kids programs. I am almost always going to lean in favor of paying toward things that make our city more attractive than the next, as it is directly related to all of our home values. But let's face it, some things are a "nice to have" and some things are "necessary." Let's hope our leaders can be smart about what should be cut and what shouldn't. Whether you have kids in school or not, it is to everyone's benefit to have the kids in our neighborhoods getting the best education and the best opportunities to become productive members of society. Kids with too much downtime roam the streets, vandalize, get into trouble, etc. and we don't want that in our neighborhoods. Since 2008, we've all had to figure out where to make cuts, so this isn't new to anyone. I pay for my kids' sports already, so how much more per kid could it be if they cut $20k? Seriously, cut it if you have to! But keep paramedics and keep schools funded-they always want to cut busing! Why? Even if I had to pay $75/mo more in taxes, it would cost me a LOT more to figure out transport for my kids after school mid-day!
Jeff September 21, 2012 at 07:17 PM
These are not paid for by the "paramedic levy", but rather are other programs out of the general fund that would be cut to free up more general funds to pay for the paramedics if the levy were not passed.
SW September 21, 2012 at 08:12 PM
@Jeff I understand, but if they are threatening to cut this list of programs in order to keep paramedic services at the current level in the event the levy fails, then I'm surprised the vote was even as close as it was. I think most would agree that this list includes several items that "we could do without if we had to" with a few exceptions. Many of these can be brought back at any time if things happen to improve. Like I would NOT want to cut cable tv in my house, but if I lost my income? It would definitely be on the list of cuts along with other things that I enjoy having. Like I said, I am pro-Avon Lake and almost feel like it's "bragging" to say I live here, and I want to keep it as great as possible, including help pay for it. But sometimes things are tight and cuts need to be made. I'll have to really think about this one, especially because I will ALWAYS favor schools if I have to choose. Regarding the original post about why putting it into a special election....I have a hunch that they know the November election will have an overwhelming turnout because it's a Presidential election year. Who shows up to vote for primaries and mid-year elections? Elderly folks and people who are home or around town during the day anyway. Those are the people who will more likely pass that levy the way it's been presented.
Carsten Anderson September 24, 2012 at 10:58 PM
I also love how they are hurting for money when the Avon Lake Police just got new cop cars that really was not needed as well has everything light on the new school garage in Pin Oak road.. There are different ways of saving and cutting!
S.K. September 25, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Let me see, since Zilka has come on board as the city's mayor, we have had to take on the trash subsidy, paid for 2 special elections, have asked for school bond levy, and a paramedic levy. Who knows how many businesses have left and the strip malls vacant, GenOn is leaving in 2015 and all he does is send a city councilman to Washington to try to keep this decrepit plant afloat. Where are the positive, pro-growth initiatives for this city! Avon is prospering above any other township in the Cleveland area; let's seriously take a look at what they're doing right. They're proactive in their small business management. It's a shame that all the elected officials in Avon Lake know how to do is tax the citizens to death! This city is going to turn into a city like Lorain before long with all the empty lots, but I'll move to Avon before that happens! We've got a lakefront with the potential to do something enormous when GenOn leaves--call Donald Trump! Think outside your little box!
AvonLaker1234 September 25, 2012 at 02:32 AM
What you highlight is a lack of leadership and clear direction by the city "leaders". The paramedic levy was a joke; they should have tackled the issue several ways but got lazy and thought scare tactics or slipping it in via a special election would get it done...now they are scrambling for excuses. As I've stated - I'm not against it but where are the facts and truth - the story and cut and threats keep changing. I guess this is what happens when you "hire" a retired teacher, who really never ran a business, and already enjoys a lavish pension to run the city.
joe mama September 25, 2012 at 07:55 PM
All these flagged inappropriate comments, teachers are off all summer getting paid have them man the green boxs, pick up leaves ect ect
ALparent September 26, 2012 at 08:22 PM
@joemama, teachers are getting paid in the summer because they elect to break there salary into 26 weeks instead of the 10 mos they are in school. Leave the teachers alone!
ALparent September 26, 2012 at 08:22 PM
@sk, I completely agree with you! This is sad and pathetic that we continue to go down this road.
joe mama September 27, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I just thought it would they would like something to do when they are home all summer they are getting a full years salary

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