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.
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