The New Carlisle city council approved a plan Monday to combine two administrative positions that could help the city save $30,000.
The move comes after the recent resignations of two staff members and the city manager, and about a week before the May 5 election.
City officials are asking voters to approve a five-year, 0.5 percent earned income tax levy that would generate $500,000 for police protection. The levy will not impact seniors or retirement income.
The council unanimously approved the proposal by new city manager Randy Bridge to abolish a vacant assistant tax administrator position and a vacant finance clerk position and create in their place one full-time, hybrid position.
The new assistant income tax/finance administrator job, which will be publicly posted, will have responsibilities including payroll functions and support to the tax department and will pay between $16.35 and $17.98 hourly.
With the implementation of new financial software, some responsibilities from the old positions are freed up, allowing for the combination of the two jobs, Bridge said.
“Levy or not, the city needed to analyze the staffing levels at the city’s central office,” he said. “We have to clean up the open jobs that we have.”
This move saves money, and combined with the new software will improve efficiency, he said.
Residents said they’d like to see the tax and finance department do a better job collecting income taxes from city residents, which would improve the city’s financial outlook.
“Why are we asking people to pay more?” when the tax collection isn’t being enforced, resident Megan Yoakum asked.
She requested income tax delinquency information from the city in advance of Monday’s special meeting and was told more than $200,000 is owed to the city. New Carlisle does not automatically take income tax out of residents’ paychecks, and Yoakum said she’d like to see options explored to collect more of the taxes owed moving forward.
“That right there is enough to get our police back. The honor system isn’t working,” she said.
Mayor Lowell McGlothin said the new hybrid position is part of a continued effort by the city to trim the 2015 budget that was approved in March. The city council approved an overall budget of $5.3 million and a general fund budget of $1.4 million, which is down 8 percent from last year.
Officials have cut about $315,000 since city administrators began working on the budget, much of which have come from the city’s capital improvement plan, he said.
Bridge’s hiring as city manager was also a job combination, as he continues to serve as the city planner.
Cuts to the budget have included $190,000 from the police contract in which the city eliminated two deputy positions, and canceling the purchase of a computer server from the finance department and repairs to the roof on the Smith Park Shelter House.
But McGlothin said the city is still struggling financially due to voters overwhelmingly rejecting the earned income tax levy in November.
He also said increases in employee wages, workers compensation and insurance costs and the decline of local government funds from the state (which has dropped $50,000 in the last four years) has also taken a toll on the city’s finances.
McGlothin said city staff continue to look to trim the budget, but said officials “desperately” need the levy to pass.
“We desperately need this; this is going to make a difference for all the citizens of New Carlisle,” McGlothin said.
Council members who are on opposite sides of the levy debate both said they supported the move to combine some staff functions.
“If combining two positions will save money, I’m all for it. As long as the person doing it can do the job,” councilman Rick Lowrey said.
Councilman Ethan Reynolds said the hybrid position is a move in the right direction, saving the city tens of thousands of dollars.
Reynolds, who opposes the levy, said officials should have cut staff positions two years ago to save money.
“The ship is sinking, and it’s pointless to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. I think it’s time to abandon it and go with something a little new,” he said.
Reynolds said the city is on the “doorstep” of fiscal watch and needs to do more to save money.
“I think they fear the levy will fail and this is another cut that should have been made years ago, but we’re doing it now,” he said.
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