Two factories have closed in the last year and the job base here is shrinking. Not only is this bad news for Fostorians, it’s bad news for the city. Fewer jobs mean less money from payroll taxes, which means less money to keep the city running. Despite a city income tax that’s twice the rate of Findlay at only a third the population size, there’s at least a $1 million deficit ahead.
City officials have been crunching numbers and putting together proposals to keep the city in the black. There’s at least an unofficial hiring freeze and Safety Service Director Dennis Fligor says layoffs are coming.
The mayor’s office has been working to come in under budget and looking for ways to avoid losing personnel — enforcing strict water bill payments, not buying more salt for the roads and not renewing some contracts. One of Davoli’s suggested solutions was to end full-time benefits for part-time elected officials.
City Council members and the Law Director can receive full-time health benefits, which include full medical, full dental, full vision and full pharmaceuticals, according to Davoli. Half of the eight Council members are using the insurance at a cost to the city of $50,000 annually. That amount of money could save the job of a police officer, a firefighter or a city employee.
Unfortunately, Davoli decided instead to argue his case in the court of public opinion, revealing his idea in a Jan. 14 story in the Review Times. When contacted for comment, City Council members were surprised. They went on the defensive.
And by the Jan. 26 Finance Committee meeting, nearly everyone was on the offensive. Heated words flew, Council President Joe Droll calling Davoli “egotistical” and “vindictive” and questioning the mayor’s motives, then Davoli denying and countering with allegations of Sunshine Laws violations by the Council.
With a week to cool off, the Finance Committee fired back with a “feel good” ordinance that allows elected officials to donate money back to Fostoria in refunds and contributions.
The only change this ordinance makes is to give that money to the year-old trust fund. The reason for this? “Politics,” according to Councilman Paul Feasel in the Feb. 3 story on the matter. And Council promptly approved this time-wasting measure.
Councilwoman Barb Marley, who did vote against the donation measure, spearheaded the defeat of Davoli’s ordinance, claiming the Council should still have the opportunity to purchase the health insurance, but pay the premium themselves.
Davoli took Marley’s suggestion to heart and plans to have an ordinance ready for the next council meeting. But Marley is an attorney who is hopefully aware of the issues before Council and there is no reason such an ordinance shouldn’t have been before Council last night.
Instead, the Council voted (save lone opponent Georgie Widmer) against the removal of benefits, refusing to eliminate this unnecessary cost, even as another story in today’s paper details the impending layoffs.
What do you think? Should City Council retain the benefit? Remove them? Pay their own premiums? Comment below and tell us your opinion.