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Published: Wednesday, 12/3/2008

Budget cuts top many local agendas

BY CLAUDIA BOYD-BARRETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

It isn't just the City of Toledo that will be cutting back next year. Unable to ignore the souring economic climate, many surrounding communities also are preparing to tighten their belts.

One of the hardest hit could be the village of Pemberville, still working on its draft budget for 2009. The community's largest employer, Modine Manufacturing, is expected to close next summer, and that could mean a 20 percent loss in income tax revenue for the village, said fiscal officer Debra Cartledge.

"We've tried to make cuts where it is possible," she said. "We haven't got a set percent-age that we're cutting. We're just going line by line" through the budget.

The biggest cuts will likely be at Pemberville's police department. The department now has officers on duty 24 hours a day, but that could end. Next year, the village is looking to reduce shifts and lay off three part-time staff, Ms. Cartledge said.

Meanwhile, the city of Northwood is also budgeting for leaner times. Finance director Toby Schroyer said the city expects a 7.9 percent decrease in revenue to its general fund next year because of job losses. Some of those losses will come from local auto parts companies affected by downsizing at the Jeep assembly plant in North Toledo.

The city is slashing spending by $519,200, and each department is being asked to cut spending, Mr. Schroyer said.

"If you're not going to have the money, you can't spend it," Mr. Schroyer explained. "I'm sure the departments would prefer it to be otherwise, but they understand there are tough times out there."

Supplies and training may be cut, but city services will remain intact, and no layoffs are planned, Mr. Schroyer added.

Northwood's City Council is expected to vote on the budget today. In Oregon, officials are preparing for a drop of up to 20 percent in revenue, City Administrator Ken Filipiak said.

However, many industries in the city, such as the BP and Sun Marketing oil refineries, did well last year, and Oregon may weather the economic storm better than other areas, he added.

"We're going to be cautious," Mr. Filipiak said. "In the worst- case scenario, we'll be able to continue our services through the year, relying on some reserve funds that we've accumulated."

Oregon's final budget should be ready by the end of the month, Mr. Filipiak said.

Rossford is also preparing to dip into its reserves next year. No major cutbacks or layoffs are expected, but the slowdown is likely to affect local businesses tied to the automotive industry, said Ed Ciecka, the city's administrator.

"Our concern is that as the automotive industry cuts back, that will affect our revenue also," Mr. Ciecka said. The same goes for retailers, such as Home Depot, Target, and Meijer, he added.

"The revenue picture and the economy [are] becoming a moving target," he said.

For the village of Elmore, the economic downturn means fewer items on the city's wish list for next year. The village won't have its budget ready until the end of January, but some drop in revenue is expected, said fiscal officer Sheri Hayes. That's because Elmore's size means it only takes a few home foreclosures or job losses to have a big impact on income tax revenue, Ms. Hayes explained.

So far, the only major expenses anticipated for next year's budget are for a police cruiser and a skid loader for the street department. However, the building of a new sewage treatment plant - under a mandate by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency - could put a squeeze on the budget if the village cannot find grant money to help cover the cost, Ms. Hayes said.

Walbridge hasn't seen any drop in income tax revenue so far, but that could soon change because of layoffs at local automotive factories, said fiscal officer Patty Crawford.

"We're anticipating that our revenues are going to be down but hopefully not a lot," she said. The village's budget should be ready by mid December, she added.



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