CD director estimates needing a $140,000 subsidy

WARREN — Community Development Director Michael Keys estimates he will need $140,000 in additional revenue from the city to complete 2018 with a staff of four employees and himself.

Keys told council’s finance committee during a 2018 budget hearing Wednesday his estimate is based on the department maintaining the $330,000 it received from its management of the $1 million federal Community Development Block Grant and the more than $450,000 it received from the federal HOME grant.

Community Development can use 20 percent of the CDBG funds for the administration of the grant and 10 percent for the administration of the HOME grant. However, Keys reminded council members that the HOME grant is divided between the city and the county.

“If the amount we receive from the federal government is less than was awarded in 2017, then the amount we can collect for administrative costs will be lower,” Keys said.

City Auditor Vince Flask said based on what has been spent in 2017, CD likely will only need a $60,000 subsidy from the city, if all things remain the same.

“I try to be very conservative in my projections,” Keys said.

Earlier this year, the administration reduced the number of employees in the department from five to four, plus Keys, in an effort to control costs. One employee was transferred out of the department in October as part of the effort.

A second employee, the department’s auditor, requested and received a transfer to another city department, leaving Community Development with three employees. Keys is looking to replace the auditor.

Community Development Committee chairwoman Cheryl Saffold, D-6th Ward, said if the department is projecting a budget deficit in 2018, then perhaps it should consider not replacing that position.

“I don’t know if we have a choice but to replace the position,” Councilman Eugene Mach, D-7th Ward, said.

Saffold said all possible options should be explored.

Fire Chief Ken Nussle told council his department is fully staffed with 65 firefighters, plus himself. In 2017, the department hired 20 firefighters, including 15 under the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant and five to replace veterans who left after the grant was awarded.

“We are expecting four retirements of veteran firefighters in 2018 and expect to lose two of the SAFER grant firefighters,” Nussle said.

The police department currently has 58 officers, plus police Chief Eric Merkel.

Merkel said the department needs to reach at least 67 officers to qualify for the Community Oriented Policing Services grant, which will allow the city to hire three additional officers under a program funded by the Department of Justice.

The finance committee will have a hearing Monday to discuss projected 2018 funding for its enterprise departments, including: water, water pollution control, storm water and environmental services.