Council to discuss ’18 financial plan

WARREN — City council’s finance committee will begin discussing Warren’s 2018 budget today with a focus on the police, fire and community development departments.

The general fund budget, which funds most of the city’s daily operations, is just more than $28.2 million, which is about $3.4 million more than in 2016. The increase is due to the new 0.5 percent income tax increase voters approved in 2016 that was promised to hire police officers and firefighters and put $500,000 per year into road improvements.

So far, six new police officers have been hired onto the department, and there are plans to bring on three more in January.

“Our goal is to have 70 officers on the force in 2018 because that amount will trigger our ability to add new officers using a different grant,” said Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa.

Community Development Director Michael Keys is projecting the city in 2018 will receive slightly more than $1 million in Community Development Block Grant funds and $450,000 in HOME funds, which can be used on a variety of housing activities.

The department can use 20 percent of its CDBG grants and 10 percent of the HOME funds for its administration costs. The amounts could change based on the federal budget, but if they don’t, the department will continue to need financial help from the city, said Keys.

“The city still will need to provide a subsidy in 2018,” Keys said. “It is a matter of how much the subsidy will be.”

The matter of subsidizing the department has been a source of debate among city officials that stretches back to 2016, when the administration approved allowing the department to charge the city’s enterprise departments — Environmental Services, Water, Water Pollution Control and Storm Water — for the work it does for them.

The fire department is fully staffed because of using a $2.4 million federal grant to hire 15 new firefighters in 2017. Four other firefighters were hired outside of the grant. Funds from the tax increase for the fire department will be set aside until the federal grant is gone.

The meeting is 5 p.m. in council’s caucus room inside the Municipal Justice Building, 141 South St. SE. It is the first of two expected to be held to discuss the budget.