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Falls officials looking at ways to save money, share costs

NEWTON FALLS — With the village general fund facing financial challenges, officials are looking to cut costs, including sharing services and expenses with neighboring Newton Township and with Trumbull County.

The village and township are looking to form a joint police district to serve both communities just as the joint fire district already does.

City Manager Pam Priddy said at a recent council meeting a proposal for up to five Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office deputies per week and five vehicles would cost the village $504,132 per year. She said officials can explore this option in the event the village chooses not to have a police department.

The village’s police department has three full-time and five part-time officers.

A joint police district will give the village and township 24-hour coverage with both communities contributing 50-50 and having an equal say. A joint police district proposal would need voter approval in November.

Officials are planning to meet next week to discuss the issue and to proceed with placing the matter on the ballot before the August deadline.

Newton Township uses the services of the Sheriff’s office with two police levies that generate around $55,000 annually. The township pays the sheriff’s department for an officer for a certain number of hours per week and then relies on deputies on patrol for the rest.

Priddy said the village already has the assets, such as police cruisers and police equipment, that would be used for the joint district. She said the village would handle finances for the district and create a budget for operations.

The joint district would serve 4,500 residents in the township and 4,500 in the village, officials said.

Also to save the village money, Priddy said she spoke with Newton Falls Municipal Court Judge Philip Vigorito, who has agreed to pay for part-time court security through a special court fund, and the person who cleans the court building and the municipal office building will be paid with a 50-50 split from the court and the village. It previously was 70 percent the village and 30 percent the court, she said.

The village also has a new part-time zoning administrator, Nick Massacci, who works with the Trumbull County Zoning Department. Priddy said Massacci has agreed to ride with each council member in his / her ward to find out where problem areas are and to crack down on zoning violations.

Priddy also spoke with Newton Falls school officials about the district paying $50,000 for a school resource officer on a one-year agreement.

Officials also have discussed the idea of selling either the municipal building off West Broad Street or municipal court building off North Canal Street.

Priddy said appraisals for the two buildings would cost $5,300 to see what each building is worth.

Fiscal officer Sean Housley said the finance department is working to collect delinquent income tax accounts. He said an estimated $553,000 are in delinquent funds and 1,900 letters are being sent out.

In 2018, there were 948 delinquent accounts; 1,256 in 2019; and 1,597 in 2020, Priddy said. On average, $350 is owed per person.

Housley said the general fund is projecting a deficit of $63,000.

In other business, council is reviewing ways to get the two monthly council meetings recorded and broadcast for the public to view live. An offer was made by resident Conrad Hanson of Perkunis Media LLC to provide audio and video recordings of the meetings at no charge.

Resident Dave Hanson said the meetings can be videotaped and placed on YouTube.

Priddy said recently camera equipment has been donated by an anonymous business to the village to get the meetings livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook starting as early as July 20.

Fourth Ward Councilman Chris Granchie said the Hanson option should be explored or at least be kept as an option because there is no cost.

Second Ward Councilman John Baryak said the city should not be involved with anything with a contract for videotaping, expressing concerns of what will be advertised on the video.

Third Ward Councilwoman Tesa Spletzer said it is important to get the meetings shown on Spectrum for residents to view who don’t have Facebook.

Officials have said discontinuing the contract for previous videotaping of the meetings saved $28,000.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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