Sturgill urges for new Council approach

May 24, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

An ordinance authorizing the appropriation of $40,000 from the city’s General Fund to the Fire Department to cover potential overtime expenses for the remainder of 2013 brought up several questions at Thursday’s Portsmouth City Council meeting.

President of Council Steve Sturgill asked City Auditor Trent Williams if he could verify there was $40,000 in the General Fund.

“I would say no, not at this point,” Williams said.

However, Williams told Sturgill the city is expecting a rebate check from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, and if that comes in before the ordinance is given a second reading, that $40,000 would be covered.

Second Ward Councilman Rich Saddler said he remembered Council being told by Portsmouth Mayor David Malone that there was a $50,000 surplus in the budget.

“I understand that the employees of the Fire Department are not the only employees that we have, but we do need this. It is needed,” Saddler said. “I wish it would have been put into the budget originally. I support this. I hope we can find the money for it because it is needed. But I would just like to make the people aware that we were not given actual (budget) numbers during the process. So I feel this is not the action of Council.”

Sturgill again admonished Council about the need for more changes to be made to the processes, so that issues wouldn’t have to be dealt with one item at a time.

“What would we have done if we weren’t sitting here counting on this check? What would we have done?” Sturgill asked.

Williams said Council would give the ordinance a first reading, then hope the check would come in before the next reading.

“We can’t continue to operate like this,” Sturgill said.

Sturgill went on to say that because of extra expenditures from the General Fund, the city, despite what has been said in recent months, does not now have a balanced budget.

Auditor of State Dave Yost’s office recently put the city of Portsmouth on Fiscal Watch status because they have failed to come up with a solution to the city’s deficit.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.