Aurora mayor seeking to cut overtime, other costs

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published:

Aurora -- Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin wants city departments to decrease overtime spending in 2014.

"I am very committed to reducing costs where appropriate," Womer Benjamin told city leaders at Council's Jan. 27 meeting, when members voted 7-1 to approve the 2014 budget introduced by the mayor.

"As I seek to make the city more accountable for its expenditures, this budget reflects a 15 percent reduction in overtime [spending] in all departments, which the directors will work to implement," she said.

"This will necessitate staff scheduling adjustments, among other things, and I will work with the directors to ensure that Aurora's high level of service continues."

Police Chief Seth Riewaldt said Feb. 10 he had no comment regarding the overtime issue.

Fire Chief David Barnes said it "will be hard to meet the goal of reduced overtime, but we will do our best," adding there will be no personnel or emergency services cuts.

Womer Benjamin said the 2014 budget also calls for a $26,000 reduction in legal fees this year.

That will be carried out because new Law Director Dean DePiero's salary is $128,000, compared to $134,338 for former Law Director Alan Shorr, plus budgeted costs for outside counsel are reduced from $120,500 to $100,000.

The budget includes $14.49 million in the general fund, the mayor said, while the overall budget is $27.89 million.

In addition to reducing expenditures, the budget includes some of the mayor's other priorities, such as connectivity and enhancing the use of city properties.

Womer Benjamin also inserted items in the original budget submitted by former Mayor James Fisher, including:

• REDUCING Sunny Lake Park funding. City leaders have discussed $700,000 in improvements there, but the mayor said she supports Council President George Horvat's plan to spend about $325,000.

"This is a scaled-back plan that I'm and I think Council are more comfortable with," she said. "It will include expanding restrooms in the boathouse rather than a new building, expanding parking near the boathouse and making it safer, and a concession stand at the ballfields."

• Street lights in the Robinhood-Sherwood drives area, a proposal by Councilman Jim Vaca, who chairs the safety/servie/utilities committee.

Vaca said former Councilman Carl Rausch asked him to pursue the issue since Vaca is chairman of the safety/service/utilities committee. "Driving down the street, I found it is very dark and unsafe," Vaca said. "Therefore, I support it."

Womer Benjamin said after the city prepares specifications for the project and either publicly bids it or seeks proposals, she hopes to have it completed by late fall.

• Paths at Spring Hill Farms. Womer Benjamin said she supports Councilman Harold Hatridge's suggestion for $15,000 for thoser. That will "necessitate some security for the buildings if we start inviting the public onto the land; thus the $15,000," she said.

• City newsletter. The mayor said she'd like to see a city newsletter published twice in 2014, so she requested $7,500 be put in the budget. She said she also plans to put monthly informational letters from herself on the city website.

"I'm comfortable with the budget," Womer Benjamin said. "I think we can always do better, but there are some real positive pieces in it."

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

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Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC

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