Department heads, mayor provide details of plan to cut $1.2 million

More details have become available for the 2024 strategic plan to cut $1.2 million from the city’s budget Mayor Schlicher submitted to Marietta City Council Monday night.

Schlicher submitted the plan, which was created by city department heads and his office, in response to a council resolution approved April 24 that directed Schlicher to “provide a sustainable ‘plan of recovery’ concerning the finances of the city” to council on or before May 20, the result of a city performance audit that predicted the city’s general fund will be depleted as early as 2025.

The plan the mayor submitted Monday, a copy of which can be found on the city’s website, shows a total of $117,142 would be cut from the police department in relation to two vacant officer positions and one temporary clerk position. Police Chief Katherine Warden said the department was fully staffed at the end of 2023 but one officer resigned this year to leave law enforcement and another is getting ready to leave. According to Warden, the police department went digital with the city’s parking system, so a clerk for parking is not needed.

She said the department will not fill these three positions and she confirmed they are the positions mentioned in the strategic plan.

“We can absorb the two positions. We will be okay and it won’t impact our services losing two officers,” she said, adding the loss of any more positions would be an issue.

Warden said the department also gave back $40,000 in training and equipment, with the plan listing the amounts as $18,000 and $15,000, respectively. According to Warden, the department is able to support training through state funds and has already used American Rescue Plan Act funds to purchase critical equipment it needed.

She said the department will still have some money left to purchase supplemental equipment it needs and the department saved money for travel associated with training, which the plan listed as $7,000.

According to Warden the police department was also able to save money on cell phones by discontinuing paying for phones that were not used by some officers anymore, which the plan lists as a savings of $1,440.

The plan also listed a savings of $90,000 for a possible memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Marietta City Schools for a school resource officer (SRO) and Warden confirmed there is a pending MOU with Marietta City Schools for them to pay part or all of the SRO’s salary.

According to the plan, the Marietta Fire Department is going to cut $103,717 related to a 2024 firefighter vacancy, $720 related to cell phones, $21,000 related to repair and maintenance and $30,150 related to miscellaneous contractual services.

Attempts to contact Marietta Fire Chief C.W. Durham about proposed cuts in the plan were not returned by press time, but Schlicher provided some additional information about the fire department cuts in the plan.

Schlicher said there is an active firefighter on deployment so $103,717 will be saved because the city will not be paying that person’s salary or benefits.

He said there will also be a firefighter retiring next year which will save additional money.

According to Schlicher, the fire department has purchased four new vehicles in the last couple of years so $21,000 was over-budgeted for repair and maintenance because the new vehicles have helped reduce repair and maintenance costs.

Schlicher said the fire department stopped paying for phones that were not very active. He did not provide information about the cuts in contractual services.

The plan shows the Marietta Municipal Court will cut a total of $184,953 through open positions. According to Marietta Municipal Court Judge Randall Jedlink, the court is not filling a probation position and two clerk positions, which are paid for by the general fund and because of this, by the end of the year more than $70,000 will be saved.

He said the court also terminated a vehicle lease early, which will save about $6,000 or $7,000 for the year and it changed the way an employee was paid so that the position will now be paid from the probation grant fund instead of the general fund. Jedlink said all of these measures together will save more than $198,000.

“By utilizing our full-time magistrate we are able to drastically reduce the amount of money — not get rid of – but drastically reduce the amount spent” on three “acting judges,” Jedlink said.

He said all of the measures should save “north of $200,000” and that the cuts are “not something we can do forever” but right now the court “can tread water.”

The plan lists $40,000 to be cut for slum and blight. City Code Enforcement Officer Wayne Rinehart said his department has been receiving $75,000 for the demolition of slum and blight properties every year and this year requested additional funds to handle more demolitions, for a total of $120,000.

Rinehart said Washington County received $500,000 in a grant for demolishing slum and blight properties and his department will be able to submit to the county some city slum and blight properties in the city, so it allowed his department to give back $40,000 to the general fund.

According to the plan, the City Law Director’s Office will save $3,500 in relation to miscellaneous contractual services and $7,000 related to an assistant law director job opening.

City Law Director Paul Bertram said his office will not use LexisNexis software, if the company allows him to leave the contract, and they will not use some other contractual services any longer.

He said that it is possible the city will save even more than $3,500 on LexisNexis since the contract is up in October and the amount to use the software could be more then.

Bertram’s office is also pushing filling an assistant law director position until later in the year, allowing him to cut $7,000 from the costs of filling the position, he said.

The plan shows a cut of $30,000 associated with the law library.

Bertram said that is related to the Washington County Law Library.

“The law library for the county is funded in part by the city of Marietta,” Bertram said.

He said the city adjusted the amount it will give the law library based on past amounts it contributed to it and it will “inappropriate” the extra amount at the end of the year.

City Treasurer Cath Harper responded by email to request for further information about cuts to her department listed in the plan, which was $300 for office supplies, saying “Most of our Hotel/Motel/Airbnb’s all use a copy of the (bed tax) form, so I won’t need this office supply line item. That is the only extra that can be cut from my budget.”

City Auditor Sherri Hess also responded by email about the $500 in office supplies the plan shows her department will cut, saying “We are continuing to buy local and are cutting costs in as many ways as we can, which includes a reduction in our office supply budget.”

The plan lists cuts of $4,000 for training, $1,000 for travel and $1,200 for small tools for the Information Technology (IT) department. IT Manager Amy Tucker said the IT department is saving money on training by its staff not participating in online training to update their skills and is saving money on travel by staff not traveling for training. She said the department will not purchase small tools like extra monitors and network switches, which they would usually purchase when an issue arises.

“In this case we may have to go to city council to ask for additional money if there is an emergency,” Tucker said about how the department will handle getting the need for tools going forward.

The plan also includes the Marietta/Belpre Health Department paying for half the electricity at its 304 Putnam St. location at a savings of $12,000 and paying for its Denovo software, which Schlicher mentioned Monday night and that will save $38,000.

The plan details a $36,620 cut for council, which Schlicher said is because two members of council are opting out of the city health insurance offered to them. He did not provide their names.

The plan shows the mayor’s office is saving $2,000 on maintenance equipment/facilities and $1,000 on travel. Schlicher said the maintenance/equipment savings is because the city will not be redoing landscaping in front of city hall and the travel savings will be received by cutting some of the travel budget his office has for him to go to conferences, which his office can still afford without the $1,000.

Attempts to contact the service and engineering departments about their cuts were not returned as of press time.

At Large Councilman Cassidi Shoaf and Ward One Councilman Michael Scales have been vocal participants in council efforts to cut the city’s budget for 2024. Attempts were made to contact Scales for comment on the plan but he had not responded as of press time. Shoaf responded to a request for comment on the plan by email, stating that at first glance she thought many of the plan’s suggestions could be valid starting points.

“The challenge is not relying too heavily on cutting things like office supplies and equipment, while sidestepping the structural changes needed to ensure that revenue outpaces expenses each year,” Shoaf said.

Council will meet to discuss the plan today at 5:15 p.m. in Room 10 of the Marietta Armory.

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