Jones warns of police, fire layoffs in Kent

Micah Panczyk Record-Courier staff writer Published:

The 1.29-mill, five-year levy would generate $191,336 annually for maintenance and improvements to Maple Grove Cemetery at 6698 N. Chestnut Street, according to Acting Finance Director Jennifer Collier. The owner of a home with a market value of $50,000 would pay $20.32 annually, she said.

"If the issue (Issue 5) fails, there are going to be some major cutbacks around here," Jones said. "A failure would injure an already shrinking balance in the general fund. The city's financial health largely depends on approval of this issue. "

Seventy percent of the city's general fund is spent on police and fire protection _ the city's "most essential services," Jones said. There is no indication yet how deep the cuts would be, he said.

The possibility of cuts to other departments _ engineering, health and building _ and other "essential services," would also be considered, Jones said.

The general fund's year-end balance has been shrinking for the last 10 years because operational costs have risen faster than revenues, Jones said. In addition, the flight in 1993 of Evenflo, which makes baby-products and employed some 200 people, has also hurt city coffers, he said.

"They were a major business in the city," Jones said. "Their decision to leave definitely hurt."

Several other small businesses have closed their city shops, among them Randall's Dress Shop, Morris Busy Corner, Morry's Clothing Store and, most recently, Dan-Dee's Restaurant.

"There is certainly a rotation in the number of small businesses in the city," said Building Inspector Bob Miller. "While we sometimes struggle, we've had a general consistency over the years in the number of businesses in the downtown area."

Funds from the levy would be used to maintain and improve Maple Grove Cemetery and to meet the roughly $60,000 back payments the city must pay Ravenna Township in each of the next five years. These payments will cover the city's pro-rated share of the cemetery's annual operating costs since 1993, when the city and township legally separated.

In that year, Common Pleas Judge Joseph Kainrad ruled that the city was solely responsible for the cemetery's oversight. The city then appealed to the 11th District Court of Appeals, which upheld the ruling by the lower court.

In February, city and township officials signed a union cemetery agreement, putting to rest the lingering dispute over ownership of the 78-acre cemetery.

Jones said the levy's millage would be dropped in 2001 to reflect the retirement of the city's back payments.

Since 1993, maintenance at Maple Grove has been poor _ neglect that has allowed roads to crumble, pollution to foul ponds and weather to weaken markers, lots and the funeral chapel, Jones said.

The 1997 budget totals $241,644. Due to its limited commitment to capital improvements, this budget is less than the annual average budget projected over the next five years, Councilman Mark Gabriel said previously. This average is roughly $300,000.

"A few years back, it seemed that the spirit of the community was to negotiate an amicable solution (to the dispute surrounding the cemetery)," Jones said. "Now, its time to pay the bills."

The levy has been endorsed by Jones, Service Director Don Kainrad,

Acting Finance Director Jennifer Collier, Law Director Frank Cimino and

all members of council, Jones said.

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