WARREN Officials say tax renewal is needed

The income-tax renewal is on the March 2 ballot and funds safety forces.
WARREN -- The O'Brien administration hoped to have eight new officers on the streets by now, but background checks for potential candidates are slowing the process.
"They [police department] are conducting background checks right now, and it takes some time to do that," said Mayor Michael J. O'Brien.
Hiring eight new officers would bring the department's number to 84, the number pledged to citizens when the 0.5 percent income tax for the police and fire departments first passed in 2001.
The city's civil service commission gave the administration a new list of potential officers earlier this month.
The income tax for the fire and police departments is on the ballot for renewal in just more than a week, and representatives of both departments and the administration are speaking to groups, trying to get the word out to support the tax.
"About 30 businesses are using their marquees" to urge voters to vote yes on March 2, O'Brien said.
Signs outside businesses, including the Elks Lodge on U.S. Route 422 and Brothers Sub Shop on East Market Street, announce support for the tax.
O'Brien has spoken to senior citizens groups, PTA meetings and social and civic organizations about its importance.
Generates $5 million a year
The tax generates about $5 million annually. It expires at year's end. Voter passage would keep the tax intact for another three years.
Although money generated by the income tax is earmarked for the safety forces, failure to renew it affects other departments, too, officials said.
If the levy fails and layoffs are required, police and firefighters with more seniority could bump into jobs occupied by members of the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees. That includes employees in operations, sewer, water, sanitation and other city departments.
A renewal failure also would require money to be shifted across many other city departments to make up for the lost funds, officials have said.