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Girard finances looking up

Friday, December 22, 2006

GIRARD —The city is still fighting through its financial troubles, but officials say the city will finish 2007 on a high note financially.

City officials and the state-appointed fiscal oversight commission have kept all city departments on a stringent budget since the city was placed in fiscal emergency in 2001.

The oversight commission also requested that all departmental budgets be monitored on a monthly instead of annual basis.

City Auditor Sam Zirafi told members of council’s finance committee Thursday that all city departments will finish the year within their respective budgets.

Zirafi also told the committee that the general fund will be in the red by between $300,000 and $350,000 by the end of the year. The general fund deficit was $941,000 at the start of 2006, he said.

“I think the city has come a long way in the last five years, but we still have a ways to go,” Zirafi said.

The state placed the city in fiscal emergency in 2001 with a general fund deficit of about $2.4 million.

Zirafi said the city could finish 2007 in the black, but that would depend on certain financial matters such as employee contract negotiations, income tax collections and funding of the court having an outcome favorable to the city.

Councilman Frank Migliozzi said employee contracts, which are currently being negotiated, are a key factor in the city’s financial strength in the next year. He said officials cannot offer a recovery plan to the state until those figures are known.

“This is an important contract negotiation. I cannot stress that enough,” he said.

Another heavily discussed issue was funding of the municipal court. Committee members said they are hoping for a “realistic” funding request from the court and are looking to sit down with Judge Michael Bernard and discuss any proposal.

Councilman Dan Moadus said he is hoping to see a savings in court funding.

“I am hoping the court will save us some money next year. I am hoping the figure is less than last year,” he said.

The city has spent much of the year battling Judge Bernard in court over funding of the Girard Municipal Court.

The state Supreme Court refused to hear the funding case, but is now reviewing a motion for reconsideration.