STEUBENVILLE - Faced with a deficit that could top $1.4 million by the end of 2013, City Council on Tuesday floated the idea of offering incentives to employees who have enough time on the job to retire.
Sixth Ward Councilman David "Pokey" Lalich, chairman of the finance committee, said Tuesday he plans to introduce legislation at the next regular session that would, if approved, offer a $10,000 incentive to employees who declare their intention to retire on or before Dec. 6.
Lalich said council is hoping the most senior employees will take advantage of the opportunity, though he adds it's too early to talk about numbers or cost. He did say, however, that retirement numbers will directly impact workers at the bottom of the seniority list.
"We definitely don't want to lay anyone off, but it may be inevitable if we can't come to some type of agreement," Lalich added after the meeting.
The city has roughly 215 employees, he said, and currently operates on a $12 million annual budget.
"We're faced with stiff challenges next year," Lalich said, pointing out that Steubenville has "lost money, lost Wheeling-Pitt, lost money from the state of Ohio."
"We lost 2,000 steelworker jobs," he said. "Those are gone, I don't think people realize it."
The three unions representing city workers have yet to respond to the city's call for a 7 percent across-the-board pay cut as well as changes to their health care package.
Lalich said the two sides will be meeting later this week, at which time the unions are expected to give City Manager Cathy Davison their answer.
The retirement incentive was the only legislation aired at Tuesday's meeting, which began about 20 minutes later than the scheduled 7:30 p.m. starting time because council spent more than 80 minutes behind closed doors discussing the contract talks as well as the budget. They resumed their closed-door session after the sunshine meeting adjourned.
Mayor Domenick Mucci deferred questions about the executive session to Davison, who declined comment.
Davison, though, previously said salaries and benefits consume roughly 90 percent of the general fund budget.