East Cleveland city leaders spar over police cuts

6:31 PM, Dec 28, 2012   |    comments
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EAST CLEVELAND -- East Cleveland Police could be losing 18 of its finest due to budget cuts in 2013.

Mayor Gary Norton says he submitted a proposal asking for $4.9 million for police next year. City council responded with cuts.

"There is no way from a clerical standpoint, or back-office operations, to make a 25 percent cut without pulling police officers off the street," Norton says.

"We're not cutting the police we're cutting the budget across the board," said Chantelle C. Lewis, City Council vice president.

Lewis says council is appropriating a budget 20 percent smaller than the mayor asked for.

"We are running out money here in East Cleveland. We've ran out of money here in East Cleveland," said Lewis.

Lewis points to the city's fiscal emergency status. Ohio auditor David Yost says deficits don't go away by themselves and East Cleveland failed to present a responsible financial recovery plan. In October, the city was placed under a fiscal emergency.

Lewis says the city is currently about 8 million dollars in debt.
While she doesn't want to see citizens suffer, council must act before the state takes over.

"Safety is first. However, we're going to have to manage," she said.

And it's up to the mayor to manage the money council's provided.

"When you look at your budget can you afford to spend $5 million on police force?" asked WKYC's Sara Shookman.

"Yes we can," said Mayor Norton. "There are many things that we can do throughout the budget and throughout the year to ensure that we have the appropriate resources spend on police. We'd love to explain that to city council."

The mayor presented a line item veto earlier this week. He says unless something changes, he could start handing out pink slips as early as Wednesday.

Scott Gardner, president of the police union, says officers aren't sure who will be cut or when, but their contract requires 30 days notice.

Gardner says he worries about a department already understaffed and says any cuts will result in slower response times.


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