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Allegheny councilman's budget would scale down cuts

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By Bobby Kerlik
Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

A competing budget introduced Thursday by an Allegheny County councilman restores a large portion of the cuts to the Community College of Allegheny County and controller's office made by the county executive.

Councilman Bill Robinson, D-Hill District, who has presided over three days of hearings discussing Executive Rich Fitzgerald's $799.4 million budget for 2013, proposed his own budget totaling $799.9 million that boosted funds to some agencies that Fitzgerald slashed.

Robinson's proposal instead cuts money from non-departmental expenses, which include constable fees, liability insurance and money paid in lawsuits, and anticipates increased revenue from county fees to offset the costs. The final budget must be approved by a majority of County Council.

“We're at the point now where we can't cut anymore,” Alex Johnson, president of CCAC, told council members. “To take a hit on that budget now would be a problem. If it goes through, there would be a significant tuition increase.”

Robinson's proposal restored $1.76 million in funding to CCAC and $407,000 to Controller Chelsa Wagner's budget. Johnson said Fitzgerald cut CCAC by $2.5 million. Fitzgerald cut the Controller's Office by $647,000. Fitzgerald and Wagner have clashed on several issues.

Johnson told council that the college was forced to scale back hours for 400 employees — to under 30 hours per week — because they would have qualified for the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Johnson said that would have cost the college about $6 million for the additional health coverage.

“We'd love to do it, but financially, it's not feasible,” Johnson said.

County officials are expected on Friday to release the county's new millage rate, which must be adjusted to offset gains in the county's overall assessed property value. The rate is now 5.69 mills.

Robinson and county Manager William McKain declined to release the number Thursday, saying it was being discussed internally.

Among other issues discussed was whether Sheriff Bill Mullen would get a raise from his $64,000 annual salary. Mullen did not accept a raise this year when row officers Wagner and Treasurer John Weinstein took large increases. The annual salaries for Wagner and Weinstein rose from $66,500 to $89,904.

Two council members brought up the proposal to raise Mullen's pay, saying many of his subordinates are paid much higher.

“I didn't ask for a raise. If they want to give me a raise, I won't turn it down,” Mullen said.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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