Jeannette expects no tax increase
The city of Jeannette expects to end this year and next with a balanced budget.
Council Tuesday approved a preliminary budget of $5.1 million that will keep the tax rate at 32.61 mills. Mayor Robert Carter and councilmen Bill Bedont, Dr. Mark Levander and James Benson all voted for the proposal. Councilman Mark Clark was absent.
“We're going to be completely balanced,” said Bedont who oversees the city's finances.
There is one black cloud on the horizon that could scuttle Bedont's best-laid plans.
The city is appealing an award to businessman Frank Trigona, who is seeking $650,000 in damages stemming from a 2005 decision by council to withhold occupancy permits for rental property because he owed the city back taxes. Trigona's attorney is seeking $153,000 in legal fees. A judge ruled the city had no legal authority to withhold the permits and Jeannette's insurance carrier refused to cover any damages.
Jeannette is appealing the award arguing that Trigona is owed $76,500. Both parties are awaiting a ruling by Westmoreland County Judge Richard McCormick Jr. after presenting testimony in the case this fall.
Bedont said the budget does not contain any funding for either amount.
“I can't predict it, so I can't put a number in,” he said. “There's always the appeals process. We're in a sinking ship. How long can we keep bailing out water?
Levander said without a decision by McCormick, there's no way to calculate the impact an adverse decision could have on the city and whether any drastic measures would have to be taken to keep the city solvent.
“Is it going to impact at $60,000 or $600,000?” Levander asked.
“When that comes across, we'll figure it out how to handle that at that point in time,” added Carter. “It's not a good situation no matter how we look at it.”
“We're going to cross that bridge when we come to it,” Bedont said.
Also hanging over the city are contracts with its police, firefighters and city workers. Bedont said contract offers have been made to each union that includes a wage freeze for all city employees in 2013.
The city expects to pay off a $350,000 tax-anticipation loan by Dec. 31 and has been negotiating with First Niagara Bank for another loan to get the city through the first several months of 2013, said Bedont, who has provided the bank with “tons of information.”
“We're loan worthy,” he said.
Police, fire, sanitation and the street departments remain the biggest expense for the city.
The budget for the police force will be $1.1 million next year.
The fire department, which includes three full-time fire and on-call firefighters, expects to spend more than $257,000. It will cost the city more than $605,000 to collect the garbage and another $318,000 to maintain streets.
Pension costs remain a major source of spending.
Next year the city will have to contribute more than $671,000 toward pensions for the city's police, firefighters and street and sanitation workers. For the past several years, Bedont said, Jeannette has been contributing 25 percent less than it should have in order to meet the annual payments known as a Minimum Municipal Obligation.
“This throws a kink into my five-year plan,” he said.
“We can't keep taking 25 percent discounts. We should be paying $200,000 a year.”
Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- LaBar: WWE not backing down from controversy
- Rossi: In Super city, everything but football matters
- Underclassmen standouts help Sewickley Academy
- Judge orders nonprofit tax form release in case against IRS
- Stat dropoff, road struggles have Penguins seeking consistency
- Three injured in two-vehicle accident on Arona Road in Hempfield
- Overhaul of military benefit programs sought
- Trib Cup: Baldwin girls basketball team stands by motto
- Slumping Pitt keeps chin up
- Beloved North Side gardener gets new truck, paid for by her neighbors
- Highmark members to keep maternity care at UPMC’s Magee in 2015