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Penn Hills manager says 'downward slide' will start without tax increase in 2019

Dillon Carr
| Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, 2:00 p.m.
Penn Hills Municipal Building on Frankstown Road.
Tribune-Review
Penn Hills Municipal Building on Frankstown Road.

Penn Hills Manager Mohammed Rayan's recently released proposed 2018 budget keeps the tax rate intact but comes with this warning: If tax revenues are not increased next year, “2019 will be the beginning of a downward slide.”

The 2018 spending plan includes $57.4 million in expenditures and $60.5 million in revenues, with a year-end balance of $3.1 million. The budget keeps the tax rate at 5.44 mills and includes 2 to 3 percent wage increases for municipal employees.

The following allocations are included in the spending plan:

• Police, $9.05 million

• Fire, $704,000

• Emergency services, $1.47 million

• Garbage removal and recycling, $2.49 million

• Paving and road maintenance, $3.35 million

• Parks and recreation, $438,000

• Library, $635,000

• Senior services, $713,000

The budget includes the purchase of 40 body cameras and two patrol cars for the police department; a 5-ton truck with a plow and spreader for the Department of Public Works; and pickup trucks with utility beds for the Fire Marshal's Office and the Parks and Recreation Department.

Rayan's warning about next year's potential problems came in a note at the beginning of proposed budget: “… if the projected revenue through tax money is not increased in 2019, it will be a negative balanced budget with no room to operate,” he said.

Rayan, who does not return calls to the Progress, made five suggestions in the budget to bring in revenue next year. They included increasing taxes and adding fees for garbage collection, ambulance service and stormwater management.

He recommended council schedule meetings early next year to “discuss a plan of action so that the municipality can be proactive in implementing a workable budget for 2019.”

Councilman-elect John Petrucci said he is strongly opposed to a tax increase of any kind. Instead, he suggests personnel cuts.

“Nonessential personnel, those people are going to have be eliminated. You may have layoffs in this town if you can't get this budget under control,” Petrucci said.

Councilman J-LaVon Kincaid Sr. said he would not support a tax increase or the implementation of fees. He said it's too early to know if there will be any personnel cuts.

“But I'm optimistic we can work this out. We've been in this position before,” he said. “I'm not sure how we're going to get there. We have to do some fine-tuning.”

Mayor Sara Kuhn declined to comment until hearing from residents during public hearings on the budget in December. The hearings are at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 and 18 in the municipal building, 12245 Franks­town Road. Council will vote to adopt the budget Dec. 29.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325, dcarr@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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