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Plum Council considering sanitation fee increase

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

Plum residents might have to pay $5 more per month to help balance next year's budget.

Borough council is considering using about $600,000 from the borough's nearly $1.1 million fund balance or instituting a $5-per-month increase in the sanitation fee that also would generate about $600,000 and balance the spending plan, said Councilman Michael Dell, finance committee chairman.

The 2013 preliminary spending plan, with the additional $600,000, projects revenue at $11,678,577 and expenses at $11,656,022, resulting in a $22,555 surplus.

The proposed budget keeps the millage at 4.3. A mill generates about $1 million. The last borough real estate tax increase was 1 mill in 2008.

The initial draft of the budget contained a nearly $1 million deficit.

The deficit was cut nearly in half by eliminating a police officer hiring to the tune of $103,000, transferring about $75,000 earmarked for the new public-works facility from the general fund to the bond fund, cutting the parks budget by $50,000, slashing the allotment to the public-works department by $48,000 and making other “miscellaneous deductions,” Dell said.

A portion of the proposed $5-per-month fee increase — from $16 to $21 — would pay for an anticipated fuel surcharge from Allied Waste Services of Scottdale, the borough's trash and recyclable collector as well as a gradual increase in the trash contract, he said.

Council did not increase the trash collection fee on residents when members voted last year on a four-year contract for Allied Waste. The contract runs through May 31, 2015.

Plum paid $1.5 million in the first year of the contract. The cost increases to $1.55 million in the second, $1.6 million in the third and $1.66 million in the fourth.

Dell said another portion of the proposed fee increase would be used to boost the dwindling fire fund.

The borough has had to double the amount of money it budgeted for 2013 to cover worker's compensation insurance for the volunteer firefighters in the four departments.

The borough paid $41,950 for the coverage in 2012. Officials budgeted $83,000 for 2013 because of a year-old state law that enables volunteer firefighters to collect benefits if they develop cancer after being exposed to carcinogens at fire scenes.

PennPRIME Insurance Trust has dropped worker's compensation coverage resulting in municipalities, including Plum, signing up for coverage through the State Workers' Insurance Fund at a higher cost because of a lack of private-insurer alternatives.

The borough also is not counting on any county, state or federal grant money, Dell said.

Staff cuts were not considered as part of the budget talks.

“We are not laying off employees,” Dell said.

A couple of additional finance committee meetings are planned before council is scheduled vote on the final budget at 7 p.m. Dec. 19.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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