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Latrobe budget calls for no tax increase

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Latrobe Council is considering a $4.99 million budget for 2013 that holds the line on property taxes for the third consecutive year and balances the budget by transferring almost $92,000 to its general fund.

The $4,997,040 draft budget presented to council during an agenda meeting Monday maintains the real estate taxes at 21.5 mills and projects only a slight increase of $6,500 in expenditures for 2013. There was no discussion about the draft budget during the meeting, but council is expected to adopt a budget during a meeting Dec. 10.

The budget was balanced by transferring $91,698 from a sanitation fund to cover a projected revenue shortfall. Those funds will come from the operation of the waste transfer station, where the 2012 revenues are expected to be $93,600 more than the budgeted amount. The sanitation department provides the city with 34 percent of its revenue, while costs are expected to be at $1.2 million, or 24 percent of the expenditures.

Council members have had heated discussions for months about whether to seek bids to privatize the transfer station on Mission Road. They plan to seek bids for residential and commercial refuse hauling and recycling for 2013 but postponed a decision to allow more time to study whether to seek bids from private companies interested in operating the waste transfer station in return for a franchise fee.

Revenue projections for the 2013 budget are on the lean side, Graziani said. The city anticipates that it will receive $1.38 million — 27 percent of its total revenue — from the 21.5 mills of real estate taxes it levies. The city designates the revenue from 0.2 mill — about $13,120 — for Adams Memorial Library in Latrobe. The city will continue its contribution of $20,000 to the library.

The budget is being prepared as the city continues in its negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police on a new contract. Graziani said the budget sets aside money for a 1.5 percent wage hike in 2013.

The contract expires on Dec. 31, but no new negotiations are scheduled. Graziani said the police officers union and city remain apart on issues of wages, benefits and pensions. The FOP had stated that negotiations were at an impasse and an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Feb. 5.

The city anticipates giving nonunion employees a 3 percent pay raise in 2013 under the draft budget, but the final decision is up to the mayor and council.

Graziani painted a bleaker picture for the city's long-term finances, pointing to a downward trend in property tax collections, in earned income taxes, the real estate transfer tax and local service tax. The drop in revenue, coupled with increases in insurances, road salt, fuel and asphalt “are crippling us,” he said.

“We may have to become accustomed to providing fewer services than we have become used to giving our residents in protecting their persons and property,” Graziani wrote in his budget report.

Joe Napsha is a reporter for Trib Total Media.

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