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Monroeville leaders eye options to close budget gap

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

Monroeville council will decide what stays, what goes and what gets slashed when it meets next week to close a $3.1 million budget deficit, the municipality's manager said.

The proposed $27.3 million budget for 2013 is about 2 percent more than this year's spending plan. Council is considering a property tax increase from 2.2 mills to 3.45 mills.

If the millage rate increase is approved, the municipal tax bill for a home assessed at $89,200, the median residential value in the municipal for 2012, would increase from $196.24 to $307.74.

Monroeville's proposed budget does not factor in property values from Allegheny County's court-mandated property reassessments. Council could adjust property tax rates based on the reassessments, municipal Manager Jeffrey Silka said. Final figures are due from the county by Dec. 17.

However, the municipality plans to generate the maximum 5 percent increase in revenue from reassessments that state law allows, he said. The millage rate in the proposed budget does that.

Monroeville hasn't raised its millage rate since 1991, but because of increased costs in operations and declines in real estate values during the past several years, additional revenue is needed, he said.

The proposed 1.25-mill increase would generate about $2.6 million. The remaining deficit would be closed by depleting remaining funds from two accounts: $121,102 from the general fund reserve for municipal retirees and $370,342 from a fund set up in 2002 to expand Monroeville Community Park, Silka said.

“Unless there is new revenue found, we're not going to be able to offer the same services at existing tax rates,” said Silka, who said no service cuts are included in the 2013 budget proposal.

Councilman Bernhard Erb is opposed to a tax increase. He said duplicate services, such as Monroeville's dispatch center, can be eliminated. It takes calls routed to it by the Allegheny County 911 center.

“That's a very fast process ... what's important about it is we are not the 911 center,” he said.

Councilwoman Diane Allison, however, said workers at the dispatch center help emergency responders by providing their personal knowledge about Monroeville, which county employees might not have.

“When I look at the dispatch center…it adds to quality of (life) for all our residents,” said Allison, whose husband is a Monroeville police officer.

Closing the dispatch center and transferring service to the county would save $600,000, Monroeville officials have calculated.

Monroeville has conducted two budget workshops at which municipal departments have presented their requests. At a workshop at 7 p.m. Nov. 29, council will make suggestions about budget changes, Silka said.

Council could decide to keep the proposed millage rate increase, cut services or approve a combination of a reduction in services and a smaller millage rate increase, he said.

The state deadline for municipalities to pass their budgets is Dec. 31; council is scheduled to vote on a final budget Dec. 11.

Monroeville's budget and millage rate increase would be approved in separate ordinances, so the municipality will most likely wait until after Dec. 17 to pass the tax ordinance to set the millage rate, he said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com

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