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Vandergrift garbage pickup to cost a little more

| Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 1:02 a.m.

Vandergrift residents won't pay more property taxes next year but getting the garbage picked up will cost an extra $12 a year.

That's the end result of the 2013 preliminary budget of a little more than $2 million that was unanimously approved by council Monday. It holds taxes at 28 mills.

Borough Manager Steve DelleDonne said the $1 per month increase, which will raise about $26,000, was needed to cover part of the cost of a new Highmark health insurance plan to cover all 17 borough employees, including police.

The plan will cost the borough $48,000, and the garbage rate increase will provide $24,000 for that.

The remaining $24,000 will come from the fund created from payments made to the borough by a natural gas company that is drilling on borough property.

Ultimately, DelleDonne, Council President Brian Carricato and Solicitor Larry Loperfito said the new health insurance plan will save the borough money in the long run.

Carricato said the health plan requires higher deductibles, $1,500 for a single person and $3,000 for a family, but lower premiums than the current plan, which costs the borough about $286,000 a year.

“We were just getting killed by health care costs,” Carricato said.

Loperfito, who negotiated the health plan changes with the unions, said the plans are essentially the same in coverage.

However, the borough will cover the cost of the deductibles, which comes to about $48,000.

Despite that added cost, the borough officials said the lower cost of the premiums will save the borough money over the current plan.

Plus, Loperfito said the $48,000 basically amounts to an escrow fund that won't cost the borough as much in subsequent years since it will only have to be replenished in the amount of the deductibles used each year. As a result, Carricato said much of the savings will be realized in subsequent years.

DelleDonne said the exact savings have not been calculated but added there is no question it will save the borough money.

Also included in the new $2 million budget are new contracts negotiated with the police and borough workers that raise salaries.

Loperfito said details of the contract cannot be released yet since the employees have not signed the contracts. He said the details should be released at the December council meeting when final adoption of the budget is expected to take place.

In another matter related to the budget, council agreed to include another $15,000 from the drilling fund to cover the cost of additional part-time police protection.

Council decided to do that after Carricato lobbied hard for the 24 additional hours per week for part-timers. He said the police, themselves, had asked for additional patrol help between 1 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the week. He said part-timers are willing to work an additional four six-hour shifts.

“I really feel like we owe this to our guys, “ Carricato said.

When the question of how to pay for it was raised, Carricato suggested raising garbage fees another $1 per month. That was immediately shot down by other council members.

“If you raise it $1, people won't complain,” said Councilman James Rametta. “But if you raise it $2, this room will be filled with residents.”

Councilman Vern Sciuillo suggested taking the money out of the drilling fund and the rest of council concurred.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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