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Arnold to vote on budget without contingencies

| Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, 11:30 p.m.

The city of Arnold will be performing a high wire act in 2013, basically working without a financial safety net.

Mayor Larry Milito said that when council meets at 5 p.m. New Year's Eve, it will approve a 2013 budget that raises taxes by about 25 percent but will not provide funds for contingencies such as repairing equipment or facilities.

“There will be no money available for improvements or any capital needs that we have,” he said. “We'll be scraping rock bottom.”

He said the city, which is expected to start the new year with a $430,000 deficit, has cut $100,000 from the budget and likely will continue paring expenses.

“We'll make some more adjustments throughout the year,” Milito said. “We have some (employees) who may be retiring and at least one who will be laid off and one who may be going to part time.”

The police department will remain as it is for now he said. Cutting any of the city's 10 police officers was one possibility some residents objected to at previous council meetings.

As for the 8.75-mill tax increase, Milito said it will bring the city to its maximum millage allowed, 43.5. If the city needs another tax increase, he said it will have to petition the Westmoreland County courts to get one.

According to City Clerk Floyd Newingham, one mill of taxes brings in about $25,000 in revenue to the city. He said the proposed tax increase will raise $225,000 for the city treasury.

“This 8.75 mill increase that we are voting on will raise taxes per household by $122,” Milito said.

The last time taxes increased was in 2006, when they went up by 3.5 mills. Since then, city councils have raised revenues by increasing the service fee for sewage and garbage.

“In 2009, they raised the service fee by $120 a year and then they raised it again in 2011 by $200,” Milito said.

He said residents were paying a flat $800 fee, regardless of the size of their household. Now council has switched from a flat fee to a fee that is based on sewage generated by each individual household. He said most residents saved $125 to $135 due to the switch and for households with only one or two people, the savings were greater.

“What savings you got by us going through the usage fee, you will make up for with the millage increase. It basically balances out,” Milito said.

He said the budget that will be voted on Monday will be balanced and he credited that to First National Bank's willingness to restructure the repayment of the city's $750,000 tax anticipation note for 2012.

Another area where the city might be able to experience savings is by contracting for garbage collection, something it now does with city public works employees.

The city is advertising for bids in January. Milito said, if the bids are favorable, the city could sell its garbage trucks and eliminate costs such as insurance, vehicle repairs and maintenance and fuel and save ‘‘a couple hundred thousand” dollars.

Meanwhile, Milito said things will be tight.

“We're going to be holding our breath for the next five years,” he said, noting that city hall has a leaking roof and the city can't buy a new police car even though the average mileage on its police cruisers is about 90,000.

But he said there is no doubt about the 2013 budget proposal's future.

“It will pass, “ Milito said.

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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