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Cheswick passes budget with millage in limbo

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By Kate Wilcox
Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 1:21 a.m.

Cheswick Council looked over the new Allegheny County assessment numbers for borough residents before passing, at least technically, a 2013 budget on Tuesday night.

It does not include a real estate tax increase, but officials indicated changes still could come.

Council waited for the county to release those numbers before drafting its budget for this year, in order to be sure of how much revenue would be coming into borough accounts.

Members passed a preliminary budget in December without setting a millage rate.

At Tuesday's meeting, council approved advertising a $962,000 budget for 2013.

Some residents' real estate taxes will increase because of new assessment values, not because of a millage increase.

The 2013 budget is 5 percent higher than last year's budget because of increased expenses.

“We don't have a whole bunch of discretion over the budget,” said Treasurer Tom Cale, while reviewing borough expenses. “Most of it is fixed.”

Cale said a millage rate for the borough will not be set until February or March until most of the assessment appeals are settled.

“This is a ‘living document,' ” Cale said. “It's not set in stone.”

Councilman Frank Meledandri Jr. suggested bringing down the borough's expenses by $25,000.

Councilman John Skedel suggested looking over the proposals for contracting police service. The borough received proposals from Springdale and Harmar.

“It's time we review them and make a decision,” he said. “There's hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings right there.”

The blueprint budget presented to council has $378,000 marked for the police force.

But council President Vickie Roolf pointed out that the borough still has not finalized a contract with the police department.

“If the decision is to keep the police, Bobby (Police Chief Robert Scott) recommended we hire another full-time officer,” Cale said.

The chief said that will save the borough money on part-time officers and overtime pay.

Council also noted the $250,000 bond earmarked for water treatment plant repairs.

“It's not a given we'll do the water treatment plant,” Meledandri said.

Skedel interjected that the borough could afford a treatment plant if it contracted for police and fire services.

“We have a bid sitting on the table for fire service,” he said. The bid would take the fire department budget from $17,000 to $9,800, he said.

“I wouldn't even consider that,” Meledandri said.

Council will meet again on Tuesday to discuss which projects it would like to spend money on in 2013. And members will meet Jan. 21 for a hearing on the budget.

Kate Wilcox is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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