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Lower Burrell passes budget without raising taxes

| Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 12:51 a.m.

Lower Burrell Council on Monday approved a 2014 budget that maintains property taxes at 21.25 mills.

The $8.6 million spending plan — about a third of which represents the city's sewer fund — will increase by about 5 percent from the 2013 budget.

Councilman David Regoli, who oversees the finance department, credited underspending this year with helping to balance next year's budget.

“We actually got there because everyone this year did not spend what was appropriated in 2013,” Regoli said.

Regoli said he's proud of the fact that the city has enough of a surplus to carry them through the first quarter of 2014 until tax revenue begins to come in. He noted many surrounding municipalities need to take out tax-anticipation loans at the beginning of the year.

Mayor Don Kinosz said there will be no cuts in services or employees. In fact, the city hopes to hire a police officer next year to fill a vacancy.

“This is my 22nd budget, and this is the first time we were able to do it in one meeting,” Kinosz said, referring to the budget-planning sessions council typically holds in the fall.

The only major increase in expenses Kinosz could point to in 2014 was employee pensions, which will rise by about $100,000 while the state contribution remains flat.

Kinosz said council carried over some road work funds for projects that weren't completed this year.

In other business

• Council agreed to allot an additional $7,000 for the Westmoreland Economic Development Initiative for Growth (WEDIG) next year.

Kinosz said that brings the city's allocation to $12,000 toward WEDIG's effort to hire a grant-writing specialist.

Kinosz said the money is contingent upon other WEDIG communities — Allegheny Township, Arnold, New Kensington and Upper Burrell — contributing to the $60,000 total cost.

Kinosz and Councilman Rich Callender said other funding may be available that would reduce the cost. Kinosz said the consultant then may be available to participating cities at a reduced rate.

• Council agreed to give the city's 1997 Lexus LX450 to a Plum man for less than $400.

Police Chief Tim Weitzel said his department recently received the sport-utility vehicle through participation in the state attorney general's drug task force. The SUV was forfeited through a drug investigation, though Weitzel said it was not seized from anyone within the city.

Weitzel said the department considered using the black SUV until he learned it would need at least $2,000 in repairs.

The city received two bids for the vehicle. James Sokol of Plum submitted the highest offer at $378.

• Weitzel said the department was awarded a $2,000 Thomas Nega Drug-Free Lifestyle Grant from the Westmoreland Drug and Alcohol Commission.

Weitzel said Patrolman John Marhefka will use the money for the department's Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program in Burrell School District.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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