Jeannette making payments on 2013 debts
By Kristie Linden
Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The City of Jeannette plans to finish paying off the 2012 police pension installment by the end of August and has made payments toward some of the other larger debts throughout the first half of this year.
Bill Bedont, council finance chairman, said last week that the city budget is typically revenue heavy in the beginning half of a year and expenditure heavy in the second half. This year, the revenue portion has held true, but the expenditures have been higher than normal for the first half.
Bedont attributes this, in part, to city clerk Michael Minyon's efforts to make more payments toward bonds, unit debt loans, unemployment costs and other city debts earlier in the year than has been done in previous years.
“If we hit the exact numbers that we hit in 2012 in revenues and expenditures, we would be in great shape,” said Bedont.
In the first two financial quarters of 2013, Bedont said, the city budget is $100,000 behind last year's figures. Those numbers include paying off last year's police pension fund — known as the MMO —and paying this year's pension installment. City council learned last year that previous administrations had opted to pay a “discounted MMO” rate, which was around 25 percent less than the full amount. Each year a discount is taken, the unpaid portion rolls over into the following year increasing the next amount due to the pension fund.
Bedont has said previously that if the discount had never been taken, the figure due at the end of each year would be substantially lower. In an effort to reverse the trend, council agreed last year to begin paying the full amount due each year. Next month, council plans to submit the final payment toward the $414,000 that was due at the end of last year. That move will also free up the interest the city has had to pay each month on the outstanding debt.
This year's MMO full payment is set at $536,000. Bedont said that figure is included in the 2013 budget, along with $235,000 set aside in the spending plan for use toward the settlement businessman Frank Trigona was awarded in his lawsuit against the city.
City solicitor Scott Avolio told council last week there is some dispute between Trigona and a bank that is claiming it can garnish the settlement the city owes him and that is why the amount is still unpaid.
Bedont described himself as the eternal optimist at last week's council meeting and said new revenues that have come in and should come in before the end of this year could result in the city ended the year “even.”
Turnkey Inc. and E-Collect are two collection agencies working with the city to collect unpaid taxes. The city is starting with unpaid business privilege taxes, Bedont said, because the list of those who owe is shorter, but the amounts owed to the city are larger. Once that list is processed, the agencies will turn its attention the remainder of unpaid taxes owed to the city.
The addition of city-sold garbage bags and the selling of assets has added revenue streams as well, he said. Council has also extended early retirement offers to about nine employees —as of last week one sanitation department employee accepted the offer and will retire next month. The remainder of his salary and benefits for this year will act as a “gain” from the city's standpoint. The police department has accepted a 5 percent pay cut across the board and has agreed to let the city use part-time officers again in an attempt to cut overtime costs.
“We're not in as bad shape as everyone thinks,” Bedont said. “We're trying to get ahead of the game. At the end of the year there are always big chunks of bills that are due, but by paying ahead toward those funds (we should be ahead).”
Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-838-5154.
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