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Balanced no-hike budget approved in McKeesport

| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 3:02 a.m.

McKeesport council unanimously approved a $17.9 million budget with no tax increase in 2013.

During Wednesday's meeting, Mayor Michael Cherepko read his budget message into public record, noting that maintaining the current property tax rate of 4.26 mills on buildings and 16.5 mills on land is a cornerstone of the spending plan.

“I feel this is vital to help our many residents on fixed incomes during these trying economic times,” Cherepko said.

The mayor explained that increases in insurance premiums and the minimum pension obligations of more than $600,000 have challenged the city's ability to balance a budget without significant tax increases, let alone no increase at all. In the coming year, costs will continue to increase based on wages and benefits for current employees.

“Without a reconfiguration of plan coverage and implementation of best practices, it will be impossible to sustain a number of employees currently reflected in the budget,” Cherepko said. “While there is no way to contain these costs at the present time due to collective bargaining obligations, this must be addressed in the next contracts for all bargaining units to preserve financial stability in the future.”

Council President Darryl Segina said the mayor humbly forgot to note that city department heads are not seeking pay increases during this rough financial time.

“The administration has taken a wage freeze,” Segina explained. “I congratulate them on doing that to help keep our city expenditures in line.”

Councilors thanked the administration for smoothly presenting a difficult budget.

“It was the first civil budget meeting I've been involved with, and that's a testament to everyone in this room,” Councilman A.J. Tedesco said.

Council vice president Dale McCall said the budget “shocked” him, and he agreed with Tedesco that it was the calmest budget discussion in years.

“We all know there is a strain upon you and how you work together at times,” said the Rev. Darryl Knopp, retiring pastor of McKeesport Presbyterian Church. “But you did well and it will continue to get better.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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