McKeesport council approves budget with no tax hike
By Michael DiVittorio
Published: Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, 5:11 a.m.
McKeesport council approved the city's 2014 budget with no tax increase by a 6-1 vote on Wednesday.
Council president Darryl Segina was the dissenter.
“I thought that the revenues were not realistic,” Segina said. “Our expenditures, even though some are fixed, need an examination to (give) a realistic fiscal picture of what we have.”
Millage remains at 4.26 on buildings and 16.5 on land. One mill generates approximately $73,000.
Segina said Mayor Michael Cherepko inherited some problems with the budget, and wants more communication and changes regarding the spending plan.
Cherepko said that $1 million in unavoidable debt was incurred at the start of the year with a $700,000 increase in the minimum municipal obligation, and a $300,000 cut in stimulus revenue.
“We already have a built-in deficit for that budget next year, and that's why, in good conscience, I can't support the budget,” Segina said. “I know it's a case of futility, but my conscience would bother me if I did vote for it ... I'm hoping that next year this council gets together and sits down and really tears this budget apart line item by line item and comes up with new strategies and new ideas.”
“We are where we are at right now because things have been done the same way over and over again,” Cherepko said. “You operate the city in a manner, the same manner in which you were operating the city when we had 50,000 people here and the steel industry was booming. With that being said, I think it's very important to let the public know that these are the issues we're looking at.”
Those include a near 60 percent increase in health care costs, and cutting a $1.2 million reserve fund in half.
The city expects a debt of $1.5 million to start the year, provided that it can use $600,000 from the reserve to make payroll and is able to pay the remainder of this year's bills.
“Everything Mr. Segina said is exactly right as far as the situation we're in,” Cherepko said. “You're faced with ever-increasing expenditure and decreasing revenue.”
The mayor lauded his administration and city officials for holding the line on taxes.
“I feel this is vital to help our many residents on fixed incomes during these trying economic times,” Cherepko said. “Although we expect our real estate tax revenue to remain somewhat static, the large numbers of pending (reassessment) appeals currently filed with Allegheny County make this total difficult to anticipate.”
Projected revenues and expenses are balanced at $18,593,930.
Revenues are $2,304,809 in real estate taxes, $100,000 in delinquent real estate taxes, $150,000 in real estate transfer taxes, $2,392,345 in earned income taxes, $100,000 in earned income taxes for prior years, $100,000 in mercantile taxes, $325,000 in local service taxes, $550,000 in business privilege taxes, $463,000 in licenses and permits, $163,000 in fines, $10,000 in forfeits, $372,500 in parking revenue, $45,451 in state grants, $159,677 in revenue shared among local governments and $693,000 from miscellaneous sources.
Expenses are $28,000 for council members' salaries, $54,660 for the city clerk's salary, $6,020 for the city controller's salary, $9,000 for advertising, $70,000 for the mayor's salary, $66,500 for the administrator's salary, $38,000 for the secretary's salary, $11,709 for medical benefits, $585,705 for finance costs, $83,942 for tax collection, $927,981 for insurance, $348,426 for parking and downtown costs, $1,318,680 for property maintenance, $4,933,537 for police, $2,258,467 for fire, $12,000 for ambulance and rescue, $59,047 for other public safety personnel and costs and $165,054 for public works administration.
The proposed budget raises the legal retainer from $84,000 to $99,000, and the community development director's salary from $55,200 to $60,000.
A copy of the budget is available for viewing at city hall.
Council unanimously adopted a resolution seeking a $1.5 million tax anticipation note from First Commonwealth Bank.
Council tabled action on a transfer of a liquor license from Pittsburgh to McKeesport for a private club at the former Lemon Tree at 623 Long Run Road.
Councilors said they need more information from the proposed business.
Council approved vacating Blackberry Alley, a 20-foot public right-of-way located in the Second Ward.
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1965, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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