Monongahela OK this year, will soon plan 2014 budget
Monongahela Councilman Tom Caudill this week provided his colleagues with a blueprint for budget talks.
The finance chairman also had a message for his council peers – don't spend anything not in the budget.
“We're OK,” Caudill said of the 2013 budget after council's Wednesday meeting. “We have enough money with what's coming in currently to pay the bills. I'm not anticipating any additional (unbudgeted) expenses.”
Caudill said council likely will vote on a tentative spending plan by the end of November and approve the final budget by year's end.
He said it is too early to tell how the 2014 budget will affect the property tax millage rate.
In 2001, the city had to obtain Washington County Court permission to raise the tax rate to 30 mills.
The state-mandated limit for third-class cities is 25 mills.
Council cut the rate to 29 mills in 2002. The rate was reduced to 25 mills by 2007 and subsequently to 23 mills.
The 2014 budget will be affected by a five-year police contract.
Under the terms of the contract, which should be signed within the next week, officers would receive 2 percent annual pay increases, but contribute 3 percent toward their health benefits. They would also give back some vacation and sick time, police Chief Brian Tempest said.
The 14-member police force is represented by Teamsters Local 205.
As a part of the proposed deal, council Wednesday approved a Deferred Retirement Option Pension.
Officers opting into DROP announce their intention to retire within five years of specified dates. Their pensions are frozen at that time, with future contributions going to DROP accounts.
The account would create a lump sum “bonus” that each officer would receive at retirement.
Officers must be at least 55 years-old and have at least 20 years of service to be eligible for the program.
Membership in DROP confirms retirement dates, which allows city officials to make personnel plans in advance.
Police Officer Pete Rocco received a commendation for what he called “the worst case I've ever been involved in.”
Rocco responded to a call after a motorist found a boy, dressed in only a diaper, wandering the streets in New Eagle in February 2012.
Monongahela police patrol neighboring New Eagle.
Authorities found the boy's home to be filthy, with him and his twin sister weighing less than 35 pounds apiece.
Edward Buckholz and the children's mother, Roxanne Taylor, were arrested.
Buckholz, pleaded guilty in June to two counts of aggravated assault and received a two- to four-year prison term. In July, Taylor was found guilty of aggravated assault and other charges. She was sentenced to 14 to 50 years in prison.
Rocco credited nurses at Monongahela Valley Hospital for treating the children, and Washington County Children & Youth Services caseworker Heather Miller and Assistant District Attorney Traci MacDonald for their work in the case. He said police officers Steven Kenyon and Ryan Lenzi also responded to the case.
“Pete, we're proud of you,” Caudill said.
Council approved an agreement with Cougar Land Services for seismic testing on more than 50 properties. City property will not be disturbed, and the company will bond any roads it uses.
Solicitor Keith Bassi said the testing will provide an accurate map for future Marcellus shale drilling.
Councilwoman Claudia Williams opposed the action, objecting to the $5 per acre the city would receive.
She said residents are receiving $25 per property regardless of acreage.
Council announced that the Halloween parade will be 6:30 p.m. Oct. 23. Trick-or-treat will be 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 26.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.