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Financial review identifies future challenges for Murrysville

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Though an in-house review shows that Murrysville currently is financially healthy, it warns that the future might not be as stable.

The analysis, which used 25 indicators to evaluate the municipality, suggests the aging population in the municipality and increases in expenses could cause problems years from now.

“The staff is constantly challenged to find ways to do things better for a lower cost,” chief administrator Jim Morrison said. “The reality is that the cost of doing business goes up every year, year over year. There's nothing you can do to control that.”

The analysis was completed by Alyssa Ross, an undergraduate municipal intern from St. Vincent College in Unity, with the assistance of Morrison and finance director Diane Heming.

Murrysville's ratings in 18 of the 25 indicators — which analyzed trends ranging from community needs to financial data — were deemed positive; five were deemed neutral; and two were deemed negative.

The only negative trends were the median age in Murrysville and the per-person expenses.

The report found that between 2001 and 2011, municipal expenses grew by 54 percent, while revenues grew by 29 percent. During that same period, per-capita municipal expenditures increased by 9 percent.

That data worries Councilman Jeff Keppler.

“It feels like we're not actually balancing things,” Keppler said. “One day, we're going to have to pay the piper. We need to seriously consider where do we spend money, where do we not spend that money.”

Ross said the data projects that an additional 3,000 residents will reach retirement age by 2020, which could diminish the municipality's amount of earned income tax revenue.

Still, the report included several positive findings.

Between 2000 and 2010, the median household income increased by $37,032, with the majority of residents earning between $100,000 and $150,000. The population increased by 1,207 during that span. Assessed property values have increased 17 percent between 2001 and 2013.

Morrison said that number will continue to rise as the Blue Spruce Shoppes and Marquis Place open later this year.

“For the first time in the five years I've been here, we've been able to take a look at (our real-estate tax revenue) and bump it up,” Morrison said.

Current municipal debt is anticipated to be paid off in 2022, according to the analysis.

Morrison and Heming said they regularly look for ways to make services more affordable. While the municipality is healthy financially, Morrison said, future budgets won't always come together so easily.

“At some point, yes, down the road, we're going to have to make hard decisions to raise taxes or cut services,” Morrison said. “Yes, that is going to happen. But as we move forward, as long as we have our thumbs on our reserves, we can control things.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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