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Sloppy bookkeeping complicates Trafford's 2015 budget process

| Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Trafford's finances are in disarray again.

Two years after overspending on a public-safety building drained the borough budget, Manager Virginia Finnegan estimates that the borough might have as much as a $215,000 deficit to cover spending from the general fund next year.

Council members were baffled Tuesday night by the shortfall Finnegan outlined during her first budget presentation since her hiring over the summer. Among the issues, she said, was the past miscoding of many budget line items when former manager Jeff McLaughlin was on the job.

An auditing firm determined that Trafford ended 2013 about $259,000 in the red, Finnegan said.

Somebody should have caught the problem sooner than this fall, said Council President Henry Schultz.

“Shame on us because now we have to fix it,” he said.

Even small things — such as the borough's collection of amusement taxes — are in question. Shaky record-keeping doesn't reflect which businesses have paid the tax, Finnegan said.

There isn't much wiggle room for a property-tax increase by Trafford Council. The Pennsylvania Borough Code limits boroughs to 30 mills worth of property-tax revenue for general purposes, and Trafford already charges 28.5 mills.

Besides trying to cut costs, council could seek a tax-anticipation loan until tax revenues are paid in the spring.

Councilman Jay Race suggested council could consider imposing a tax on a specific service, like for street lights.

“I'm not advocating raising taxes,” he said. I'm just throwing it out there.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2363 or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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