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Plum council finalizes 2013 budget

| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

Plum residents will see no tax increase or new fees in 2013.

Borough council unanimously voted last week to approve the 2013 budget by using $579,345 from the surplus to balance the spending plan.

Projected revenue for next year is $11,058,577, and projected expenditures are $11,637,922.

The budget keeps the millage at 4.3. A mill generates about $1 million. The borough's most recent real-estate tax increase was 1 mill in 2008.

The initial draft of the budget contained a nearly $1 million deficit.

“We have increased spending, and one reason is we are adding more police officers, and we have an obligation to the police pension fund that has increased,” said Councilman Michael Dell, finance committee chairman.

Dell said plans call for an officer to be hired in January 2014. If the weather is mild this winter and money is saved in the public-works budget, the hiring could be bumped to the fall of 2013.

Dell said the projected surplus in the 2012 budget is $1.9 million. The projected surplus for 2013 is $1.2 million.

Council also agreed to use $140,000 from the surplus to bolster the dwindling fire fund. Projected expenses in next year's fire fund are $682,961. Projected revenue is $540,500.

Some of the surplus money was needed to pay for the borough's increased payment for worker's compensation insurance for the volunteer firefighters in the four departments.

The borough paid $41,950 for the coverage in 2012. Officials budgeted $83,000 for 2013 because of a year-old state law that enables volunteer firefighters to collect benefits if they develop cancer after being exposed to carcinogens at fire scenes.

Council members had considered instituting a $5-per-month increase in the sanitation fee that would have generated about $600,000 and balanced the spending plan. A portion of the $5 per month fee – from $16 to $21 – would have been used to pay for an anticipated fuel surcharge from the borough's trash collector. Another portion would have been used to shore up the fire fund. Instead, officials will glean the money from the surplus fund.

Councilman Steve “Skip” Taylor asked fellow members not to close the door on instituting a fee increase if additional money is needed for road salt and overtime for public-works employees this winter.

“So far, we have been blessed with a mild winter,” Taylor said. “But I ask council to be open minded. If we need it, don't be afraid to do it.”

Fee increases, unlike tax increases, can be instituted at any point during the year, manager Michael Thomas said.

Though council nixed fee increases at this time, council vice president Keith Nowalk is urging residents to give a year-end donation of $30 to their local fire department and $30 to Plum Emergency Medical Service.

Mayor Richard Hrivnak said he remains concerned about relatively flat revenue and increased expenditures in the past several years.

“We need to be cognizant of it going forward,” Hrivnak said.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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