Extra winter spending might impact Plum parks, roads projects

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Winter has been harsh both on Plum's roads and the borough's coffers.

Borough officials are looking at how to pay for a projected $293,000 deficit caused by cost overruns on salt and fuel purchases and public works overtime, borough finance Director Michael Whitico last week told members of council's finance committee.

“This is the worst winter we have experienced in the last 35 to 40 years,” Manager Michael Thomas said.

Thomas said the borough uses an average 4,000 tons of salt on the roads each winter.

“We have used 12,000 tons this year, and we're not done,” Thomas said. “We have November and December. And we are into paying premium prices for salt.”

Thomas said given the daunting amount that needs to be paid, borough staff decided on a plan for the finance committee to recommend and council to consider.

“We don't want to wait until November (end of the budget year) to figure it out,” Thomas said.

The manager proposes two general fund transfers to cover most of the projected cost overrun.

Thomas proposes transferring $85,000 in winter-related costs from the general fund to the liquid fuels fund and $160,000 in winter-related costs from the general fund to the street improvement fund to cover $245,000 of the $293,000 cost overrun.

Thomas also anticipates about a $50,000 savings in salaries in a borough department this year. He declined to disclose the department.

“That will help offset the general fund expenditure,” Thomas said.

The manager also proposes eliminating two projects from the street improvement fund: a $60,000 detention pond project on Oblock Road, as well as a $54,000 paving project on Oblock Road from Fontana Drive to New Texas Road.

Eliminating the work from the 2014 road improvement project will not affect the spring and summer paving program, Thomas said.

“It will allow us to maintain the same level of paving,” he said.

The manager added that one bright spot is the state's increased liquid fuel funding, and Plum is set to receive an 8 percent boost or an additional $43,000. The funding is set to be $580,000, Thomas said.

Councilman Dave Vento suggested making cuts in every department to make up for the shortfall.

Thomas advised against across-the-board cuts. “Taking a little from everyone doesn't make administrative sense,” Thomas said.

Councilman Michael Dell, finance committee chairman, suggested signing on to Thomas' plan and re-evaluating it in a month.

“If we have a rough March, we can look at (eliminating projects in the) parks (budget),” Dell said.

Vento and Councilman John Anderson agreed with Dell's suggestion.

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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