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Officials set long-term spending plan

| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

For the first time in Baldwin Borough's nearly 60-year history, a plan has been made detailing how officials will pay for major capital expenditures in the next five years.

Officials also hope to put aside money in the bank — totalling more than $900,000 in the next five years — to serve as a capital reserve, or “rainy day fund,” to be there in case of an emergency.

“I think it's a wise decision by this council,” said council Vice President Michael Stelmasczyk, chairman of the finance committee.

Borough council, in two unanimous votes at its final meeting of the year last week, approved the establishment of a five-year capital improvement program and the adoption of a fund balance policy. The capital improvement program goes from 2013 to 2017.

“I see this as important because it is a responsibility that we have to the taxpayers of this community,” Stelmasczyk said.

“We now have in place a five-year capital program which now includes dedicated funding and identifies specific capital projects to improve the borough. The fund balance policy shows council's intent to have an ongoing ‘emergency/contingency' fund to help our community through any unexpected events. This is a first for this borough. A balanced general fund budget, a five-year capital program and a fund balance policy demonstrate that our borough is being managed by fiscally responsible elected officials. Our federal government could take a lesson from us.”

Road paving projects, engineering expenses, rock salt, street lighting, vehicle maintainence and repairs and parks and building improvements all will be paid for through the municipality's newly formed capital improvement program starting in 2013, with funding sources outlined.

The capital improvement program — with budgetary items that were previously included in the borough's general fund — uses one time funding sources from the town's capital improvement program, grant fund proceeds and escrow account, totalling nearly $150,000.

Annual funding sources — including liquid fuels, real estate tax paving funds and capital reserve — also will help to support the capital improvement program, with $2,005,669 in revenues and $1,677,213 in expenditures planned for 2013.

Any surplus to the borough's annual budget each year, also, will be put into a reserve fund, Stelmasczyk said.

In the past, that money was used to balance the next year's budget, something borough Manager John Barret has called a dangerous practice.

During council's budget discussions this year, Barrett told council members that the formation of a capital improvement program and fund balance policy is important for a town of Baldwin's size.

“I really embrace it,” he said at the time. “I think it's something we kind of owe ourselves.”

The newly adopted fund balance policy states the borough's intent to have a reserve fund that equals between 5 and 10 percent of its annual general fund budget. Baldwin's 2013 general fund budget is $10,867,935.

The capital improvement program outlines a $958,205 capital reserve, or fund balance, for the borough in 2017.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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