Budget process begins in Baldwin Borough

| Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

An early draft of the 2014 Baldwin Borough budget holds the line on taxes, yet keeps funding for road improvements and the number of employees status quo.

“It's a maintenance budget,” borough Manager John Barrett said following council's second budget workshop session, held Tuesday night.

The 2014 general fund budget includes $9.8 million in expenses and has a $54,528 deficit.

Barrett said he is confident the deficit can be patched without a tax increase, barring no new programs or staffing are added to the mix. Council members typically approve the borough's annual spending plan in December.

Another discussion of the budget will be held Nov. 12 at 6 p.m.

The real estate tax rate in the borough is 5.41 mills.

A capital improvement program, started in 2012 for the 2013 fiscal year, has grown a larger borough fund balance, quicker than officials had anticipated after many of the expenditures came in under budget in 2013.

The purpose of the capital improvement program was to create a fund balance that equalled 10 percent of the borough's general fund — or about $1 million.

After one year, the fund that includes revenues for liquid fuels and some real estate taxes and expenses for road paving, rock sale, street lighting, vehicles and park improvements, has nearly $465,207.

Starting with the 2013 budget, Baldwin officials stopped using year-end surpluses to help fund the next year's expenses, Barrett said.

Councilman Bob Collet, who has been an avid proponent of increasing funding for improving the borough's roads for several years, said the road paving project was “shortchanged” in 2013.

While officials budgeted $800,000 for improvements, only $700,000 was spent, because bids came in lower than anticipated, officials said.

The $100,000 difference is part of the capital improvement program surplus and Collet proposed taking that money and using it to add to the planned $800,000 spending for road improvements in 2014.

He also suggested taking an additional $50,000 from the surplus to establish a $950,000 road program.

A study by the borough's engineer in the last few years recommended at the lowest that Baldwin officials spend $1.2 million on road improvements a year, Collet said.

The majority of council, though, said they didn't agree with Collet's plan to spend the $100,000 that was not used in 2013 because of lower bids in the 2014 plan.

“If you take that same logic to the rest of the budget, somebody that underspends their overtime budget this year, you'd put that underspend into next year,” council Vice President Michael Stelmasczyk said. “I don't buy that.”

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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