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Ford City overturns mayor's veto of tax increase

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By Mitch Fryer
Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

FORD CITY — Council voted 4-2 on Monday night to overturn Mayor Marc Mantini's veto of an ordinance that will increase real estate taxes by 9 percent.

The increase approved Dec. 27 will fund a $2.6 million budget for 2013. It raised the property tax by 1.5 mills to 18.15 mills, upping the annual tax bill by about $30 for a property owner with a $40,000 house assessed at $20,000.

Mantini is on vacation and was not at yesterday's public meeting.

He told the members of council in a letter dated Jan. 7 that he vetoed the tax ordinance because he did not want to further burden the taxpayers.

“Ford City Borough and our country are experiencing one of the worst economic downturns in years,” Mantini said in his letter.

Council members Paul Harmon, Kim Bish, Rob Mohney and Council President Lou Vergari voted to overturn the veto. Councilmen Gene Banks and Jerry Miklos voted no, saying a tax increase should not be necessary.

“I think it can be done without a tax increase,” said Banks. “We can find the money, if we can peel some more off this budget.”

“We certainly can do better,” added Miklos. “The taxpayers are going to have to pay for it.”

The rest of council defended the 2013 budget.

“I think it's as tight as it can get,” said Mohney.

Vergari said the budget was in line with the cost of running the borough and maintaining its services.

He said the increase was for street lights and rising pension costs. The budget included a 1 mill increase for general purposes from 11.25 mills to 12.25 mills and a half mill increase in the special tax for street lighting from 1.65 mills to 2.15 mills.

“That has to be paid,” said Vergari. “There are things you can't anticipate too. There's no money being wasted here.”

In addition, council, after some debate, approved a tax anticipation loan for this year of $75,000. The rate with S&T Bank is 1.49 percent.

The vote was 5-1 to approve it with Miklos voting no.

“This is not a necessity,” said Miklos. “With sound fiscal management, we should not have to do this.”

Fire department shed

Council debated and then failed to take a vote on a request from the Ford City Fire Department to place a 12-by-16-foot storage shed next to the existing shed used by the police department in the borough parking lot.

The fire department had initially made the request at the Dec. 27 public meeting and it was tabled until yesterday's meeting for a review.

A representative for the fire department, Mike Shaffer, told council that it had shrunk the size of the shed to 10-by-14.

“I don't believe we need a shed in the parking lot,” said Bish.

Council instead offered an alternative location at a borough-owned, fenced-in property on 14th Street.

Miklos said he would like to explore the possibility of moving the police shed there as well.

Mohney made a motion to put the fire department's shed in place of the police shed in the parking lot and move the police shed closer to the borough building.

“We're not losing anything,” said Mohney. “That seems like a viable solution.”

Harmon seconded it but it failed by a 4-2 vote.

Another motion then by Miklos to allow placing the shed at the 14th Street location was approved by a 6-0 vote.

A third motion by Miklos to move the police shed to another place in the parking lot to gain parking space failed for lack of a second.

In other borough business, council agreed to check with the borough's zoning officer after Ryan Pelligreno and Bill Bracken told members they had been billed for a business occupancy permit when in fact they were not operating a business at their garage.

They wanted the borough to rescind the bill.

“I'm restoring an old car,” said Bracken. “It's a hobby shop, not a business being run out of there. We have not applied for a business permit.”

Mitch Fryer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or mfryer@tribweb.com.

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