Ford City faces $42,000 in budget cuts
FORD CITY — A successful veto of a tax ordinance by the town's mayor means a 2013 budget without a property tax increase.
Now the hard part for council: Getting to work on what to cut from their budget — and council members seem to have some different ideas on that.
Council must cut about $42,000 (the equivalent of 1.5 mills of taxes) in order to balance the budget that was initially approved in December and funded by a 1.5-mill tax increase.
“I made a move to put my colleagues' noses to the grindstone,” said councilman Gene Banks on Monday.
Last week Banks and Jerry Miklos voted not to overturn Mayor Marc Mantini's veto, allowing it to stand.
Five of the six council members were needed to overturn the veto.
Banks said he has since sent a letter to members of the finance committee, Paul Harmon, Kim Bish and Lou Vergari, outlining his proposal.
The finance committee is assigned the task of cutting the budget for all of council to approve.
Banks proposes cutting the special tax for fire equipment by 1.5 mills.
That special tax was raised by council two years ago from 1.3 mills to 2.6 mills.
Banks would temporarily reduce the tax to 1.1 mills.
The Ford City Fire Department receives about $72,000 a year brought in by the 2.6-mill tax.
Under Bank's proposed cut to 1.1 mills, the amount would drop to about $30,000.
The fire department needs about $54,000 to make this year's payment on its new fire truck.
The special tax fund for the fire department has a balance of about $81,000.
“I took it a step further,” added Banks. “I asked the firemen (at a recent meeting he attended along with Harmon and Vergari) if it wouldn't look good if the headline says the fire department helped balance the budget. I told them it would be put back in a year.”
“They (firemen) said they were open to that,” said Banks. “Paul (Harmon) and Lou (Vergari) agreed.”
Banks said the borough can write an ordinance and vote at the Jan. 28 public meeting.
But Vergari, council president, disagrees with Banks.
Vergari said on Tuesday that the fire department did not agree with Banks' proposed cut.
“They (fire company members) said they would go with a half of a mill cut to their fund,” said Vergari. “They fear losing their truck.”
Vergari's counter proposal is to cut the fire equipment tax by a half mill ($14,000); cut the purchase of a new police car ($10,000 for 2013) and cut back on some road repairs for the remainder.
“Spread it around, instead of just on the fire department,” said Vergari. “That's fair.”
Fire department member and former council member Ray Klukan said the department is OK with a half a mill cut to the special fund for fire equipment.
“As long as it's going to street lights, it's OK,” said Klukan.
The 2013 budget includes a half mill increase in the special tax for street lighting.
In addition, rising police pension costs factor greatly in the budget.
“We're not OK with taking off 1.5 mills from us and using it to pay for police pensions,” said Klukan.
“We'll be at the next council meeting if that happens. Ford City and Kittanning are both going to go broke with their police departments.”
Council can modify the current budget and approve it at a public meeting, Vergari said.
Mitch Fryer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.