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Connellsville continues work on 2014 budget

| Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, 3:00 p.m.

Current and future members of Connellsville City Council on Wednesday looked at what expenditures to cut for next year's budget during a second work session.

Going through each department line item, Councilman Brad Geyer, director of finances, invited those attending to offer suggestions on what needs to be trimmed or completely cut from next year's budget.

The biggest department expense was the police department.

Aaron Zolbrod, who was elected to council on Tuesday, questioned the department's overtime and asked if it were possible for the police to not get paid for court appearances.

Police Chief James Capitos said that by the time the court dates for the officers are presented to him, it's too late to move police around the 24-hour-a-day schedule.

Capitos did have suggestions on what cuts could be made, like the $2,704 salary of school guards at Zachariah Connell Elementary School, since the school was closed last year. He also suggested a reduction from $25,000 to $20,000 for the dispatchers' salary for 2014 and the elimination of $200 for minor tools.

“We have tools if we need to use a tool,” Capitos said.

One item Capitos said should not be lowered is the $15,000 for maintenance and repairs, because of issues with an 8-year-old police car that has many miles and multiple repair issues.

He said council eventually will need to look at replacing a police vehicle.

For the fire department, council looked at moving $500 from the capital outlay line item to the gas, grease and oil line item, bringing it to $4,000. Council also looked at eliminating the $200 purchase of minor equipment line item.

Under the Accounts and Finance department, city treasurer Judy Keller questioned the proposed $300 for training and $400 for capital outlay, since both line items were budgeted in the past couple of years but no money was spent.

Under public works, council looked to reduce the street signs and posts and paint line item from $4,000 to $3,000 and materials and supplies line item from $5,000 to $4,000, since the city has spent significantly less than budgeted for the past couple of years.

A recurring issue was the tax anticipation loan that will need to be obtained again for 2014 to help pay expenses until taxes begin coming into the city. For 2013, the city took out a $688,500 tax anticipation loan with Scottdale Bank and Trust.

Geyer said the bank informed him they were willing to help the city with the loan again for 2014, but it's unclear how much money will be needed.

“How much is it going to be and how the hell do we pay it off?” Zolbrod said and then suggested council take out a larger, long-term loan, which could take between three to six months to approve.

Leigh Ann Lincoln, wife of Connellsville Mayor-elect Greg Lincoln, suggested that while they were looking at the option of a larger loan, they can include money to fund a new police vehicle.

The question of how the city could pay off the loan was brought up, but nobody could say for sure if taxes would have to be raised to do it.

Geyer said they will have to see what the interest rate will be and how much the city will need to borrow next year before a decision can be made.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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