ShareThis Page
Penn Hills

Mayor turns public comment on Penn Hills budget into debate

Dillon Carr
| Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, 5:12 p.m.
Penn Hills Mayor Sara Kuhn addresses a resident during a public hearing Monday, Dec. 4. Also pictured is Manager Mohammed Rayan.
Dillon Carr | Tribune-Review
Penn Hills Mayor Sara Kuhn addresses a resident during a public hearing Monday, Dec. 4. Also pictured is Manager Mohammed Rayan.

Ten out of roughly 100 Penn Hills residents spoke during a lengthy budget hearing Monday, but many who were there left before it ended.

Some who stayed for more than two hours said more would have been able to talk if Mayor Sara Kuhn hadn't slowed things down.

"I was surprised to hear the mayor make a comment on everything after people spoke," Faith Milazzo said. "I feel the mayor should be open and receptive to suggestions. I don't think she was."

Milazzo was one of the residents who offered suggestions on ways to avoid Manager Mohammed Rayan's dire prediction in his draft budget that said unless tax revenues are increased in 2019, it "will be the beginning of a downward slide."

Milazzo and others who spoke suggested, in part, the following:

• Cut nonessential personnel

• Freeze municipal employee wages

• Install solar panels on municipal buildings

• Have residents pay for garbage pickup service

• Develop property along the Allegheny River

• Hire a full-time grant writer

• Renegotiate sewage rates with Allegheny County Sanitary Authority

But nearly half of the residents left before the meeting ended. One of them was Councilman-elect John Petrucci, who said he expected the mayor and council to gather as much public comment as possible and hold their views about the suggestions until the board's Dec. 18 meeting. Instead, he found Kuhn addressing the merits of what each resident suggested.

"I'm a little disappointed we didn't get more people involved that wanted to get involved on how they could help the community," Petrucci said. Before leaving, he read a prepared statement in which he offered several suggestions, including cutting nonessential personnel.

To start the meeting, Kuhn said she and council members would not comment during the public hearing. Council members kept their end of that deal, but Kuhn commented after every resident spoke and got in a heated exchange with resident Andrea Getsy while she was talking.

"I feel that you're becoming very hostile. I think that these recommendations were very ..." Getsy said before being interrupted by Kuhn.

"Recommendations are what we want," Kuhn said. "And solutions. That's what I've asked for, Mrs. Getsy."

Getsy replied: "That's what I've heard."

"But … some of the comments and solutions that were given were not actually a reality," Kuhn said.

The 2018 spending plan includes $57.4 million in expenditures and $60.5 million in revenues, with a year-end balance of $3.1 million. The budget keeps the tax rate at 5.44 mills and includes 2 to 3 percent wage increases for municipal employees.

When asked how she will work to avoid the manager's predicted "downward slide" in 2019, Kuhn said she does not know but that she is not in favor of a tax increase or cutting services.

Kuhn said she will look into every suggestion made to council and will address them during the Dec. 18 meeting, which will allow time for additional public comment about the budget.

"We all have to work together to figure out what our options are," Kuhn said after the meeting.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325, or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me