Leechburg considers 24% tax hike
Leechburg Council has approved a $1.2 million preliminary budget that includes a 24% increase in property taxes.
Under the preliminary plan, the borough’s tax rate would go up 4 mills, to 22.3 from 18. At the proposed rate, someone with a house assessed at $25,000 would pay about $558 in taxes, or $108 more than this year.
More than a quarter of the proposed spending — close to $320,000 — would be put toward public safety costs, representing a 13.4% increase over this year, according to figures provided by the borough.
That includes a $20,573 increase in spending to pay patrolmen and a $2,763 boost in pay for Chief Jason Schaeffer, the figures showed. The borough budgeted $3,000 for its Civil Service Commission after having not budgeted any money for it this year.
The commission would use the money to pay for the advertising of police officer positions, the testing of police officers and a solicitor.
The police department has two full-time officers — Schaeffer and Patrolman Mark Pollick — and three part-timers.
The department’s full complement is three full-time officers, Schaeffer said.
Mayor Wayne Dobos said he doesn’t like taxes, but community members are emphatic about enhancing police coverage.
“You have to pay if you want to dance, so I go along with the (tax increase),” Dobos said.
Council President Tom Foster said it’s been hard to get police officers to work for the borough. He said the borough raised the hourly wage for part-timers to $18.50 in an attempt to entice more applicants, but that hasn’t been successful.
Councilman Alan Tarr agreed that it’s been hard to find new officers.
“We’re in the same boat as all the other police departments; we’re having a very difficult time getting people to work. They’re just not going to the academies,” Tarr said. “I don’t know what the answer is. We give civil service tests. Nobody applies.”
Council members Nancy Bono, Anthony Roppolo, Chuck Pascal and Tarr voted in favor of the $1.2 million preliminary budget and tax increase, while Foster voted against it.
Council will vote on adopting a final budget at its December meeting. Residents can review the preliminary budget at the borough office.