NVT to seek intervention for finance help
Tax increases and layoffs could be part of a five-year plan to get North Versailles Township finances back on track.
Commissioners approved applying for state help through an early intervention program last month. They unanimously adopted a resolution Thursday night to enter into a five-year financial project plan through that program. Commissioners George Beswick and Sam Juliano were absent.
"It's taken years to get where we're at, and now we need to get some good guidance," Commissioner Dennis Dull said. "We need other outside experts to tell us which way to go. None of us on the board are great financial experts, and it would be good help for someone to come in and say 'Here's what you should be doing.'"
Step one of the plan is to find a consulting agency and have it review township records and develop recommendations to help acquire financial stability.
Commissioner president Ruth Grimes said the agency's financial review process may take six months once an agency is chosen, and she did not want to speculate on what its recommendations may be.
Dull and Commissioner Art Marra, the township's finance committee chairman, are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
"Unfortunately, I think (the agency) will be pretty critical on where we're at right now," Dull said. "It may cause some layoffs and a lot of changes and things. We hope we don't get to that point, but (with) our financial situation, it may end up at the point where we might have to make some critical moves to make sure the township's financially strong in the next five years. We hope it doesn't (come to that)."
"When a consulting agency is chosen, then we're ready to go to work," Marra said. "They're going to force us to make some pretty tough decisions. I believe the consulting agency is going to tell us to raise taxes. I believe they are going to look to consolidate departments. I believe they are going to actually suggest doing away with certain departments, anything at all that can help as far as making a true dollar value in the township.
"It's going to be very difficult. We as commissioners can cooperate with almost anything, but not tax hikes. We're not going along with raising taxes under any circumstances. There are certain things that are going to have to be done."
Michael Foreman of the state Center for Local Government Services in Pittsburgh will assist the township throughout the process.
Marra said three agencies are being considered, and a selection could be made at next month's meeting.
Dull said one of the ways the township is saving money is by not filling positions when people retire or leave the township.
"Several of them from the police department have left and gone to other police departments and we haven't replaced them," Dull said.
"So it's been kind of helping us that we didn't lay anybody off that way.
"We're in a tailspin, but we seem to be leveling off a little bit. We don't want two years down the road to find out we're even worse."
The township is currently in debt at least $700,000 from last year.
Marra said he and other officials are taking a hard look at township finances to see if there are any other outstanding debts, and to assure the township has made all recent payroll and insurance payments.
Commissioners also approved an ordnance vacating a portion of Emma Street.
Dull said Emma Street is a paper street, and a resident has expressed interest in expanding his property along that street and putting more land on the tax rolls.
"It can never be opened," Dull said. "So the owners approached us to vacate it so that they can take it over. It's a big drop. You'd never be able to put a road on there, and the one guy can use it."
Commissioners also named township secretary Allison D. Serakowski as the township's agent to obtain financial assistance through the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.
Commissioners approved a resolution to empower the commissioner president and township secretary to authorize a right-of-way agreement with PennDOT for the township building in connection with the recent bridge construction.