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Monessen finance boss Simpson issues budget warning

| Tuesday, May 22, 2007

MONESSEN - Nearing the mid-point of 2007, a city councilman...reminded his colleagues that budget season soon will be upon them.

Councilman Dale Simpson, chairman of accounts and finance, also warned that several departments are over budget.

"We just can't keep spending to spend," Simpson told council during its work session Monday night. "We have to be very judicious with the money in the budget."

Simpson also reminded council that it had to ask a Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court judge last year to approve a 5-mill tax increase. That's because the requested increase exceeded the state established limit for third class cities.

It was the first tax increase in 11 years. The city's property tax rate stands at...33 mills, with one mill generating about $60,000.

"We had to ask the court for additional tax revenue just to get back to even, so we have to be very careful," Simpson said.

He blamed the extra spending on overtime in city departments, including the streets and police departments, rising salt and cinder costs to treat the roads in winter weather, and other maintenance issues.

Mayor Anthony Petaccia blamed lagging tax revenues on budget deficits, including the Emergency Municipal Service tax. The city is owed about $80,000 from people who work in the city and have to pay the annual $52 EMS tax. In the past, the tax was due at the beginning of the year, but people can now pay it in installments. To date, the city has only received $5,282 in...EMS tax revenue.

The mayor said he is seeking ways to control fuel costs for the police and streets departments.

Council met in executive session to discuss contract negotiations with its nonuniform employees.

Petaccia said the three-year contract for 20 employees in the streets department and clerical-business offices expires Dec. 30.

Council will meet 7 p.m. Wednesday for its public meeting.

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