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Tax hike averted again

| Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011

MONONGAHELA - For the second straight year, the tentative budget remained unchanged - and so did the message from city council's budget director.

During a Wednesday meet-ing, city council unanimously voted to post a tentative $2,530,430 budget, which would allow the city to maintain a 23-mill real estate tax rate. By law, the millage cannot be raised in the final spending plan.

The budget is in sharp contrast to five years ago, when city officials received court approval to raise taxes 5 mills more than maximum level of 25 mills permitted for Third Class cities.

After the 2010 budget passed, the real estate tax rate had been reduced to 23 mills.

"During the past six years, we have managed to eliminate deficit spending and reduce the court approval 30 mills to the extremely conservative current 23 mills," budget director Tom Caudill said.

"Faced with increasing fixed expenditures, we continue to offer basic services to the residents of this city.

"Therefore, in spite of the current economy and unemployment, this council continues to pursue federal and state grants and make profitable investments under the watchful eye of our city clerk and our dedicated city employees."

Caudill said the budget will allow the city to continue its support of the library and volunteer fire company, as well as shared police services with New Eagle and Finleyville. The renovation project at the Noble J. Dick Aquatorium continues at no cost to the taxpayers, Caudill said.

Mayor Bob Kepics praised the budget.

"We're working together to insure our budget stays stable," Kepics said.

In other news, Solicitor Keith Bassi told residents they can help city officials fight blighted properties.

Resident Sara Phillips told council she is frustrated by residents who clean up properties after being fined, then let them go again.

Bassi said the city prosecutes owners of blighted property. The cases often advance from the district court level to the county court system. Bassi said Washington County Judge Paul Pozonsky, who handles such cases for the city, tends to give property owners added time to bring properties up to code.

Bassi said residents should continue to inform the city of blighted properties and demand the court system make owners of blighted property accountable.

"This city does not function just by elected officials," Bassi said. "It does so by folks like you.

"We encourage the people to help the city and code enforcement officer by identifying those who offend."

He said the city is working on an ordinance involving inspection of rental properties.

Howard Henninger told council that he has seen people speeding by the East Main Street site where he is planning to open G&H Quality Auto Care. He was told to meet with the police chief to discuss the situation.

In other business, council approved a Boy Scout eagle scout project for Jason Beck and a Girl Scout Gold Award project for Cassie Lignelli. Beck plans to rebuild roofs at the Mounds baseball field. Lignelli plans to create a walking trail in the downtown area.

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