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Leechburg council chipping away at budget crisis

Mary Ann Thomas
| Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009

Borough council continued to try to solve a financial crisis Friday, chipping away at expenses and trying to find new revenue sources.

Council agreed to eliminate its monthly pay of $20 per member, for an annual savings of $1,680.

It will take many more such nickel-and-dime cuts — and possibly a property tax hike — to close a budget deficit that has been estimated to be as high as $250,000.

Big ticket items, like the salaries of borough employees and health care insurance premiums, have yet to be discussed, officials said.

There are no plans to lay off of any borough workers, according to council President Tony Defilippi.

Councilman Keith Knepshield said, "We will keep Leechburg police in Leechburg,"

Defilippi added, "We have to maintain basic services."

The borough's outgoing mayor, Chuck Pascal, said the borough is in a financial bind after years of overestimating revenue and underestimating expenses.

But council members insist that although it's a tight year, the borough will be able to pay its bills.

The borough borrowed $20,000 from its own sewage users fund to get by.

"As taxes come in, we hope to pay it back," said Defilippi.

Council members looked hard at expenses yesterday, reviewing the cost of natural gas to heat the municipal building, leasing versus buying copying machines and any place to cut next year's budget.

Council estimated the borough's revenue at about $970,000 for next year — down by almost $120,000 from this year's budget.

Defilippi attributed the 12 percent drop on the uncertainty of a $25,000 state zoning grant and other problems such as the possible loss of income if the per capita and wage taxes are scrapped, Defilippi said.

This year, the borough has collected $7,300 in per capita taxes; officials had budgeted $12,500.

Council plans to consult its solicitor about its options about continuing to collect the per capita and occupation taxes, both $10 a person, which the school district and the borough have split.

The Leechburg Area School District decided to stop collecting those taxes for 2010-2011, saying it would be too expensive to do so.

And to raise more money, some borough officials have suggested that local nonprofits kick in some cash.

Patty Ameno, borough resident and commander of the Leechburg VFW, presented council with a $200 check last night from the VFW "for the cause," she said.

Then Ameno gave council a personal check matching the VFW's.

Borough council will meet again Monday at 4:30 p.m. at the borough building. Defilippi wants council to agree on a preliminary budget at their Dec. 7 meeting.

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