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HARRISBURG, PA – Pennsylvania could own a bunch of professional sports team if it wanted.
OK, maybe we’re taking some liberty with that, but there is some math to back it up. If Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget is enacted exactly as he presented it earlier this month, the state’s total operating budget would soar to $78.6 billion, the highest level ever.
To put that in perspective, it’s enough to buy all 32 teams in the National Football League, based on average team values compiled by Forbes.com. And then for fun, the state still could buy all 30 teams in Major League Baseball and have enough left to build a few state-of-the-art stadiums.
Of course, that’s assuming the state would spend nothing on its actual responsibilities, like public education and roads and bridges. But for our purposes, it helps illustrate the sheer volume of state spending that’s on the table.
Turns out Scranton didn’t balance its 2015 budget.
Through an error, the city budgeted $783,000 more in expenditures than revenues, city Controller Roseann Novembrino told the mayor and council. She said it needs to be amended to fix the mistake.
City Business Administrator David Bulzoni said he made an error while creating the budget by inputting an incorrect figure from one line item instead of a total number for that one line and three others in the same group.
The four items, which involve lease expenditures, total $833,082.87. Instead of inputting that total amount when adding up that section, Mr. Bulzoni said he used the figure that was above it, $50,000, which was only for the last lease in the group. That resulted in an understating of expenditures by $783,082.87.
Hazleton Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi vetoed a nearly $9.3 million budget for 2015 that was ratified by city council about a week ago.
Yannuzzi announced the development in memorandums to city council on Monday and will for a second consecutive year set up a budget showdown with the governing body. A dispute over competing versions of the 2014 budget went before a judge and has not yet been resolved.
The mayor said he vetoed an ordinance that sets the tax rate and related legislation because they do not conform with the version of the budget that he presented.
Yannuzzi listed 12 reasons in a second memorandum for vetoing a fourth budget-related ordinance and argues that amendments made by council leave the city with an unbalanced budget.
WILKES-BARRE, PA — The mayor asked and the authority board complied.
Mayor Tom Leighton Tuesday asked the members of the city’s Parking Authority for a little help for the city’s coffers. On a 4-1 vote, the authority approved giving the city $75,000 now and another $75,000 after the first of the year.
“This eliminates me from raising property taxes in the city,” Leighton said after the vote.
One authority member, Maryanne King, expressed concerned for the move, noting that auditors recently reported the need to increase revenues and replenish a depleted reserve fund to assure needed capital improvements of authority assets.
Hazleton City Council is no closer to finalizing a 2015 budget.
Council voted 4-1 on Thursday to table the spending plan on second reading after voting on a number of amendments that put revenue projections some $619,000 below estimated expenditures.
Council will take another crack at amending the estimated $9.3 million spending plan on Wednesday.
The vote to shelve the budget followed a heated disagreement between Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi and council President Jack Mundie over a stormwater fee that was originally levied by a previous council majority for 2013 only — but is included in next year’s spending plan.
The debate ended with the mayor walking out of the forum during an argument with Mundie.
York’s budget woes have set off a scramble to find ways to save positions in the departments that could face the deepest losses — police and fire — and triggered a whirlwind of questions about what would happen to the city if a balanced budget can come only at the cost of cutting public safety personnel.
Mayor Kim Bracey‘s budget, which she introduced Tuesday, would cut 46 positions in the police department and eight fire-fighting jobs, and would cut the city’s work force from 412 employees in 2014 to 315 next year, documents show. Bracey said she was faced with few options and asked community partners, legislators and the county for outside help.
As of Friday, “no one has knocked on the door,” she said.
She has called for union concessions. Bracey said she will meet with fire union President Fred Desantis on Monday, and the city already is in negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police. Police union president Mike Davis said he is “committed” to reaching an agreement before the end of the year.
Sunday, September 14 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
If you’re planning a wedding, you don’t want to miss this event! This is a one-stop shopping event. Here you’ll be able to visit with caterers, photographers, videographers and DJs among others.
We will also be having a fashion show featuring the newest designs for the best-dressed bridal party. While you’re there be sure to sign up for the raffle. You may win one of our many exciting prizes. Our Wedding Coordinators will also be on hand to discuss making your special day spectacular!
Are you interested in being a vendor at this show? Please contact us at 484.624.5187. We’d be glad to have you join us.
Sunnybrook’s website: http://sunnybrookballroom.com/
STATE COLLEGE, PA — In a unanimous vote, members of the Centre Region Council of Governments agreed to send the 2015 program plan to the municipalities for review and comment.
The 257-page plan is “intended to provide the General Forum with an explanation of each regional program’s history, services, current issues, midyear financial status, and proposed programmatic and financial changes for 2015.”
This is the 13th plan to be created since the program began in 2001.
“It’s a tool to give elected officials an early heads up about what we’re proposing for the new year,” said COG Executive Director Jim Steff. “So instead of giving them a budget in October and say ‘You guys need to vote on this in November,’ they get this information much earlier.
As the 2015 budget season approaches, it is my duty to talk straight about our city’s fiscal challenges and pension legacy costs that have been growing since before the turn of this century. While laying out the dire conditions, leadership requires us to hold out meaningful hope by advocating for bold measures. Long term fiscal game-changers can stabilize our property taxes while enabling us to continue providing quality public services and infrastructure that our people deserve and demand.
At times, I feel like a night watchman of earlier centuries who witnesses a spreading fire and vigorously shouts and rings the bell to alert citizens of the imminent crisis. During the last two city administrations, we’ve been warning of the growing fiscal crisis for 13 years, and we’ve done as much as we can internally to make our budget process transparent, to seek sound recommendations from outside experts, to cut costs, and to be fiscally responsible. The list is extensive.
• In 2003, under Mayor Brenner, our city initiated its first open budget hearings, an annual tradition that continues to this year.
• In 2006, our city was one of the very first in the state to enter the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Early Intervention Program, which provided an analysis of York’s finances by outside experts. Their analysis concluded that York’s financial controls and management were strong but that systemic constraints beyond its control were leading to out-of-control costs. Recommendations included implementing a parking tax, which was done.
POTTSTOWN — After two consecutive years of being unable to raise enough money to pay for Fourth of July fireworks, the committee in charge of Independence Day events recognized that they needed some help.
On Thursday, they got some from the Leadership TriCounty Class of 2014, a project of the TriCounty Area Chamber of Commerce.
A team made up of Joyce Bagiraneza from Valley Forge Casino Resort; Rebecca Hobbs from O’Donnell, Weiss & Mattei and Carrie Makoid of Barry Isett & Associates took on the challenge of revitalizing the Fourth of July Committee.
The leadership class teaches team-building through 10-month projects that have specific goals for local nonprofits. When the teams “graduate,” they present findings of their work to the nonprofits.
Marie Horn’s front porch offers a panoramic view of the Delaware River and riverfront park in Marcus Hook.
Her back deck overlooks a different scene: empty lots, with curb cuts and street lights prepared for 11 more houses.
The land has long sat vacant, as a nonprofit group struggles to find interested builders or buyers to complete a neighborhood of brightly colored colonials along the river, bookended by a refinery and a former refinery property. Horn’s house is just one of three built in the last few years.
It is unclear when more will join them.
POTTSTOWN — With a 7-2 vote at its May 15 meeting, the Pottstown School Board adopted a $59.9 million proposed budget that would raise taxes by 2.9 percent if it is adopted unchanged as a final budget in June.
Board members Ron Williams and Thomas Hylton cast the only two votes against the proposed budget, which increases spending 5.6 percent and would increase the annual tax bill by $81.91 for the owner of a property assessed at $73,670 — the borough’s median assessment.
Board member Amy Francis said, “This is a very difficult decision for me because, like every other taxpayer, I am at the end of my rope, but I also feel we have a responsibility to get the job done that we started with the renovations at the elementary schools. We can’t do one without the other.”
POTTSTOWN, PA — Members of the Pottstown School Board showed little interest Thursday in an offer to refurbish the poles that hold up the lights at Grigg Memorial Stadium.
Facilities Director Robert Kripplebauer told the board’s facilities committee meeting Thursday that he had been contacted by a company that had read in The Mercury about the board’s decision to take down the lights at the stadium for safety reasons.
The company — 18th Century Restorations on Coventryville Road — made a similar offer in 2012 and estimated the cost at that time to refurbish the poles and lights to be $60,000.
According to the 2012 quote, which Kripplebauer shared with The Mercury, the work would involve “fabricating new hardware” for the poles and attaching 42 metal straps to keep them in place, as well as epoxy and caulk for cracks in the poles, along with other work.
Eight of the 10 highest-paid Easton city employees last year work for the police department.
Much of their pay came through overtime, although the mayor said the city is doing much better with overtime budgeting.
Sgt. Sal Cucciuffo topped the list for the second year in a row, making $117,524 and topping his 2012 earnings by a little more than $6,800.
The city’s overtime fund has dropped significantly from $460,000 in 2008, down to $260,000 in 2013, Mayor Sal Panto Jr. said. Panto said the city came in under budget on overtime costs in 2013.
Harrisburg, PA — Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) President Dr. Karen A. Stout testified before the Pa. House Appropriations Committee in Harrisburg on Feb. 20 on the issue of community college funding for Fiscal Year 2014-15. She joined Pa. Commission for Community Colleges (PACCC) President and CEO Elizabeth A. Bolden and Butler County Community College President Dr. Nick Neupauer, who also serves as PACCC’s Board Chairman.
Together the three leaders testified about the critical need for increased operating and capital funding for the Commonwealth’s 14 community colleges. Governor Corbett’s proposed FY 14-15 budget does not include any increase in the community college operating appropriation. If approved, this will be the fourth consecutive year of flat funding in operating following a 10 percent funding cut five years ago. Allowing for inflation, the recommended appropriation is $12 million below the necessary level.
During her testimony, Dr. Stout revealed that, if the proposed budget is passed, MCCC will receive less in operating dollars in FY 14-15 than eight years ago.
“The operating efficiencies used to manage these cuts have already been implemented, and gains from them already realized and exhausted,” she said in her testimony. “Even modest tuition increases are difficult for our students to manage. Last year, we deregistered more than 2,500 students for non-payment. Approximately half return to us at some point, but half are shut out of higher education, even with Pell and PHEAA grants.”
Three MCCC students – Octavia Beyah, Tyler Tucker and Elizabeth Waddell – accompanied Dr. Stout to Harrisburg to lend their support to Pennsylvania’s community colleges.
Beyah, a first-generation college student, is funding her own education. She started her journey at a four-year university, but reverse transferred to MCCC to graduate without debt. Likewise, Tucker chose to attend MCCC to balance life and work to avoid early debt; she aspires to be an appellate court judge. And Waddell comes from a single parent household and acknowledges that education tends to go on the “back burner” when living paycheck to paycheck.
“Students like Octavia, Tyler and Elizabeth build the economic and civic capacity of our community, one dream fulfilled at a time,” shared Dr. Stout in her testimony.
Stout went on to share how the economic impact of MCCC’s students extends to all Pennsylvania residents. For example, taxpayers, see a return rate of 7.2 percent on their investment, and every one dollar of state and local tax money invested in the College yields a cumulative $21.60 in benefits that accrue to all Pennsylvania residents in terms of added taxable income and avoided social costs.
“Fifty years ago, a group of visionary State and local leaders from across the Commonwealth passed the Community College Act, and with it, a commitment to invest in the hopes, dreams and aspirations of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians to access affordable, high quality, transfer education and workforce training programs that could lead them into the middle class and thus build the quality of life and civic development and economic competitiveness of Pennsylvania. Over these 50 years, nearly 400,000 Montgomery County residents have benefitted from access to these programs. The ripple effect of those attending – on our community – is multi-generational,” shared Dr. Stout.
In addition to restoring operating funds, Bolden and PACCC asked the House Appropriations Committee for capital funding to be increased in order to address the $726 million in documented infrastructure improvements for the State’s 14 community colleges over the next five years. As it stands now, the Governor’s proposed budget calls for a $1 million cut in capital.
More than a decade ago, the Mayor’s Commission on Public Education called for the Pittsburgh Public Schools board to be appointed by the mayor rather than elected by residents.
That hasn’t happened nor have some of the other recommendations in the 144-page report critical of the district and written during the administration of Tom Murphy in 2003.
In the intervening years, no other mayor or mayor’s commission has tried to take control away from an elected school board or made such sweeping recommendations.
While he hasn’t suggested appointing the school board, Mayor Bill Peduto, sworn in last month, is taking a keen interest in the fate of the school district.
By today’s end, Munhall officials expect to know if private financing for a tax anticipation loan will be available to the borough, averting the need for layoffs of police and public works employees.
Council was forced in recent weeks to advertise for private financing after it could not get a regular bank loan because the borough did not have its annual audits for 2011 and 2012 performed by an independent auditor and filed with the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
That revelation is one of a number of surprises that council members say they’ve faced since Matt Galla abruptly resigned as borough manager June 17. The other surprises include the fact that appropriate pension contributions were not made to employee pension plans in 2011 and 2012, that many borough records, including employees’ salary histories, are gone from the borough offices, and that the borough lost $360,000 in regional asset district funds.
Since June, two interim managers and a certified public accountant have been trying to reconstruct the borough’s records. That reconstruction has shown that Mr. Galla may have paid himself more than his approved $60,000 salary.