New Castle News

November 29, 2013

Proposed city budget includes pay hikes

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — New Castle city employees will receive pay increases in 2014 in a budget proposed by Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo.

The $18.4 million budget, which does not require a tax increase, was unveiled to city council this week.

All non-uniformed employees and administrative personnel would receive 2 percent increases.

Police officers were given a 2 percent wage increase and any applicable step increase in accordance with the city’s Act 47 recovery plan. The plan is being followed because the city and police have yet to settle on a new contract, according to business administrator Stephanie Dean.

The city and police are in mediation under Act 111, she said. The previous contract expired Dec. 31.

Firefighters have been given a freeze on all base wages and salaries under the recovery plan. Plus, all step and tenure–based increases scheduled for 2014 would be eliminated.

The city and firefighters have been negotiating a new contract to replace a seven-year pact that expires at the end of this year. An arbitration hearing under Act 111 is scheduled for March.

Salaries for elected officials will be frozen.

The budget includes $15,229,085 for the general fund, which is about $868,000 higher than this year and covers operating expenses for city departments and capital improvements.

The overall budget also includes the sinking fund to cover debt, liquid fuels and the annual appropriation for the New Castle Public Library.

A major reason a tax hike can be avoided is that wage tax revenue is expected to increase substantially, largely because of a state law that consolidated tax collection districts. One goal of the law is to generate more revenue.

Other employee-related costs include increases in health insurance. The Teamsters’ plan — which covers police, fire, code enforcement, non-union personnel and elected officials — will increase by 15 percent, Dean said.

The Construction and General Laborers Union plan — which covers public works, parks and clerical employees — will increase by 6.6 percent for some and 6.7 percent for others, she said.

A major chunk of the spending increase is earmarked as a transfer from the general fund to the employee pension fund to cover much of the city’s minimum municipal obligation required by state law. The city’s MMO for next year will be $2,442,823, an increase of $503,073 over this year.

The amount was calculated by the city’s actuary, Mockenhaupt Benefits Group.

The capital improvements part of the budget would increase from $375,000 to $840,000, with all of the money coming from the Marcellus Shale gas lease reserve account. The transfer of the $840,000 to capital improvements will leave $929,898 in the Marcellus Shale account.

Capital improvements proposed include $200,000 for a three-year paving program, $100,000 for neighborhood stabilization that could encompass demolition, rehabilitation or both, $300,000 as a down payment on a fire truck, $80,000 for the Cascade Park dance pavilion, $50,000 to purchase 12 electric carts for Sylvan Heights, and $25,000 to expand the city’s lot for impounded vehicles.