John K. Manna
New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
New Castle City Council adopted a $1.7 million budget for 2013 last night.
The spending plan, approximately $1.2 million higher than the 2012 budget, requires no increase in taxes nor the blue garbage bag fee.
The $17,511,170 budget passed by a 4-1 vote with Councilman William Panella opposing.
Council increased spending over Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo’s proposed budget by about $169,000.
The increase mostly reflects the additional cost to hire six additional part-time police officers who will be stationed at the New Castle Area School District’s schools and a $50,000 increase in capital improvements for demolition.
Panella opposed the creation of a community development coordinator position at a $50,000 salary in the community and economic development department.
A motion to eliminate the position failed by a 3-2 vote. Councilman Thomas Smith also voted no and council president MaryAnne Gavrile, Richard Beshero and Ed Yerage voted in favor.
The department would be headed by a director whose salary is budgeted at $70,000.
“I don’t believe in having two people,” Panella said.
Panella said he wanted to eliminate the coordinator’s position and increase the salary for the director.
Mastrangelo proposed both positions in a restructured department that would also include code enforcement and zoning and planning. The mayor said he is following the requirement of the city’s Act 47 recovery plan.
The plan proposes a more structured, ambitious effort to promote economic development. The city plans to advertise for the director’s position next year.
Smith said he believes the current director, “given the proper tools and empowerment,” could do the job. He also said cutting her salary by $20,000 is “ridiculous.”
Plus, he said he didn’t want to add additional expense at a time when the city will be looking for extra revenue next year.
Beshero argued that if the coordinator’s position were eliminated, then the city would have nobody in the department until maybe October of next year.
Council also retained the mayor’s proposal to make the parking meter enforcement officer full-time. Smith and Panella favored having two part-time officers who would have no benefits.
A full-time position includes $19,374 for hospitalization.
The six part-time police officers are being hired as a security measure in response to the shooting deaths of students at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last week.
The city’s cost will be $129,792 in salaries plus about $3,000 for each officer to cover Social Security, workers’ compensation, liability insurance and uniforms, according to business administrator Stephanie Dean.
The school district will pay the city $20,000 for each officer for the year.
Dean said the additional officers will help the city with manpower during the summer when the district does not need them and, therefore, should reduce overtime costs in the police department.
The $50,000 addition to capital improvements for demolition will come out of the Marcellus Shale reserve account. The money will be targeted to one area of the city.
The addition was a compromise of sorts at council’s budget workshop this week and was suggested by Smith. He originally questioned why $80,000 had been earmarked for street paving when the city has a major blight issue.
Council agreed to retain the $80,000 for paving.
The Marcellus Shale account has a balance of $960,934. The city received a lump sum payment of $1,745,934.05 from Hilcorp Energy I, LP for the leasing of gas rights on specific city-owned property.
Mastrangelo’s budget already called for using $735,000 of the gas money: $410,000 in lieu of a one-mill property tax increase and $325,000 for capital improvements.
Of the $17.5 million budget, $14,360,874 is earmarked for general operating expenses.