County officials review Shamokin's budget
SHAMOKIN - Two Northumberland County employees were at City Hall Thursday to review the city's finances.
Jeff McClintock, county budget director, and Lori Smoogen, a finance employee, each declined comment on what work they had performed.
Mayor-elect William Milbrand, a current councilman, said he accepted an offer from Northumberland County for the budget review, and added he has the support of several members of city council as well as the outgoing mayor.
"As far as I'm concerned, I don't care if I hear from them until they're done. I don't want to pester them," he said.
The county employees had been at City Hall on Monday and Thursday, and were expected back at least once more.
Milbrand said they would put their findings in a spreadsheet for council members to review.
Controller Gary Haddock said when he learned McClintock and Smoogen were at City Hall on Thursday, he visited to offer any insight he could provide. They met about 15 minutes, he said.
"I was just curious if they came up with anything," he said.
Haddock said he's not opposed to their efforts "if it's going to help."
City council has been under fire over the last several weeks after it was learned Shamokin was in the hole an estimated $800,000 for 2013 on top of a 2014 budget deficit that exceeded $616,000.
Haddock said the city is "in limbo" as it awaits word on two loans that could alleviate some of the immediate financial woes. Milbrand said one, a $350,000 Tax Revenue Anticipation Note, is expected to be in the city's bank account today. Neither official was sure about the status of a $800,000 loan - suggested by the Department of Community and Economic Development and approved by a county judge - to be used to cover "unfunded debt" from 2013.
A balanced budget exceeding $2.5 million that was adopted Dec. 23 was largely criticized by the public since two full-time and two part-time police officers along with a street department employee were furloughed to help reduce expenses.
Milbrand said he's hopeful that a "fresh set of eyes" will find something council members and other city officials may have missed, especially given the "controversy" surrounding council's budget.
"The ultimate goal, and I don't want to spread false hope, is to possibly find something or a way that we can get the furloughed employees back," he said.
"Once we do that, then we can go to the painstaking task to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Outgoing Mayor George Rozinskie went back and forth on whether he supported a review by the county employees. Attempts to reach outgoing Councilman William Strausser, the finance director, were unsuccessful. Councilman R. Craig Rhoades was unavailable to comment.
Milbrand, a current councilman, will replace Rozinskie as mayor Monday when he's sworn into office. Newcomers Barbara Moyer and Charlie Verano will join Milbrand and Rhoades on council. With Milbrand's election as mayor, the remaining two years of his council term must be filled by appointment.
The 2014 budget is expected to be reopened by the new council. They will have until Feb. 15 to make any changes.
Council must freeze all "unnecessary spending" this year, Milbrand said, and must also assume greater control of the city's finances.
"The checks and balances are there but they must be carried out correctly," Milbrand said.