Mount Carmel to close pool; borough balances budget
MOUNT CARMEL - The borough community pool is closing, and council is using a one-time expenditure to fill an $81,000 hole and balance the 2014 budget.
At Thursday night's regular meeting, the council of seven unanimously passed the budget of $1,652,431 with no anticipated tax increase for next year.
The Henry J. Honcz and Louise C. Honcz Memorial Pool will not reopen in the summer, saving the borough at least $13,000.
Borough council has tried different tactics in recent years to keep the pool running, but low attendance and the inability to break even financially forced the budget committee's hand to completely de-fund the pool.
President Tony Matulewicz also explained they are expecting approximately $75,000 next year from a civil asset forfeiture, which is a portion of money generated from the sale of seized criminal property more than a year ago.
However, Matulewicz and police Chief Todd Owens reserved further comment on the incident that led to the one-time revenue until the higher investigating agency releases the information and funds.
Budget is tight
Councilman Robert Shirmer complimented Councilmen Matulewicz and Joseph Lapotsky and borough manager Edward Cuff III for their work on the budget.
"It's very tight," he said.
The budget is also being balanced with $42,381 from the general fund since the borough will likely finish this fiscal year with a $50,000 surplus.
The police budget is by far the largest expense at $869,964, but it's possible the borough may need to alter this expense next year when contract negotiations move forward.
At this point, Matulewicz said, since the negotiations stalled, the borough budgeted the exact same police department budget as 2013 with the exception of added health insurance costs.
The pension cost for police is also expected to increase between $214,000 and $375,000 in the future. The pension for non-uniformed employees is expected to increase between $25,000 and $56,000.
Council will likely address the pension increases in the 2015 budget, Matulewicz said.
He commended Owens for using only $25,000 of the $35,000 budgeted money for overtime police hours.
Council members passed the first reading of an Appropriations Ordinance, which is a fiscal constraint on council that forces the members to advertise, meet, vote and have mayor approval to amend the budget next year, and an ordinance to fix the tax rate at 32 1/4 mills imposed on borough property owners.
Both of these ordinances will likely be approved at a special meeting Dec. 30.
Council members also presented retiring Mayor J. Kevin Jones, who served 16 years, and Councilman Robert Barrett, who served eight years, with plaques recognizing their service. It was their last regular meeting; Barrett will return Dec. 30.
Barrett said he enjoyed his "eight crazy years" of service to the people of the borough.
"You were a key to ushering in big changes in the borough, both financially and managerially," Matulewicz said.
Matulewicz said the mayor went above and beyond in his duties and will be "sorely missed" by the community.
"I'm not leaving. I bought a home here, and I bought a grave here," the mayor joked.
Jones offered his services in a voluntary capacity, but added in jest he would never come to another council meeting.
"It was a great privilege and honor to be mayor of this borough," he said.
Jones also gave keys to borough residents Dave Berezovske, Cathy Welker, Jack Williams Sr. and Ann Flynn, who was absent, for their volunteer service in the community.
He proclaimed that Saturday is Volunteer Citizen Day as a way to "thank those who have given of their time and energy for this community."
"Whether it be in their church, social and civic groups, youth activities, our schools or their neighborhood, we thank them for helping to make this a better place to live," he said.