Shamokin budget approved
SHAMOKIN - A final version of the city's $2.55 million operating budget and a preliminary version of a tax levy for 2013 were each approved by council Monday night; so was a 21-percent raise for the city clerk.
Councilman Michael Snyder was the swing vote in the 3-2 decision to increase Steve Bartos' salary from $36,050 to $45,400, which includes a $400 stipend.
"The job is very intense," Snyder said after council's monthly meeting, held at Shamokin Housing Authority in the city's downtown to accommodate a celebration for Traci Cecco-Pickens, a Shamokin area native and all-terrain vehicle rider who recently retired as the all-time women's Grand National Cross Country champion.
"The salary we just increased is well deserved for this type of job, in this area," he continued, adding that it's in line with salaries other municipal managers earn in the area.
Voting with Snyder were Mayor George Rozinskie and Councilman William Strausser, both of whom previously expressed support for the $9,350 salary boost.
Councilmen William Milbrand and R. Craig Rhoades were each opposed, holding the line on opposition each previously expressed.
Rozinskie went to bat for Bartos twice previously: last month when council adopted a preliminary budget and last week during a hearing in county court before approval was again given to Shamokin to increase property taxes beyond the maximum allowed by state law.
On Monday, he reiterated his support, as did Strausser.
A longtime city clerk himself, now retired, Strausser said the amount of the raise "may be much," but that it was "deserved."
He credited Bartos and fellow council members for keeping the city afloat this year.
"I thought we'd be out of money long ago, that we wouldn't make it through the end of the year," he said, saying the past month-and-a-half that the city has worked week-to-week to get by.
Whoever owed Shamokin money, they were after, Strausser said. And if tax delinquents would pay their share, the city wouldn't need court approval for a tax hike, he added.
Rhoades voted against the preliminary budget in November and voted against the final version Monday, a vote separate from that of Bartos' raise. He cited the amount of the raise and not its merit in being opposed to it.
Milbrand said much of the same.
"I still don't think it's in order," he said after the meeting. "How do you answer to the rest of the city employees who do just as good of a job but get menial raises, or no raises at all?"
Milbrand criticized the newspaper - both for language in an editorial that he believed misrepresented his stance on the matter as well as a report on November's meeting because its author did not seek his comment on the raise but did so from other councilmen.
He voted in favor of both the preliminary and final budgets. However, he has since stressed that neither vote was made in favor of the raise; rather, in favor of the budget as a whole. When it came time to vote for the raise, he voted "no."
The 2013 budget approved Monday is balanced, with revenue and expenditure each estimated at $2,558,538.93 - a modest decrease of a little more than $12,000 from the current year's budget.
It is the second year running that the budget has decreased from the year prior.
The total tax levy, which is preliminary until final vote expected next week, is planned to remain the same as in 2012, but there are changes to the distribution of tax revenue.
The planned levy totals 44.918 mills: 30, general purposes (property tax); 7.208, parks and recreation; 6.860, debt service; 0.750, library; 0.100, shade trees.
The debt service dropped from the 2012 levy, with almost the entirety going to recreation and the remainder to the new shade tree levy.
Recreation was taxed at 3 mills in 2012.
A tax and revenue anticipation note (TRAN) of $275,000 also was approved.
That loan, taken by some municipalities to conduct business in lieu of the collection of taxes in the year's first quarter, is up $75,000 from the 2012 note, Bartos said.
The preliminary tax levy, final budget and TRAN were all approved by unanimous vote.
Also approved by unanimous vote was the final version of a new city ordinance to monitor the trade of used goods by antiques and second-hand dealers, along with details for a proposed contract with Brush Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber contract, if approved and ratified by both the city and Chamber, would net the city 300 man-hours for the city at a cost not to exceed $8,100.
Council approved a set of tasks to give to the Chamber to work on: promotion and rent of Claude Kehler Community Park for public events, the development of an advertising and marketing campaign for the city, work for the setup of a series of community gardens, and tasks to make Shamokin a tourist destination in October to capitalize on the Halloween holiday and potential income.
A special meeting is expected to be scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 19 at City Hall during which the tax levy and a contract could be voted on.