SHAMOKIN - A slimmed-down version of a budget proposal for 2013 was given initial approval Monday by city council.

Spending and revenues are balanced in a preliminary budget that totals $2,558,538.93, down $35,000 from a proposal discussed during Wednesday's council workshop session.

It's also less than 2012's budget, which totals $2,570,667.86.

The preliminary budget was approved on a 3-1 vote, with Mayor George Rozinskie Jr. and councilmen William Milbrand and William Strausser in favor and Councilman R. Craig Rhoades opposed. Councilman Michael Snyder was absent.

Rhoades cited salary increases in voting against the plan, specifically that of City Clerk Steve Bartos, while both Rozinskie and Strausser defended the raise.

All three supported a 5-percent increase for Code Officer Rick Bozza, up $1,500 to $30,337.01.

Hired in May 2010 after the resignation of former Clerk Dave Kinder, Bartos earned a prorated $35,000 salary. That rose 3 percent to $36,050 in 2012. For 2013, Bartos is requesting a 21-percent raise to $45,400.

Kinder was earning a $35,000 salary in 2010.

"We have come a hell of a long way in the last 20 months," Rozinskie said.

Rhoades didn't question Bartos' performance in his role as the city's manager.

"He has done a terrific job for the city, but I feel it is a little excessive," Rhoades said of the requested raise, saying he'd be more comfortable with a gradual increase.

Without citing anyone specifically, Rhoades said he took umbrage with some positions being neglected for salary increases.

All union employees are tabbed for 3-percent salary increases per their existing contracts with the city.

Rozinskie and Strausser each credited Bartos with improving the city's finances, with the latter citing insurance adjustments and renegotiated utility contracts that totaled tens of thousands of dollars, along with increases in grant funding, including $1.8 million for the creek channel.

"He has earned it," Strausser said.

While exact figures were not available, both men said Bartos' proposed salary is in line with what had been earned by former clerks Michael Carpenter, David Bohanick and Brian Jeremiah.

Budget changes

Salaries, including projections for overtime, and health benefits for police department employees are estimated at $1,051,215.40, which is 86 percent of the entire department budget of $1,228,237.36. The police pension contribution for next year is tabbed $110,000.

The same total for public works is $383,100.48 for salary and health benefits, or 83 percent of the $462,117.70 department budget. The pension obligation for public works is $12,000.

The preliminary spending plan includes adjustments discussed by council last week.

Spending for the police department dropped nearly $20,000 for original projections to reflect the retirement of Cpl. John Brown, even with the addition of a $4,000 line item to be used on a lease payment for a police vehicle expected to be purchased by council.

Other reductions in spending came with a more than $12,000 reduction of the fire bureau's appropriation, which was originally miscalculated and included a $3,500 appropriation forfeited by Independence Fire Co., along with a recalculation of budgeted wages for street department personnel, which dipped more than $3,100.

Revenue dropped, too, as a health insurance rebate was halved to $40,000 because of anticipated increase in the benefit's use by city employees.

Council will petition the county court for the fifth year in a row to allow its real estate tax rate to total 30 mills, 5 mills higher than allowed by Third Class City Code.

The exception is allowable by state law to financially distressed municipalities.

The preliminary budget is now available for public review, and can be revised before council votes on a final version next month.

No one from the public attended either Wednesday's workshop session or Monday's voting session.

City council's next scheduled meeting is its workshop at 6 p.m. Dec. 5. The next scheduled voting session is 7 p.m. Dec. 10. Both meetings are open to the public.