Shamokin to reinstate two furloughed police officers
SHAMOKIN - Two full-time officers who were furloughed last month will return to work under the terms of a preliminary amended 2014 budget approved by city council Tuesday.
Should council give final approval as expected during a special meeting tentatively slated for Feb. 6, Cpl. Jarrod Scandle and Patrolman Nate Rhodes will be eligible to return Feb. 7.
Council voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt an amended budget that totals $2,338,138. It will be available for public review for 10 business days. The final deadline for the current year budget to be revised is Feb. 15.
The five-member council convened an executive session for personnel reasons following the meeting. Council members had discussed the position of city clerk immediately prior to the start of the meeting but ceased discussion on arrival of the media, citing the potential for litigation. No further information was shared.
City Clerk Steve Bartos has been on medical leave since mid-November.
The amended budget is balanced. It totals $179,868 less than the $2,518,006 budget adopted in December, meaning both spending and revenue have been trimmed.
The largest cut is that of a $109,263 interfund transfer. No further explanation of this expense was available.
Despite reinstating the officers, the police budget was reduced by $45,948 including reductions in overtime and police vehicle expenses. Other spending cuts included the elimination of $10,000 for city council salaries, $3,825 from the treasurer's budget, $817 from the city clerk's, $29,194 from general administration and $3,413 from the code enforcement budget. There also were reductions in the city's unemployment and commercial insurance costs.
The street department budget increased $14,338, largely due to incorporating salary and benefits for Ronald Kerstetter whose grievance opposing a planned furlough was upheld by council because of language in a union contract, keeping him on the job.
Reductions in income included $125,000 in a transfer from other accounts, $40,031 in anticipated tax revenue, $6,775 in licenses and permits, $4,141 in fines and forfeits, $3,167 in rents and royalties, $3,527 in service charges.
The budget adopted in December was largely criticized publicly because it included the furlough of the two full-time patrolmen. Those furloughs and other measures, including the furlough of two part-time special officers, were cited as necessary to eliminate a $616,000-plus deficit.
A balanced budget before Dec. 31 was also needed to secure the $350,000 Tax Revenue Anticipation Note that council eventually secured. Funds from that loan will be used to cover basic expenditures in lieu of the receipt of tax revenue in March.
After the meeting, Mayor William D. Milbrand said the new version of council expected to find a way to reinstate the furloughed police officers. He said the budget revisions were suggested following a review by Jeff McClintock, Northumberland County budget director, and Lori Smoogen, a county finance employee, along with input from financial advisor Stevens and Lee, city council members and department heads.
Councilwoman Barbara Moyer said council members are relieved to be able to reinstate the patrolmen, while Councilman R. Craig Rhoades said it inherently increases public safety.
Councilman Charlie Verano said council must begin compiling figures for next year's budget beginning perhaps as early as July rather than waiting until October or November.
The budget is tight and there isn't a lot of leeway, Verano said.
Councilman Dave Kinder said attention must be paid to keep police overtime to a minimum.
In other business, council approved the resignation of Robert Wolfe from the Shamokin Housing Authority effective Friday. Wolfe cited his pending appointment to the position of Northumberland County sheriff.