The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 1, 2012

Tentative city budget calls for no tax hike

Dave Sutor
dsutor@tribdem.com

— A preliminary 2013 City of Johnstown operating budget, presented by finance director Carlos Gunby on Thursday, calls for no tax increase.

The current millage rate of 52.4821 is expected to remain in place.

However, according to City Manager Kristen Denne, the town will likely need to generate more tax revenue starting in 2014.

“I will tell you that (keeping taxes level) did not come by easily,” said Denne. “And, I can honestly tell you, this is probably the last year that we’re going to be able to do that.”

Balancing the $31.4 million budget without a tax increase or layoffs was considered a positive step for the city, which has been in the Financial Recovery Act 47 program for distressed municipalities since 1992.

“We’re stabilized at this point, but we are in no way, shape or form ready to take it to the next level of self-dependency by any stretch of the imagination. But we’re stable for the current economic conditions that are surrounding us around the United States of America,” said Gunby.

Councilwoman Marie Mock added, “This is probably the best situation we’ve been in in a long time.”

City Council expects to balance its budget thanks to some one-time funding sources, such as a bond issue. Two vacant public works positions are going to go unfulfilled in a cost-cutting measure. “We’ve already pulled all of the cats out of the bag,” Denne said.

Johnstown’s projected financial plan is $3.5 million larger than what the city adopted for 2012.

The biggest increase will come in dealing with sewage. This year’s budget allotted for $3.2 million in sewage-related expenditures.

But, thanks to Pennsylvania Infrastructure and Investment Authority loans, the sewage line item will increase to $8.1 million next year.

“The $4 million that’s coming in from PennVEST loans is project money only. Those are going to projects that will be happening in 2013. They’re the works that everybody will be seeing throughout the city throughout the year,” Gunby said.

Council will fine-tune the financial plan during six budget workshops this month.

Final approval is expected in December.

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