The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 1, 2013

Paint Township adopts lean budget

David Hurst

WINDBER — Paint Township’s supervisors needed nearly all that was left of 2012 to finalize their budget for the new year.

But, as promised, the supervisors unveiled a detailed, line-item 2013 spending plan that they hope will place the township back on solid footing.

The $1.4 million budget, drawing partly on a 6 mill increase approved last month, includes thousands of dollars in spending cuts to the regional police force’s operations as well as added revenue from every community the force patrols, Supervisor Joe Huff said.

The cuts include:

• $8,000 from the police department’s information technology fund.

• $2,400 for police department office cleaning because the department’s staff will assume that duty.

• Not replacing a full-time officer who resigned in the fall. The patrolman’s hours will be picked up by part timers.

The regional police force’s budget is set at $826,402, with more than $511,000 coming from communities it serves outside Paint Township, the supervisors said.

But despite those measures – and $350,000 from a forthcoming loan – Huff warned that the township will need to closely monitor spending in the coming months to ensure it stays afloat until tax revenue starts coming in.

“We’re certainly not out of the woods yet,” Huff said, noting it also will be weeks before the court and state give the township approval to use the loan money.

Much of that, Huff added, will be used to pay off lingering bills and other debt.

The township has spent most of the past six months in a cash crunch that initially threatened closure of the police department and ended with the layoff of much of the township’s staff.

Supervisors have accepted blame for years of deficit spending. They hired an auditing firm to prepare the 2013 budget and have vowed to stick to it, saying finances will reviewed monthly as bills are paid and revenue comes in.

Huff said monthly reports now will become the norm in the township – and he told concerned residents that copies will be available for the public to examine.

The first few months of the year are the biggest concern for the board, which will rely on remaining funds from the loan to get by.

Huff said police Chief Rick Skiles’ layoff will continue through January.

Supervisor Dave Blough, the township roadmaster, will continue to serve his layoff as well, Huff added, noting both will continue to oversee their departments without pay.

The board had to hurry its budget adoption process at the 11th hour.

Township government is required to give the public 20 days to review the budget after advertising intentions to give final approval of the plan, but Huff admitted they weren’t able to do that this year.

“We had to wait for the bank loan information ... and the auditing firm to finalize the budget,” Huff said, noting the budget was advertised a week ago. “These were abnormal circumstances. If we would have waited the full 20 days, we would’ve missed the Dec. 31 deadline.”

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