By Mary Spicer
Six weeks before the City of Meadville’s 2013 budget is scheduled to be put into place, the first, most preliminary version shows a deficit of $328,000. However, city taxpayers won’t necessarily end up paying the approximately 2-mill property tax increase it would take to close the gap. If put into effect, the increase would boost the current 20.92 mills to 22.92 mills, boosting the tax bill for a city residence with the median assessed value of $25,000 by $50 to a new total of $573.
“The city staff will continue to seek ways to improve efficiency, cut costs and increase revenues over the coming weeks,” City Manager Joe Chriest told City Council in his annual budget statement, which was delivered during council’s work session Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s going to be a challenge again,” Chriest said during a press briefing before the session began.
Although he maintained that the budget will somehow all work out in the end, “sometimes it just feels like we’re just managing the decline,” he said during a candid moment.
Faced with ongoing increases in the cost of basic expenses such as asphalt for patching potholes, a landlocked geographical location with little remaining room for commercial expansion in a county that has not had a full-scale property reassessment for more than three decades is especially problematic, according to Chriest. With the city’s overall assessed value showing an increase of only $5 million since 1988, the city cannot rely on income generated by growth to fund rising expenses.
“People want services,” Chriest observed. “Sometimes they don’t want to pay for them — sometimes they do.”
According to Chriest, there is at least one positive note: The city’s move to new municipal headquarters actually comes out a net positive for the city’s bottom line, even without taking the “economic development” advantages of bringing Ainsworth Pet Nutrition’s corporate headquarters into the former city building, or lowered utilities costs resulting from the move into much smaller quarters.
The first version of the 2013 budget will be available online at cityofmeadville.org this morning. A print version will also be available for inspection in the city clerk’s office at 894 Diamond Park.
Notebooks containing the 114-page proposed budget were distributed to members of Meadville City Council during their Wednesday-afternoon study session in Meadville’s new city hall. All future sessions are scheduled for council chambers at 984 Diamond Park. They include:
Nov. 14, 5:45 p.m. — First public hearing.
— 6 p.m., first council study session on the budget; will feature presentations on allocations for Meadville Area Recreation Authority; Meadville Police Department; Meadville Central Fire Department; Department of Public Works; and the Parking Fund.
Nov. 20, 5:45 p.m. — Second public hearing.
— 6 p.m., regular council meeting
— 6:30 p.m., council study session on the budget featuring presentations on allocations for city treasurer, city clerk, city manager, council, attorney and finance as well as general government revenues and special funds.
Dec. 5, 4 p.m. — Regular council study session; first and second readings of the 2013 budget and tax ordinance.
Dec. 19, 6 p.m. — Regular council meeting; final adoption of 2013 budget and tax budget and tax ordinances.
Jan. 1, 2013 — Budget goes into effect.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.