No increase projected for Mansfield property taxes

MANSFIELD – Borough property owners will not have to dig deeper next year to pay their property taxes, if the preliminary proposed budget remains the same as presented at Wednesday’s council meeting, keeping the tax at 7.25 mills.

Taxes were raised two years ago, and that was only the third time in 11 years, said council President Steve Gee.

Director of Finance and Administration Lynette Hoyt told council the approximately $1.5 million on the revenue side of the 2014 budget is slightly more than the $1.46 million in anticipated expenditures.

A good portion of that is due to a $157,000 payment from the Act 13 natural gas fee charged to drilling companies by the state this year.

Next year the borough anticipates receiving about $100,000, and probably a bit less the following year.

Council approved allocating that money to cover several projects in 2014 including:

$50,000 into the roads and sidewalks capital reserve fund, to resurface East Main and St. James streets;

$25,000 to $35,000 to construct a six to eight foot retaining wall along Corey Street near the borough shop and clean up of concrete and rebar debris that creates a liability issue, Forrest said.

$35,000 would be allocated to the borough municipal authority to address Townview Drive low water pressure issues

$45,000 would go into the sewer and water capital reserve for membrane replacement. The free public library will see a big increase in the borough’s annual contribution from $15,000 to $18,000 next year, allocated quarterly.

“The borough is the single biggest contributor to the library and they are dependent on the donation,” Councilman Bruce Dart said.

The library holds book sales each year to offset its expenses, including one during the annual Fabulous 1890s Weekend. This year the sale brought in nearly $4,000.

Other changes include the elimination of $6,000 per month rental fee to the sewer office, which occupies one of the offices upstairs in the borough building.

“We are no longer charging the sewer fund for administrative rent for the sewer office,” Hoyt said.

Residents will see their sewer rates increase by five percent, the last of a five-year annual increase.

Even with the increase, the sewer budget still will be in about $13,000, with revenues anticipated to be $692,000 and expenditures about $705,000.

Among the budgeted items is $13,000 per year for three years for a new police car to replace one that has over 100,000 miles on it, and needs thousands of dollars in repairs.

In related business, council agreed to advertise for the hire of another part time police officer, to fill in for two who have other full-time jobs.

The impending sale of nutrient credits to Blossburg Municipal Authority will bring in about $27,000, said Director of Codes and Public Works Shawn Forrest.

Waste Water Treatment Plant Chief Operator Richard Correll said the plant will be about $25,000 over budget for composting, but still has 2,100 pounds left on nitrogen and is doing well on phosphorus as well from 2012 to 2013. “We are under the 2.0 permit limit for weekly nutrient average,” he added.

Health insurance premiums are lower due to participation in the Teamsters union plan, Hoyt added.

Council also:

*Approved taking the cap off the sidewalk program for residents to encourage participation. Currently the grants are $1,000 and $2,000 for downtown, and the program has attracted few participants. Council agreed to cover half the cost of a residential project and extending it to Nov. 1 to sign up for the spring and then offer it again next year earlier in the year.

*Agreed to give the YMCA paving project to Stuart Lisowski because M and M Paving withdrew their bid. Lisowski of Covington bid $18,300 for the project, while M and M had the low bid of $17,000. The work is to be completed by Oct. 30.

*Announced leaves and brush will be accepted from residents at the compost yard but no commercial, because they don’t have room for it, Correll said. Annual leaf pick-up will begin around the third week in October, Forrest said.