Sequestration to affect Tioga-Bradford Housing Authority

MANSFIELD – The Tioga-Bradford Housing Authority will not escape cuts from the federal government’s sequestration action, which starts Oct. 1, authority executive director Kelley Cevette said.

The authority will see cuts to its allocations for its three service areas, including a decrease to 81 percent of past allocations.

In other areas, Cevette said, such as rental assistance, the authority will receive 94 percent current amount and 69 percent for administration costs to operate the program.

“A quick calculation amounts to roughly $300,000 will be cut over the course of the year, so when we looked at how we can function more efficiently, we looked at that figure,” she said.

To deal with the cuts which will affect the authority starting in its next fiscal year, July 1 through June 30, 2014, three employees who are retiring will not be replaced, Cevette said.

“We were unbalanced with work load so we tried to look at the overall picture and spread work out so it was equally distributed,” she said.

For instance, she said, the maintenance foreman covering Blossburg and Mansfield will now also have Canton’s units to take care of, bringing his workload from 110 units to 200, but, according to Cevette, “we are not overworking anyone.”

“The foreman in Canton was already retiring, so we are doing this rather than hiring someone to take his place,” she added.

The foreman in Wyalusing area had only 160 units so he will be responsible for the 60 in Troy bringing him to 200, she said.

The foreman in Wellsboro stays there but “we are having him do the rental assistance inspections for the county bringing his workload to about the same level” as the others, she added.

The authority also will eliminate its weekly cleaning service, and employees will be responsible for keeping their own work areas clean, she said.

The cost for the service was $120 per week, Cevette said.

For residents, unlimited van trips will be eliminated, and there will be one van trip per month offered, she added.

“Each building has a travel committee that schedules trips in the van which has been an added bonus. So now we will be utilizing it on the basis of need, as opposed to just sight seeing or going to the casino,” she said.

“We still want to keep the residents’ cleaning service which we feel is more beneficial than trips to the casino,” she added.

The authority’s Section 8 rental assistance program also was “cut drastically” she said.

“We have 178 vouchers out there and the spending less we have been doing tells us we could put someone on but then next month when the decrease hits means we can’t put them on, so interviews of people on the waiting list for rental assistance have stopped, and there are six people looking for a rental unit,” she said.

Cevette noted that rents have come down “a small amount” with the cutback in natural gas industry the region has seen this winter.

In other business, the authority board:

Agreed to accept bids for capital projects including a new rubber roof at the Westfield apartment complex from general contractor Wilk Construction, Selinsgrove, for $161,000; Howard Wattles Electrical, $29,500; and Billtown Mechanical, Williamsport, for $288,350, HVAC, but that about $100,000 in work will have to be cut from the HVAC contract in order for the authority to stay within its $484,000 budget

Heard that the waiting list for available housing units is down from 520 to 178 following a purging of all non-responsive and non-active names. Going forward, Cevette said, the list will be reviewed every six months and purged at least once per year, and applicants must have all paperwork submitted before their names will be added to the list.

Agreed to increase flat rental rates by $10 per month effective July 1. The new rates will affect “only a few people,” Cevette said, and be good for three years, without increase. Those currently enrolled will not be affected until the time comes to renew their leases, she added.