Community development budget reaction positive

The city Finance Committee Tuesday gave a positive recommendation to the city’s approximate $1.3 million community development budget for 2014.

The budget, to be presented on first reading Thursday to City Council, doesn’t reflect major financial changes over 2013, according to John Grado, city engineer and director of community and economic development. Salaries are proposed to go up by 3 percent.

Most of the entitlement is a $1,033,343 Community Development Block Grant, but the budget includes $256,861 for the HOME program, providing gap funding for new home buyers who qualify financially, and $5,000 for that program’s income.

The largest proposed expenditures are $372,959 for street construction and reconstruction, $175,000 for a purchase of a fire pumper truck, $90,609 for public facilities administration and $50,000 for removal of architectural barriers on streets.

The 2014 street reconstruction activity will be for the following streets:

Beeber Street, from Memorial Avenue to West Fourth Street;

Oliver Street, from Memorial Avenue to West Fourth Street;

West Edwin Street, from Campbell to Hepburn streets;

Wilson Street, from Penn to Railway streets;

Memorial Avenue, from Berger to Beeber streets;

Stevens Street, from West Fourth Street to Memorial Avenue;

Sutton Avenue, from Stevens to Oliver streets; and

Depot Street, from Boyd to West Third streets.

Work includes slip form curbing, drainage improvements and sidewalk, landscaping and street rehabilitation.

The city also is proposing to fund the removal of architectural barriers, will keep its program of reconstructing curb ramps and estimated that it will complete about 20 new curb ramps on various streets.

“We’ve allocated a total of $688,568 to public facilities and improvements,” Grado said. “We’ve allocated $4,754 for public services activities.”

Expenses are broken down to $3,000 for the Lycoming County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and $1,754 for the public services administration. The spay-and-neuter voucher program enables those who qualify financially to get a reduced rate for spaying and neutering as an incentive for low-income pet owners who otherwise might not be able to afford the operation.

Home repairs and buying programs

A sum of $244,365 will be allocated to housing rehabilitation and preservation activities. The city has an owner-occupied, single-family rehabilitation program that offers grants and low-interest loans for repairs.

The program helps income-eligible homeowners make needed code and safety repairs and improvements to their homes. The Community Development Block Grant funds for this will be used for emergency cases, which are not permitted under the HOME program.

The handicapped accessibility program offers grants of up to $5,000 for accessibility improvements to residential properties occupied by low-income individuals with disabling conditions. Work items covered under the program include railings, ramps, doorway adjustments and bathroom modifications.

A sum of $154,365 will be allocated for the costs associated with housing rehabilitation and homebuyer assistance.

The city is proposing to allocate $30,574 in HOME funds for the homebuyer assistance activity. The funds will provide gap financing to eligible homebuyers of up to 20 percent of the purchase prise as a deferred repayment, and as a no-interest loan.

The city is required to reserve 15 percent of its HOME allocation for distribution to a certified housing development organization (CHODO) to assist with projects that provide housing to low and moderate income residents. The city will allocate $38,529 to fund the project undertaken by one of the city’s two certified organizations – Lycoming Neighborhood Development Corp. or Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity.

Under code enforcement, $30,000 of the Community Development Block Grant funds will be allocated for use in low- to moderate-income areas. The work involves codes-related demolition and blight elimination.