City codes, pensions deserve in-depth exam in city budget talks

Discussions over the City of Williamsport’s budget start Monday night and, at first glance, appear to be rather predictable.

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana is proposing a $21.8 million budget that includes no real estate tax increase.

As with just about every year, a dominant part of the city’s budget is gobbled up by police and fire protection.

The budget for 2014 allocates $14.5 million for the police bureau and fire department.

And there are pension needs in both those departments to be kept up with every year.

Most of the rest of the budget is for other personnel costs.

It all adds up to not much budget flexibility for the city. It’s been that way for many years.

An influx of $1 million from the Marcellus Shale impact fees will allow the city to do road and housing projects in the coming year that might not otherwise be able to do.

Council’s job is to make sure all those predictable costs still apply to next year’s city budget.

Council also should examine closely the size and responsibilities of the codes department, especially with the advent of its new rental property ordinance.

The administration is proposing two more codes employees next year.

Two City Council members have called for four additional codes employees and a number of other initiatives geared to strengthening codes enforcement and helping fight the city’s crime problems related to rental properties.

Empowering the codes department and meeting future pension demands are two concerns that will not be going away for the foreseeable future in Williamsport.

They are therefore two topics worthy of in-depth discussion during this year’s otherwise predictable city budget talks.