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City budget adopted with tax increase

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Williamsport Finance Director William Nichols Jr. looks over notes before the vote on the Operating Budget for the city during the Williamsport City Council Meeting Thursday.

City Council adopted a $28.1 million tax-hike budget Thursday night with Mayor Gabriel J. Campana saying he remained undecided on whether to veto or not sign it.

The budget sets the tax rate at 15.72 mills and includes a 0.25-mill tax increase, which is $25 per year.

Campana offered no comment when the administration was asked for any.

William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director, said the budget has a fund reserve balance of more than $263,000. It is 12 separate smaller city budgets in one and will cost the average homeowner with a property assessed at $100,000, $1,572 a year.

The budget provides for a complement of 49 police officers, adding two to the department, and adds a third-shift employee on the streets and parks department.

It provides for a fire department of 33 members and pays for their salaries and benefits.

The health care premiums went up by 5 percent.

The budget keeps the existing employee levels without any layoffs or furloughs.

The budget covers expenses as part of the River Valley Transit and it maintains existing services such as recreational programs and upkeep of the outdoor swimming pool at Memorial Park.

Mayor-elect Derek Slaughter voted against the budget and tax increase.

Five others on council voted in favor of the budget with Councilwoman Liz Miele absent.

Miele voted on first reading for the tax increase and the proposed budget last week.

Campana said when approached after the meeting and asked if he would sign the budget, that he had to decide.

As mayor, Campana can either sign it, veto the budget, which disrupts the council and administration during the holiday break because it would have to hold a meeting and that would require a two-thirds majority to overrule the mayor’s veto, or he can leave it unsigned.

Campana’s budget was a zero-tax increase, which he said held money for negotiation for consulting firms.

The money was there in legislative contingency fund without having to raise taxes, Campana said.

Instead, the council decided to add $100,000 into the fund in case there becomes a need for requesting proposals from consulting companies for economic development purposes.

Slaughter, when he takes the oath of office on Jan. 6 to become the next mayor, has the authority to reopen the budget.

Several resolutions were presented for outgoing council members, Don Noviello, Joel Henderson and a certificate of appreciation for Gerry Fausnaught, who spent five months on council after being voted on by the council to fill the open seat left by Jonathan Williamson.

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