Council to dive into proposed 1-mill budget hike

City Council is expected to tackle next year’s proposed $29 million budget in a remote meeting tonight. It remains unclear if council will adopt the proposed budget, but Council President Randall J. Allison said there is a consensus to get it done before the end of the year because if no budget is passed no money can be spent.

Mayor Derek Slaughter’s proposed budget carries a proposed 1-mill tax hike, and he and council members said that could be reduced further with discussions tonight.

One mill of real estate tax generates $860,000. A 1-mill tax increase would be $100 more for a house assessed at $100,000.

Council reduced the millage through a series of cuts to Slaughter’s proposed $29.7 million budget, which originally carried a 2.5 mill tax increase.

On Tuesday, council’s finance committee did not express favor with Slaughter’s proposal to spend half of an $850,000 City Hall maintenance account on reductions to the millage to bring it to 0.5 mills of tax hike proposed.

The committee, however, gave a years-in-the-making storm-water management agreement between the city and Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority a positive recommendation heading into an expected vote.

The city infrastructure below ground will be conveyed to the authority “as is,” Slaughter said.

“Whatever that may be,” said Jon Sander, city engineer.

“We have a good guess,” said Michael Miller, authority executive director, to the age and condition of the city infrastructure.

Councilman Adam Yoder said it was important to know what the city and authority obligations will be and that they are spelled out and reviewed by city assistant solicitor and the authority attorney and board.

Councilwoman Liz Miele, chairwoman of city finance committee and council vice president, also noted how city debt service will remain despite transfer of storm-water assets to the authority.

Allison said the agreement settles issues that could not be done in previous years. He said the relationship with the city and authority is at a point where the agreement could be picked back up where it was left off.

Should the agreement be approved tonight, the effective take of the authority taking over control and management of the city underground storm-water assets would be March 1, Miller said.

Delay until March would provide time for attorneys in the city and authority to hash out final details regarding legal easements and titles of properties and assets, Miller said.

The boiled-down version of the agreement showed it will allow the authority, with its engineering, technicians and experience in storm-water pipe and facilities replacements and management, to take control of the system while continuing to keep the city in a joint partnership on decisions and improvements.

In the committee discussion, Councilwoman Bonnie Katz, chairwoman of the city public works department, asked if the payment from the authority to the city of $80,000 a year would end with signing the agreement and enacting it in March.

Joseph Pawlak, city interim finance director, said the $80,000 was put into the proposed budget and that he was “not aware of the terms” of the agreement.

The $80,000 is from the authority and toward levee-related issues, specifically the city pump stations near the river, which protect the city from flooding.

Operation of the pump stations will remain with the city until the stations are brought up to standard, a process that has begun between Lycoming County Planning Department and the city as part of the levee rehabilitation and recertification project, according to the agreement.

The agreement has a separation of duties document in it to determine which entity is responsible for what.

Miele also noted how the city put $200,000 a year aside for storm-water management.

Pawlak noted that reserve started this year.

“So, the city has the $80,000 and put aside $200,000 it may no longer need,” Miele said.

Any broken pipes would be the authority responsibility regarding repair, the agreement stated.

The agreement further provides for any land development or new projects that require storm-water management must be approved by the city engineer and authority, Sander said.

Sander said the authority has been provided maps where assets such as storm-water inlets, are located and that the authority digitized the maps on its Geographic Information System.

Sander said he continued to “feed plans” for each city project to the authority so it can connect those on the digital mapping system.

“It provides real-time storm-water facilities in the city,” he said.

Slaughter said he and Sander would write the storm-water agreement in a resolution, which was not on the council agenda before the committee meeting, in time for tonight’s council meeting which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. It is accessible by going to the city website page and following the prompts to the YouTube channel.

The meetings are broadcast live and can be rebroadcast a few minutes after they conclude, said Christopher Cooley, city information technology specialist and assistant general manager of River Valley Transit.


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