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Williamsport city council to review next year’s department budget needs this summer

The City of Williamsport will begin to look at the various departmental budget needs for 2023 at upcoming finance committee meetings.

The largest budgets are those of Bureaus of Police and Fire, which have been eyed as the starting point of such discussions by Councilwoman Liz Miele, committee chair.

The idea is to begin the budgeting process with public safety and move on with each department before the council must look at these in November.

“My proposal is to take the budget concept department by department,” she said.

The plan is to start at either the first or second committee meeting in July.

“I wanted to give the department heads adequate time to consider their needs,” Miele said.

“Perhaps begin with public safety departments which have more needs and desires than some of the other departments,” she said, “and clearly have much larger budgets.”

These budgets and personnel costs account for about 80% of the operating budget each year.

The committee could begin by speaking with each of the chiefs of police and fire at separate meetings and talk with them about their hopes for 2023.

If the committee examines each department budget on a biweekly schedule that gives the city time to revisit with chiefs of police and fire in October when they have crystalized their budgets more.

Conversations could be whether the chiefs are interested in additional training or bringing in new officers or firefighters and the city would discuss the budgetary implications.

It is hoped early discussions would give chiefs and other department heads greater confidence in putting in a budget that eventually will go before council in November.

The plan is to have discussions with all departments such as finance, which has not budgeted for staff increases in several years.

At the same time the committee can hear from Joseph Pawlak, interim city finance director, to look at the budget holistically and get overall figures of where the city is at financially.

The city awaits state and local audits of the prior city budgets and those at River Valley Transit to determine an accurate baseline.

The committee concurred on pursuing the departmental budget discussions, likely starting in July and continuing every two weeks.

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