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INDIANA BOROUGH: No tax increase expected

by RANDY WELLS rwells@indianagazette.net on October 16, 2013 11:00 AM

Real estate taxes in Indiana Borough will apparently remain the same in 2014 and there likely will be no increase in user fees to support next year’s general fund budget for Indiana.

Borough Manager William Sutton presented council Tuesday with a draft of the 2014 budget that projects total general fund expenditures of $6,063,802 and total general fund revenues of $5,643,249. The projected expenditures and revenues are both approximate 0.5 percent increases compared to the current budget.

An anticipated $500,000 surplus at the end of 2013 will be used to balance next year’s spending plan, according to Sutton.

“This budget comes without a (real estate tax) millage increase” and is based on the borough’s current user fee schedule for things such as parking fines and event fees, Sutton told council.

However, he said it would probably be prudent for council to “revisit our fees schedule” soon and consider changes.

“We’ve got to start putting money aside” to pay for future upgrades to the borough’s infrastructure, Councilman John Hartman said.

Councilman Ross Bricklemyer said he would prefer to see additional money raised from user fees rather than from higher taxes.

Hartman again reminded borough residents they could play a more active role in holding the line on borough expenses.

“We could lower the charge for garbage collections if they’d recycle more and stop throwing it away” in the trash, Hartman said. Increasing participation in recycling will be especially important, he said, when the borough’s contract for garbage collection is renegotiated in 2015.

The budget draft includes a $58,000 expenditure for a new planning department and planning director. A planning department has not been formally established but its creation is anticipated, Sutton said. The borough’s planning functions will then be moved to that new department from the Code Enforcement Department.

And — as was hinted at at last week’s council meeting — the $6,000 annual rent payment by the Indiana Free Library to the borough is eliminated in the 2014 budget.

Sutton asked the council members to review the budget draft. His plan is to have the proposed budget approved for advertising at council’s November meeting and then voted on in December.

Sutton, who is also the chief of police, also reported to council on police activities during the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Homecoming festivities of Oct. 4 to 6.

From 3 p.m. Thursday to 3 p.m. Sunday of homecoming weekend, Indiana officers responded to and investigated 265 calls for service, a 252 percent increase over the average daily calls for service, Sutton said.

Indiana officers made 156 arrests during homecoming, and the most common offenses were 49 incidents of public drunkenness, 31 incidents of underage drinking and 14 incidents each of disorderly conduct and retail theft.

At least 30 of those arrested were IUP students.

There were six assaults, the most serious of which was an officer who was kicked in the throat.

According to Sutton’s report, the number of calls for service was up only about 1 percent compared to the 2012 homecoming weekend, but the real challenge for Indiana officers — and for the state troopers and officers from Punxsutawney and Homer City who assisted the Indiana police — was controlling the large crowds that at times spread into residential neighborhoods and used streets as sidewalks. There was a greater potential during this homecoming for an “out-of-control situation,” he said.

“We make arrests when we have to,” Sutton said, but he added that the strategy for the officers was to strike a balance between omnipresence, control and arrests.

The homecoming celebrations cost the borough more than $8,000 in overtime pay for officers, according to the chief’s report.

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