indiana borough bldg sign

Indiana Borough Council voted Tuesday to advertise a draft proposal for a $6.73 million 2020 budget with an anticipated $51,279 surplus.

“Staff is not recommending a tax increase for 2020,” borough Manager C. Michael Foote told council. “We will have a small operational surplus that we can transfer into the (borough’s) Capital Improvement Budget.”

According to the Indiana County Tax Assessment office, that would hold the line on taxes at 6.022 mills, after three straight years of tax increases.

Council Administration Committee Chairman Sean McDaniel moved to advertise the budget “with the understanding that we will tweak the budget as we move forward.”

In his message to council, Foote said council could approve a final budget on Dec. 3 but, as council President Peter Broad pointed out, “that’s not quite 30 days.”

So McDaniel amended his motion to set a date for voting on a final budget on Dec. 3 or Dec. 17 “or the next available date in 2019.”

Councilman Dave Coker seconded the motion, which was approved 11-0 with Councilwoman Betsy Sarneso absent.

Answering a question from Councilman Jim McQuown, the borough manager said, “there is no anticipated reduction in services,” but there is budget trimming as noted by Foote in his draft:

• “The 2020 Budget is proposed to decrease by 1 percent over the 2019 Budget,” including a reduction in the line item for the Inhabit Indiana program meant to encourage home ownership within borough limits from $20,000 to $5,000 “to reflect activity experienced during the prior year.”

• The line item covering wages for custodial and maintenance staff would increase by 1 percent, while the police budget would go up by 2 percent to reflect leasing/purchasing of a police vehicle, the codes/zoning department would have a 4 percent reduction in expenditures and the planning department would have a 13 percent decrease.

• From state liquid fuels funding comes $85,000 the Public Works Department added to the “New Equipment” line to offset purchase of a new plow truck.

• Revenues have increased due to a 50 cent per month increase in sewer rates approved by the Public Utility Commission, with a 27 percent increase in revenues anticipated next year.

One fee may go up in the coming year. Foote noted in his message that the Indiana County Solid Waste Authority increased fees by 15 percent “to address current market conditions which may drive up collection costs.”

As a result, one suggestion posed to council is to increase recycling fees from $1 to $2 per month per household. Foote noted that the actual cost of recycling now ranges from $1.30 to $1.75 per month.

Three announcements capped what otherwise was the agenda workshop meeting, which normally takes on matters to be voted on when council reconvenes on Nov. 19.

Council Public Safety Committee Chairman Donald Lancaster said his panel’s next meeting was shifted from Nov. 21 to Nov. 20 at 7 p.m.

Council Vice President and Public Works Committee Chairman Gerald Smith said a “soft opening” is scheduled for the Indiana Multi-modal Corridor on Friday from noon to 12:30 p.m. at the new trailhead/mode transfer station for the Hoodlebug Trail Extension at Eighth and Church Streets.

And Broad announced that Laurie Lafontaine, who is active on the Cambria & Indiana Trail Council and the Indiana County Parks and Trails board, will be honored by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association with its 2019 Citizen Planner Award on Nov. 13 at 10:30 a.m. during a meeting of the Indiana County Board of Commissioners at the county courthouse. A reception will follow at 11 a.m.