CORRECTION, Dec. 14, 2018: Police and fire staffing remain the same in 2019 as in 2018. Two firefighter job classifications have changed and are in a different line on the 2019 budget. This story incorrectly said two positions were being eliminated. We apologize for the error. -JT
McKeesport officials will hold the line on taxes and fees again in 2019.
The city's $24.5 million budget, approved unanimously by council on Dec. 5, keeps taxes at 6.26 mills on buildings and 18.5 mills on land.
One mill represents $1 in taxes paid for every $1,000 for which a property is assessed. A house assessed at $48,000 by Allegheny County would pay approximately $300 in city property taxes.
"There are no increases in taxes and no salary increases, beyond those we are contracted for," McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko said last week. "There are no increases for the administration."
The spending plan is about $1.4 million more than the 2018 budget, though increases --- if any --- appear to be modest in most departments. A larger than usual appropriation from the Allegheny Regional Asset District for Renziehausen Park, as well as increased federal community development block grant funding and some money from the so-called "McKeesport Rising" project account for much of the change.
Funded by the proceeds of the sale of the city's sewerage authority to Pennsylvania-American Water Co., "McKeesport Rising" is the name that Cherepko has given to the administration's effort to target blight removal and repair city infrastructure --- especially roads and streets.
Read Mayor Michael Cherepko's budget message (PDF reader required)
"Conditions have deteriorated over the years," he said in his accompanying budget message to council. "In the past, we did our best to spread thinly the resources we do have and essentially use Band-Aids, like patching, to put a temporary fix on a larger problem."
The sale of the sewerage authority has allowed the city to invest in "proper, long-term" repairs, Cherepko said.
But the mayor cautioned that the city can't rely on any more asset sales to correct income shortfalls.
"While we spend and invest our revenues wisely, we will continue to tighten our budget," he said. "We will decrease our expenditures by reducing our workforce through attrition."
Police and fire staffing remain the same.
There is one fewer position budgeted in the street crew, and with the retirement this year of Building Inspector Chris House, and the city's decision to contract out building inspection service, the full-time position of building inspector has been eliminated.
"McKeesport will continue to work through the same problems as many community throughout the state and nation, where the cost of providing quality municipal services increases disproportionately to an ever-decreasing tax base," Cherepko told council.
"We must rebuild our tax base, improve our neighborhoods and encourage home ownership," he added. "We must continue to find creative ways to provide the services McKeesport residents deserve."
Jason Togyer is the editor of Tube City Almanac and the volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published December 13, 2018.