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McKeesport’s 2021 budget cuts more than a half-million dollars in spending and keeps tax rates the same.
“We will continue to try to shrink this budget,” Mayor Michael Cherepko told city council at its December meeting. “I’m looking next year to try to get below $22 million, to $21 million.”
On Wednesday, city council, with six members participating via telephone due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unanimously approved the $22.1 million spending plan, which holds taxes at 8.26 mills on structures and 20.5 mills on land.
McKeesport is one of three cities in Allegheny County that has separate millage rates on land and buildings. Each “mill” represents $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed value.
McKeesport’s 2020 budget was $22.66 million. City council last year raised the millage for only the second time since 2001 — a move that Cherepko said this week was the “right choice but was not the popular choice.”
The quarterly municipal service fee of $75 per household, or $60 for senior citizens, also will remain the same.
The mayor commended City Administrator Tom Maglicco, Finance Director Tasha Phelps and Chief Revenue Officer Matt Gergely for their efforts to trim spending while increasing collection of wage taxes and fees through more accurate record-keeping.
But Cherepko warned that the number of jobs in every department has been cut over the past decade, and said that method of saving money may not be available forever.
“This year, we lost three people in the finance department and we hired zero,” Cherepko said. “All of our departments are down tremendously under this administration and I commend all of our employees for stepping up to the plate and taking on additional tasks.
“But you get to a point where you cut so much it’s hard to provide services, and if you don’t provide services, you can’t keep existing residents and attract new residents,” he said.
More than 40 percent of the city’s expenses are wages, and pension and benefit obligations account for another 25 percent, Cherepko said.
About $800,000 is set aside in the 2021 budget for the administration’s “McKeesport Rising” initiative to demolish vacant buildings and repair infrastructure, including street-paving. The money for McKeesport Rising was generated through the 2017 sale of McKeesport’s municipal sewerage system and treatment plant to Pennsylvania American Water Co.
“We’re doing everything we can to stay out of Act 47” financially distressed status, Cherepko said. The sale of the sewerage authority “bought us time,” he said.
Jason Togyer is editor of Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published December 04, 2020.