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Duquesne Budget Holds Line on Taxes, Has Surplus

Employees to receive raises, public safety spending up

By Tom Leturgey
The Tube City Almanac
December 19, 2022
Posted in: Duquesne News

Duquesne’s 2023 budget is expected to hold the line on real-estate and earned-income taxes.

City council will vote on the proposal at Tuesday’s meeting.

The preliminary spending plan, developed by interim city Manager George Newsome and Councilman Derek Artim, was posted on the city’s website Dec. 7.

Duquesne officials say there will be no increase in the real estate or earned income tax in 2023. The municipal real estate tax rate is a blended $21.33 per $1,000 and the earned income tax rate is 1.65 percent for residents and 1.30 percent for non-residents.

Also unchanged is the 1-mill of current real estate tax dedicated to the fire department expenditures. This amount does not include the approximate $20,000 from the Firemen’s Relief fund.

Newsome said Duquesne expects to enter 2023 with a “substantial surplus” of approximately $1.3 million. Officials said real estate tax revenue in particular has lagged “slightly behind expectations.”

Treasurer Maureen Strahl noted that $1.5 million in real estate taxes had been collected so far in 2022, which is about 74 percent of the amount owed to the city.

Act 47 Coordinator George Dougherty said that most municipalities hope to collect real estate tax from 92 percent of property owners, but city officials said they thought Duquesne’s number was fair with the amount of abandoned properties there are in the municipality.

The proposed budget estimates that Duquesne will draw down $293,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding. All other expenditures are either lower or near the current allocated budget amount.

There is also an anticipated deficit in the city’s water fund due to capturing indirect expenses correctly and timing of reimbursement for grant funds.

All union and non-union employees will receive pay increases; conversely, employee health benefit costs increased by approximately 8 percent, city officials said.

The budget includes a separate capital budget, with $125,000 allocated to projects from the non-resident earned income tax as required under the state-approved Act 47 recovery plan.

Duquesne is expected to leave Act 47 oversight in 2023. Officials will have to prove the ability to produce balanced budgets, establish reserves of 5 to 10 percent of expenditures and develop a five-year capital improvement plan with annual funding.

In the proposed budget, Newsome wrote that “after running substantial deficits in 2016 and 2017, the city experienced small surpluses and deficits from 2018 to 2021. Strong growth in tax collections and federal ARPA funds combined with more stable expenditures should leave the city a substantial surplus at the end of 2022.”

Duquesne’s total revenues for 2022 are at $5.0 million and total expenditures are at $3.8 million. The proposed 2023 spending plan has $4.39 million in total revenues and $3.98 million in total expenditures.

About 42 percent of expenditures are earmarked for public safety. Additional money will be spent on public works and parks & recreation spending is expected to increase from $1,432 in 2022 to $12,600 in the new year.

The proposed budget for 2023 allocates $62,803 for the volunteer fire department, a marked difference of the more than $97,000 in expenditures this year, when the department is running a $27,255 deficit. The proposed budget for 2023 is nearly identical to the amount the fire department budget proposed for this year.

City officials said they hope to have a $15,831 surplus of revenues in the Debt Service Fund, which would be up from the projected $10,685 for this year.

Solicitor Myron Sainovich noted that changes can be made in the budget at the beginning of 2023, but the spending plan must be approved by the end of 2022.

Tom Leturgey is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh and the editor of KSWA Digest, the online news and features home of the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance. His work also appears in The Valley Mirror and other publications.

Originally published December 19, 2022.

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