Portage officials predict solid budget for 2014

PORTAGE – Borough officials said a “good budget year” for 2013 is setting the borough up for a good 2014, as well.

Council voted unanimously last week to advertise its $885,000 budget for adoption.

There will be no tax increase, keeping millage at 14.56 mills, and a garbage-contract extension will also keep collection rates at 2013 levels.

As in previous years, major chunks of the budget go toward police, public works and community development, but funding levels are remaining roughly the same through the next year.

However, Borough Manager Robert Koban said Portage officials will be looking at some new expenditures, including purchasing a new police cruiser and hiring a new public works director to replace longtime Director Donald Squillario, who is retiring in the spring.

Koban said the borough likely will be saving money on the hire, for which they have budgeted up to $38,000, but a new police cruiser, outfitted with necessary police equipment, will cost roughly $32,000.

“We had a pretty good year, overall,” Koban said, noting that the borough didn’t use about $27,000 of its public-safety budget this year because of scheduling issues for police officers.

It was a mixed bag, he said: Sometimes slots went unfilled because coverage wasn’t needed, while other times officers weren’t available for their shifts.

Although the borough won’t be looking to hire any more full-time officers next year, Koban said, there was enough funding to increase part-time officers’ wages earlier this year from $9.35 to $11 per hour.

Borough workers will be seeing a wage increase as well next year, with a 3 percent salary increase, including a cost-of-living adjustment, which Koban said employees hadn’t received since 2008.

“We wanted to do something for the employees,” he said of the raise, which council also approved unanimously.

The total remaining balance for 2014 is set at just under $100,000, less than the borough had in reserve in previous years.

For example, in 2012 there was slightly more than $200,000 in reserve, with nearly $130,000

budgeted in reserve for 2013.

Koban attributed the difference to more money being put into a capital-improvement fund, which will be paying for two sidewalk projects and an intersection-improvement project next year.

But he also said the reserve is continuing to be built up to help with future expenses, like a planned public works building.

“It is a good budget year. We’re on pretty solid-footed ground right now,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.