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City won’t raise taxes

Council adopts budget without tree fee

City Council on Wednesday adopted a $33.7 million budget that calls for no property or earned income tax increases.

City property tax will remain at 5.129 mills, so the owner of a property assessed at $100,000 would continue to pay $513.

City property owners also pay 6.0013 mills to the Altoona Area School District and 3.925 mills to Blair County, for a total millage of 15.0553.

That total millage generates a bill of $1,505 for the owner of a property assessed at $100,000.

Earned income tax for Altoona residents will remain 1 percent for general revenue (with half of that going to the Altoona Area School District); 0.2 percent for general revenue as authorized under home rule; and 0.4 percent for pension support.

Earned income tax for residents of other municipalities who nevertheless work in the city will remain at 1 percent for general revenue (with half going to the school district) and 0.4 percent for pensions.

Adopted by unanimous vote, the 2020 budget is identical to the tentative budget approved in November.

That tentative budget didn’t include a 0.15 mill property tax increase to pay for street tree maintenance proposed initially by Interim City Manager Peter Marshall.

That proposed increase would have raised $280,000 a year for trimming, planting and removal of trees.

In November, council replaced it with a one-year pilot funded by the initially proposed budget’s operating surplus for 2020 $134,000.

The city is expected to end 2019 with an operating surplus of $176,000, Marshall said previously.

It expects to end this year also with a contingency fund of $5.2 million, Finance Director Omar Strohm said previously.

The contingency fund is one of three created recently from what had been an $11 million unassigned fund balance. The other funds are for vehicle replacement, to reduce the need for capital borrowing, and a grant match fund to allow for quick response to grant opportunities.

The budget calls for a 2 percent increase in employee wages and the equivalent of a 4 percent increase in benefits.

It also calls for adding two new positions to the Public Works Department — engineering manager and utility right-of-way inspector.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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