• Gazette 2.0

In addition to ALCOSAN rate hike, borough considers 39% sewage rate increase

By Jamie Wiggan

-McKees Rocks-

Passed immediately after, the $4.5 million general budget anticipates growth of approximately $100,000 from 2020 when differences in budget-neutral Tax Anticipated Note loans are taken into account.

The McKees Rocks council passed a general budget during its Dec. 15 business meeting, but held off on approving a sewer budget while it works to reach a consensus on whether to hike customer rates in the new year.

Despite falling short of a consensus on the 39% increase called for by the new budget, borough officials agreed to advertise the new rate so they would be in a position to approve it with immediate effect when council meets in January.

Should it pass, McKees Rocks residents will be hit by two separate hikes, with the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) having already announced plans to raise county-wide charges by seven to 15% in 2021. The raise under council’s consideration is a separate charge the borough collects to pay for maintenance costs on the sewage infrastructure within the town.

Manager Ruth Pompey, who proposed the increase, said the proposed per 1,000 gallons rate of $6.00 (up from $4.32) is necessary for keeping up with imminent sewage expenses.

“We’re running on the negative on the sewer fund right now,” she said, adding that a $344,000 sewage bill was coming due at the end of the month.

Councilwoman Liz Delgado argued the borough was in a position to cover the bill with its current sewer fund balance and noted the municipality was applying for four sewage infrastructure grants that could potentially offset sewage maintenance costs in coming years.

Delgado and councilwoman Sarah Harvey urged council to hold off on rate changes while the coronavirus pandemic continues to dampen the economy, but they failed to rally the votes to pass a motion.

Instead, council split 4–2 in favor of a dual motion to advertise the rate change and table the sewer budget until January.

Councilmembers Archie Brinza, Chaz Maritz, Leslie Walker and Joe Mixter voted in support, while Delgado and Harvey opposed. President Paul Krisby, Vice President Kathy Evich and councilman Craig Myers were absent.

Those who voted in favor said they weresympathetic to Harvey and Delgado’s concerns but insisted council needed to keep its options on the table.

“If we vote for [Harvey’s motion to maintain the current sewage rates], then we’re gonna put ourselves in a jam, because we’re gonna be out of balance,” Brinza said.

General budget

Passed immediately after, the $4.5 million general budget anticipates growth of approximately $100,000 from 2020 when differences in budget-neutral Tax Anticipated Note loans are taken into account.

Most of the extra projected income will be absorbed by personnel costs, with staff raises taking effect in several departments, and new employees added to the police department and secretary’s office also factoring into next year’s expenses.

Delgado and Harvey objected to the general budget, which passed in a 4–2 vote, with Brinza, Maritz, Walker and Mixter voting in support.

Council did not discuss the budget before or after the roll call, however, interviewed after the meeting, Delgado said she thought its revenue predictions were unrealistic and disapproved of offering staff raises during the pandemic.

“I thought it was ridiculously optimistic to keep the income the same as this year,” she said. “…Considering that everyone got significant raises last year, I think we could have frozen salaries for a year during the pandemic.”

Harvey also said she took issue with the staff raises contained in the budget.

“I believe during a global pandemic we should give all non-union employees a rate freeze,“ she said. “I think council needed to have more discussion.”


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