Verona authorities increase property taxes and cut street paving to compensate for accounting error
Verona homeowners will pay more property taxes as the city council approved an estimated 24% tax hike as part of this year’s budget.
Council approved increasing the mile rate from 7.8 to 9.7 miles, which represents an increase of 1.9 miles.
That means a tax increase of just under $ 96 per year for those with a median property value of $ 50,400.
Projected revenues are estimated at approximately $ 1.76 million and expenses at approximately $ 1.63 million. This is a surplus of approximately $ 130,000.
The revenues included approximately $ 981,000 in real estate, $ 335,000 in local enabling taxes, $ 151,000 in state-shared revenues, $ 125,600 in intergovernmental revenues, $ 57,000 in business licenses and permits, and 18,000 $ in fines and forfeitures.
Expenses include approximately $ 580,000 for police, $ 275,000 for public works, $ 190,000 for administration, $ 160,000 for capital expenditures, $ 90,000 for legal services, $ 60,000 for engineering, $ 54,000 for fire protection, $ 40,000 for finance including accounting and auditing, $ 44,600 for parks and playgrounds, $ 31,000 for code enforcement and 23,500 $ for tax collection.
There is no money allocated for road paving in the budget, which passed unanimously on December 14.
âWe looked at all types of scenarios,â said Nancy Carpenter, who was chair of the board at the time the budget was passed. âThis is what we could do without leaving ourselves vulnerable. I think considering everything we’ve had to do, it’s a pretty solid budget for this year.
Accounting error blamed
The council also agreed to defer a payment of $ 55,000 to the sewer fund for one year, as it continues to rectify an accounting error, which officials said was one of the main reasons for an estimated budget deficit. at $ 370,000.
The council has withdrawn money from its sewer fund over the past few years and spent it on general purposes, which is against the borough code.
Dave Matlin, who was vice chairman of the board at the time the budget was passed, said sewer fund money had been acquired from the Oakmont Water Authority and was to be set aside for repair and l sewer maintenance.
Instead, Verona borrowed about $ 550,000 from itself.
Matlin said the error was not discovered until earlier this year, when Verona changed its accounting departments.
There is no deadline for repaying the money – or ways to cover a major sewer problem if it does.
The Covid did not affect the budget
Budget documents indicate that there has been no significant loss of income or increase in spending due to covid.
âI don’t think we were negatively affected by the pandemic, so that wasn’t our challenge,â Carpenter said.
One challenge was to find things to cut in order to minimize a tax hike.
What was cut
The council not only cut the paving, but the hiring of another police officer, a trip to Seven Springs for the council to mingle and learn from other city leaders and public works overtime by not watering flower baskets.
âIt’s a very meager budget in terms of spending, and we had to make a lot of compromises,â said Matlin. âWe have tried to listen to each other on the board and also to listen to the public, while balancing the need to continue to provide a basic level of essential public services. This includes things like police, public works, and support for volunteer firefighters. It became clear that we would not avoid a tax increase without cutting back on these essential operations and services in the borough, which neither of us wanted to do.
Borough secretary Christina DeRunk was hired in August and had to quickly get to grips with community operations, as well as get to work with elected officials on the pending budget.
She led a discussion in November, with the help of consultant Susan G. Hockenberry, in which she described the borough’s serious financial difficulties.
âI think that last year, the borough did a wonderful job to improve transparency, communication and the implementation of internal controls,â she said. “There is still progress to be made, but I am optimistic for 2022 that the borough will continue on a good trajectory.”
Board members praised DeRunk’s efforts, especially with the budget
The board reorganized earlier this month and appointed Matlin’s chairman. Carpenter is no longer on the board.
The budget is available for review at the Borough office, 736 E. Railroad Ave.