Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski delivered his proposed 2018 city budget to City Council this afternoon. The $107.8 million spending plan holds the property tax rate steady for a 13th consecutive year!
In his message to City Council, Pawlowski said, “The proposed 2018 Budget and Program of Services will see a continuation of the austere spending and employment practices that this administration has pursued in the past and continues to build upon both the extraordinary success our great city is realizing as a result of the tremendous investment and job development projects coming to fruition in the Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ).”
Pawlowski said, “The proposed 2018 operating budget is balanced on the basis of conservative revenue estimates and careful prioritization of necessary expenditures. As 2017 ends, aggregate City revenues remain consistent with these future projections; in fact, revenues from existing sources in 2018 will increase 4 percent above the totals projected in the 2017 budget. Initiatives to improve tax compliance and ensure comprehensive building inspection and permitting also will boost recurring revenue during the fiscal year.”
The Business Privilege Tax remains stable, as does the $52 Local Services Tax. The Refuse Collection Fee remains flat.
The proposed budget provides for all collectively bargained pay increases and a 3.5 percent salary increase for all other personnel.
New short-term equipment financing is included to ensure sufficient fleet replacement and a new generation of the City’s first responder communication system.
Pension contributions are increased to meet the more conservative investment return projections. Funds from the 2013 water and sewer system concession lease assigned for repayment of pension obligation bonds will support the City’s 2018 additional pension obligation in support of its active and retired employees.
Non-personnel expenses remain nominally flat in comparison to the 2017 budget.
The proposed budget anticipates an $8.5 million unrestricted cash balance in the City’s General Fund with which to begin 2018, and the pension reserve utilization mentioned above has no effect on this fund availability.
The 2018 proposed budget includes the following new initiatives:
• Several new positions designed to assist in increasing fiscal accountability and improving tax compliance.
• Two new fire engine pumpers, a new ambulance, new MDT’s and 12 new patrol cars and a prisoner transport van to enhance the city’s public safety fleet.
• New security cameras for the community.
• Two new combination building inspectors, an additional pre-sales inspector and an additional zoning officer will ensure comprehensive building inspection and permitting throughout the city.
The administration has developed a multi-year plan to accomplish the task of upgrading radio communications equipment, IT infrastructure and its rolling stock and continue much needed infrastructure improvements.
The budget proposes taking out a short term loan to fund those necessary items in the police department, for some I-T related projects and for some vehicles with an estimated 10 year life. These projects exceed the limitations of the annual operational budget, but are necessary improvements that will enhance the services offered to city residents, better the delivery of those services and protect the investments in city infrastructure that were the wise decisions of leaders dating back more than 50 years.
Finally, as other cities across the commonwealth and country have done, the city will implement a storm water management fee to address the effects of federal environmental mandates and ongoing erosion to public works facilities.
The new stormwater management fee of $20 per 500 square feet of impervious surface will provide specifically dedicated revenue for stormwater infrastructure improvements for years to come and will shift more than $3 million in recurring expenditures out of the city’s General Fund.
According to Pawlowski, “These new initiatives will assure a solid fiscal footing for the city and improve the safety of our communities for years to come.”
Pawlowski thanked the directors of the city departments, bureau managers and supervisors for their diligence throughout the budget preparation process. “They prepare the numbers and continually work and re-work them to help compile a budget that provides city taxpayers with outstanding services at reasonable costs.”