Budget calls for increases in tax, fees for Irwin |

Budget calls for increases in tax, fees for Irwin

Irwin officials are proposing a 2015 budget that would increase the property-tax rate to cover the cost of hiring two more full-time police officers and help finance a new ladder truck for the volunteer fire department by creating what would, in effect, be a fire-service tax.

Increases in the fees for trash collection and sewage also have been proposed.

Released last week, the $3.5-million proposal calls for a 1.5-mill increase in the property-tax rates.

Half a mill of the proposed increase would generate about $15,000 annually to help the Irwin Volunteer Fire Department make payments on a new firetruck that is to be delivered by the end of the year. The truck costs nearly $700,000.

The rest of the proposed rate hike would pay to hire a new police officer early next year and a second officer sometime later in 2015. In addition to the police chief, the borough has two-full time police officers.

Officials last week debated the need to raise the millage to hire additional police officers.

Councilman John Cassandro said annual crime statistics he obtained from a state website indicate that crime has dipped in the borough over the past decade with the current department size.

But Councilwoman Peggie Watson said council should follow police Chief Roger Pivirotto’s recommendation to increase the size of his department.

“If we’re going to bring more people into Irwin, then we need to have more police protection,” she said in reference to the borough’s successful efforts to attract visitors to the borough with entertainment and other activities.

After the meeting, Pivirotto said crime statistics don’t reflect the crime that is prevented by the increased police presences of a larger force.

“My goal is to make the borough a place where criminals don’t want to come to do their business,” he said.

O fficials also have proposed an 11-percent increase to the local sewage fee and a 5-percent hike for residential garbage collection.

If approved, the borough’s portion of the quarterly sewage bill would rise from $45.34 to $50.34. Part of the quarterly bill customers receive for sewage treatment is charged by the Western Westmoreland Municipal Authority.

Residential garbage rates also would increase — from $43.88 per quarter to $46.08 — next year to reflect increases in the cost charged by Waste Management, said Mary Benko, the borough manager. Commercial garbage collection rates would go from $7.84 per cubic yard of waste to $8.22 a cubic yard, which is an increase of 4.8 percent.

In a somewhat symbolic vote that begins the budget process, Watson and council members Robert Wayman, Phyliss Thiem and Joanna Jordan voted to make the preliminary budget a public document. Cassandro and Council members Deborah Kelly and Gail Macioce voted against the measure.

By law, the borough must pass a balanced budget by Dec. 31.

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2360, or at [email protected].

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