Titusville City Council took one step closer to final approval of its 2020 budget at its Tuesday meeting, when the first reading of the financial document was approved unanimously with no tax increase.
The budget approved at the reading comes with some minor adjustments compared to the initial version, which council first received at the Oct. 15 meeting. Namely, the general fund budget has dropped by a few thousand dollars, going from $4,354,930 down to $4,348,824 in terms of revenue and expenses, or a difference of $6,106.
City Manager Larry Manross said the difference in final amounts were due to some miscalculations in the previous version of the financial form, as well as some other minor adjustments throughout the document.
The other funds within the budget, according to Manross, are unchanged in the recent version. This includes the refuse, shade tree, water, sewer, capital, streets and airport budgets. With the new general fund amount calculated in, the total budget comes to $10,290,404.
One significant change in the new version of the budget is in a line item to purchase a new cruiser for the Titusville Police Department. The original version of the financial plan budgeted $35,000 for the purchase. However, Finance Director Diana Durstine said that amount was based on an out-dated quote, with newer estimates coming in higher. As such, the purchase is now budgeted at $43,527, with the additional funds for the line-item pulled from contingency funds, according to Manross.
The budget calls for no change to the city’s existing millage rates, which currently stand at 24.713 mills for buildings and 71.25 mills on land. One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 in a property’s assessed value.
The updated version of the budget with the general fund adjustments will be available for viewing on the city website in the near future.
Council will hold their second reading vote of the budget at their next meeting, at which point it will be finally adopted in full.
CBF Contracting Inc., of Sligo, Pennsylvania, was hired for a second time by council to perform the renovations of the Titusville Fire Department’s roof, following a paperwork error that invalidated the first vote.
Council initially hired the company at their Oct. 22 meeting for a total of $232,200, with a $14,486 reduction for optionally using cheaper materials. However, council had planned to use $146,000-worth of the city’s 2018 Community Development Block Grant money to help pay for the project, which led to the paperwork error.
The CDBG money was originally earmarked to go toward the South Perry Street Bridge with a pedestrian crossing once it was demolished. Due to demolition of the bridge taking longer than expected, with a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation timeline putting the demolition for sometime after 2022, council had to recommit the funds to a separate project or risk having to pay it back. CDBG money has a three-year time limit in which it must be spent.
As discussed at the Nov. 19 meeting, city government was told by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, which manages CDBG money in the state, that they did not need to perform an environmental study in order to transfer the money. However, Manross was later informed that although a study was not needed, the city was required to fill out a form stating they would not be performing a study, something which wasn’t revealed until after the city had already hired CBF Contracting for the first time. This meant the first vote was invalidated, and the city had to perform a second one after filling out the proper paperwork.
In the second round of bidding for the project, CBF Contracting was the only company to submit a bid, and gave it at the same price point. The city has opted to use the cheaper materials for the project, meaning the cost will come to $217,714.
The paperwork error has put a delay on the completion of the project, which Manross initially hoped to have completed before the start of winter. The completion time of the project will now depend on when CBF Contracting is able to receive the trusses necessary to finish the work, something which the city manager was unsure on how long it will take. Once the trusses are received, Manross said the project will be completed in around three to four weeks, depending on weather.
The project to raise the roff will allow the fire department to park their tower ladder truck, which was donated earlier this year by Lower Macungie Township in Southeastern Pennsylvania, inside of the department garages. The vehicle is currently too tall to fit through the entrance to the garages, much less sit in the building itself.
Council approved a measure allowing for the Titusville mayor, city manager, solicitor or finance director, regardless of which individual person holds those positions, to sign off on some anticipated grants from PennDOT which will be used to upgrade the Titusville Airport. The vote was held due to the pending installation of three new members of Titusville city council following the general election earlier this month, as well as the upcoming resignation of Manross on Jan. 3 and the stepping down of Mayor Esther Smith at the end of 2019, as she did not run for reelection.
By identifying the signatories by job title, rather than by name, the vote ensures that someone will be able to sign off on the grants regardless of who they specifically are, according to Manross. The anticipated grants consist of a $50,000 one to upgrade the fueling tanks, a $75,000 grant for obstruction removal and two grants relating to the runway, which are set to come in at $80,000 and $600,000. The obstruction removal project is already underway, while the fueling tanks work is set to being on Dec. 3. The runway improvements will be fully completed in 2022.
Other meeting news
Smith was physically absent from the council meeting again this week, but was able to attend through a speaker phone. Smith wasn’t able to make it to the Nov. 29 meeting due to illness, according to Manross. The city manager said he was not informed of a reason why Smith could not make it to the meeting in person this week, just that the mayor would be calling in. The Herald attempted to reach Smith for comment, but was unsuccessful. The absences has hindered a planned five-part series Smith began at the Oct. 22 council meeting in which she responded to criticisms and complaints leveled against the city. It is unknown whether Smith plans to continue the series in some way.
The next meeting of Titusville City Council will take place Dec. 17. Council will hold its work session and voting meeting back-to-back on the day, as the usually scheduled date for the voting meeting would have been Christmas Eve. The consecutive meetings will start at 6 p.m., at the Towne Square Building.
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