Mt. Lebanon's proposed budget contains no tax increase

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Mt. Lebanon municipal property taxes are not expected to increase for the coming year.

"That was something the commission wanted to work hard to accomplish, and we've done that," municipal manager Stephen Feller said Friday, after presenting commissioners with his recommended 2014 budget.

The document maintains essential services while holding the tax line at 4.51 mills. At that rate, owners of property valued at $200,000 pay $902 a year.

"It's by and large a fairly conservative and status quo-type budget," said Mr. Feller, noting that the recommended operating budget of $30.3 million is an increase of 1.4 percent from 2013.

"Clearly, we've been very cost-conscious in how we've approached putting together this budget," he said.

The rates for earned-income and deed-transfer taxes will not change, nor will sanitary sewer or storm sewer fees.

The manager's recommended budget proposes the municipality float a $4.8 million bond issue in 2014, with $4 million going toward renovating the major parking garages off Washington Road.

The intent is to improve the existing facilities instead of building new garages at a greater cost and inconvenience to motorists.

Mt. Lebanon continues to have a favorable bond rating, which results in lower interest rates for borrowing.

"We've tried to be responsible in how we use our debt," said Andrew McCreery, municipal finance director. "Compared to other municipalities, our debt levels are low."

The municipality's health insurance costs are expected to rise by 2 percent for the coming year, which is close to the average increase over the past decade.

Mr. Feller said the municipality anticipates higher increases in the future.

One of the objectives for the budget is to provide money to implement action items in Mt. Lebanon's recently adopted comprehensive plan. Municipal planner Keith McGill has outlined several items that are in progress or completed, including:

* road safety audit study, with emphasis on pedestrian safety;

* development of a master plan for the public works facility off Lindendale Drive;

* update of the municipal zoning ordinance;

* improvements to street, sidewalks, sanitary and storm-water infrastructure;

* upgrades to the municipal swimming pool, tennis center, golf course and ice rink.

The proposed budget also calls for a new service level to ensure the Mt. Lebanon Fire Department meets minimum staffing for National Fire Protection Association safety standards.

"They basically compel fire departments to respond to structure fires within four minutes and to staff each piece of apparatus with four people," the budget package states.

The intent is to provide a stipend to pay volunteers to work certain shifts, with a net cost of $15,000, according to Mr. Feller.

A public hearing on the recommended budget is scheduled for Wednesday's commission meeting. Adoption is expected Dec. 10.

Commissioners also had a budget review session scheduled for Wednesday of this week, and additional sessions next Thursday and Nov. 18.

The recommended budget can be viewed at www.mtlebanon.org.

Harry Funk, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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