North Versailles budget adopted amid uncertainty

Community awaits reassessment figures

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North Versailles commissioners have passed a $6,384,823 general fund budget for 2013 that is not expected to include a tax increase.

Commissioners said they have not yet received the township's new assessed valuation under the recent reassessment from Allegheny County and didn't set a final real estate tax rate when they voted on the budget Dec. 26.

But they don't expect to raise township real estate taxes, which are set at 7.5 mills and 0.5 mills for the fire tax.

Commissioner Sam Juliano said if the township's assessed valuation goes up, real estate mills could go down by 0.5 mills. However, he would like to see taxes remain at 7.5 mills so the township can start a road paving project next year.

"Some of our roads are getting bad," he said.

He has asked each commissioner to select three roads in his district to pave.

Commissioner George Beswick was the only commissioner to vote against the budget, saying that North Versailles pays too much to provide police coverage to Wilmerding.

On Nov. 20, in addition to approving a tentative budget, four of the seven commissioners voted to approve a new three-year contract to allow the North Versailles Police Department to provide protection for Wilmerding.

Commissioners George Thompson, Russell Saula, Frank Bivins and Daryl Mitchell voted for the Wilmer-ding police service contract; commissioners Art Marra and Sam Juliano abstained and Mr. Beswick was not present.

During the first year of the contract, Wilmerding will pay $205,937 for police protection. The borough will pay North Versailles $220,353 the second year, and $235,777 during the third year.

Mr. Beswick said in 2009, when one recent contract was up, he and former police Chief Jim Comunale did separate estimates of what it cost the township to provide police services to Wilmerding. Mr. Beswick said it would cost $370,800; Chief Comunale said $370,000.

During the first year of the last contract with Wilmerding that began in 2010, the township agreed to provide police protection for $170,000, Mr. Beswick said.

With 2,190 residents, Wilmerding residents will pay $93.60 per person per year for police protection, while North Versailles residents will pay about $274.50 per person per year for that same police protection, Mr. Beswick said.

In North Versailles, running the police department, which includes 18 full-time officers, costs the township about 45 to 48 percent of its total budget, he said, while police costs in most municipalities make up only 30-some percent of the budget.

Several commissioners, including Sam Juliano, said if the township didn't have a police contract to cover Wilmerding, and the state police couldn't get there in time, North Versailles police would be called anyway and the township would wind up providing police coverage for Wilmerding for free.

"We have a good force and I want to keep it that way," Mr. Juliano said.

He recommended using part-time officers as a way to patrol Wilmerding more economically.

Also at the meeting, Commissioners President George Thompson authorized the process of civil service testing to begin to hire new part-time officers.

Mr. Juliano said the township will hire five part timers, and will now have six part-time police officers instead of five.

Commissioners also authorized township solicitor Greg Evashavik to work with Jack Cambest, solicitor for the township Sanitary Authority, on a potential legal challenge to a $1 million host fee that McKeesport imposed on the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport.

The $1 million fee will be passed along in rate increases to 62,000 people living in North Versailles, Versailles, Glassport, Elizabeth Township, White Oak, Port Vue, Liberty and East Mc-Keesport.

"What we're being told is that host fee is going to be an every year occurrence to help McKeesport balance its budget," Mr. Juliano said.


Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:


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