McDonald OKs police services for fourth town

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An agreement to provide police services for a fourth town is part of McDonald's $965,892 budget for next year, providing income that helps hold the line on taxes for the fourth year in a row.

Council voted 7-0 Monday to approve the 2013 budget with a property tax rate of 40.75 mills. Homeowners will continue to pay about $407 a year for every $10,000 of assessed value.

McDonald council also approved a one-year, $80,500 agreement to provide police services to Independence, a 26-square-mile rural township that is about 23 miles from McDonald and has 1,557 residents.

The budget includes $250,000 in revenue from McDonald's police contracts with the Washington County communities of Burgettstown, Midway, Robinson and Independence. That's more than one-quarter of the borough's total budget.

Independence supervisors are expected to vote Dec. 19 on the contract, which includes 60 hours per week of police services such as patrolling, answering calls, investigating cases and enforcing codes.

Independence approached McDonald about police coverage after having relied on state police for the past 25 years or so, said Tom Jennings, chairman of the Independence supervisors.

"We haven't had coverage for so long that this is going to be a tremendous asset to the community," he said. "We can be more proactive than reactive."

McDonald finance chairman Pat Powell said the borough's police contracts with other towns have helped stabilize the tax rate.

"We have increases that we have experienced in the borough over the years, as any municipality does, and the police contracts have helped keep the taxes at the present level," Mr. Powell said. "Without it, we would have had to raise taxes somewhere along the line."

More work for McDonald police also means more expenses. The budget includes funds to buy a new police car and hire another full-time officer.

McDonald lies in both Washington and Allegheny counties, and the property tax rate stayed the same for property owners in both counties.

Mr. Powell said officials may have to examine the total amount of tax revenue generated from the Allegheny County properties, an estimated 15 to 20 percent of the borough.

"We hadn't made any adjustments, nor did we consider that, because we didn't know the effects of [the Allegheny County reassessments]," Mr. Powell said. "We really don't know how to make any adjustments as of right now."

The budget increases the annual contribution to Heritage Public Library from about $5,250 to $7,000 a year.

The portion of taxes dedicated to debt service was lowered by 0.5 mill, while the fire tax was increased by 0.5 mill, mainly to expand the hours of the one paid job in the McDonald Volunteer Fire Department.

Council voted Monday to promote firefighter Troy Lucas from part time to full time, effective Jan. 2. His pay was increased from $10.20 to $12.50 an hour.

The budget contains about 3 percent pay raises for nonunion employees, including police Chief Mark Dorsey. Contract negotiations are under way with the police union, Mr. Powell said.

The borough has received $20,585 from natural gas impact fees but has not decided yet how to spend the money, he said.

The budget does not include road improvements because the McDonald Sewage Authority will be paving most streets as part of a major sewage line installation project next year.

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Andrea Iglar, freelance writer:


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