Scott budget called a 'shot in dark'

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Scott commissioners voted unanimously Nov. 27 to advertise a proposed $3.9 million budget and property tax rate of 5 mills after they receive the court-ordered reassessment numbers from the county.

Although the township's worth has been preliminarily assessed at about $829 million, officials don't know whether that figure will change. The county's certified numbers are expected to be available around Dec. 17.

Solicitor Robert McTiernan, however, had advised the board to proceed with advertising on the basis that its proposed number and property tax rate, could be reduced without readvertising. Scott plans to adopt the budget and tax rate Dec. 27.

"This is a shot in the dark," groused board president Tom Castello.

Commissioner Bill Wells added, "This assessment, at best, is terrible."

Municipalities are required by law to adjust property tax rates after a reassessment so that they collect no more than an additional 5 percent in real estate revenue.

Of Scott's current 5-mill tax rate, 0.087 mills goes toward the operation of the library.

Mr. Castello later lauded the proposed spending plan.

"It's very fair and there's no tax increase," he said.

In other action Nov. 27, manager Denise Fitzgerald was given a new contract, but its duration is shorter than her current contract, which was adopted in June 2006 and was due to expire at the end of this month.

Mrs. Fitzgerald, 45, was given a one-year contract with a 3 percent pay increase to $93,900.

Mr. Wells cast the lone vote against the agreement. Referring to her raise, four weeks of paid vacation, 10 paid holidays, 12 paid sick days and three paid personal days, he said, "That's $21,000 more than what the library costs us."

After the meeting, Mr. Castello defended Mrs. Fitzgerald.

"Denise has been an exceptional manager. She has brought in an enormous amount of grant money," he said, adding that the new contract is similar to the current agreement except for duration.

Mr. Wells noted that some officials wanted to provide another long contract for Mrs. Fitzgerald, but a 2011 Pennsylvania statute specifies that a township manager's employment agreement must be terminated "no later than two years after the effective date of the agreement or the date of the board of commissioners' organization meeting following the next municipal election, whichever shall first occur."

That means Mrs. Fitzgerald's new contract will expire in January 2014.

The 10-page document provides Mrs. Fitzgerald with health benefits, including hospitalization, dental, eye care and prescription drug coverage, for her and her family. It also provides disability income insurance, retirement, bereavement leave, life insurance and a car for township business as well as a mileage allowance.

The agreement acknowledges "that the said employee also does work for a software company by the name of Mega Software Services and that the employee recognizes that this shall not interrupt or interfere with her normal duties and responsibilities as may be assigned by the township."

A native of Canonsburg, Mrs. Fitzgerald was hired in May 2001 with a two-year contract and a $58,000 salary.

Also, commissioners unanimously approved a four-year contract with township police, effective Jan. 1. The agreement contains pay raises of about 3 percent for Scott's 18 officers.


Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer:


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