Allegheny County Controller budget to be cut in 2013

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Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner will have to operate her office with less money and, likely, fewer people under a 2013 budget approved today by county council.

The $799 million operating budget council passed includes $200,000 more for the controller's office than county Executive Rich Fitzgerald recommended for next year. He had proposed $5.7 million for the controller, but council, which has the final say on spending, raised that number to $5.9 million.

The higher amount remains 7 percent below the $6.35 million budgeted for the controller this year. That decrease contrasts to a 2 percent overall increase in the operating budget for next year.

"This administration can defund my office, it can defame me, but it will not deter me from the work that I do on behalf of county taxpayers," Ms. Wagner said just before the budget vote.

The controller serves as the county's fiscal watchdog, and "increasing spending and decreasing accountability" was a bad combination, she warned.

Less funding for next year means layoffs of between 10 and 12 staff members are likely, she said in an interview earlier in the day.

Council also approved a new, lower real estate tax rate of 4.73 mills for next year, down from the current 5.69 mills. The millage reduction is required under state law to avoid a "windfall" tax increase resulting from higher assessments. The effect on an individual property owner, however, will depend on how each new assessment compares to the averages for each community and school district.

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Len Barcousky: or 412-263-1159.


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