In wake of the decommissioning of a blast furnace at the Susquehanna Steel Corporation, the city of Kittatinny is unsteady after seeing Mayor Gustavus G. Petykiewicz’s new proposed budget.
Kittatinny industrial, commercial, and residential income will drop more than an overwhelming $80 million in the mayor’s proposed budget. While commercial and residential incomes will stay generally the same, the city’s industrial income will take hit of more than $100 million.
One of the major red flags noticed at Petykiewicz’s press conference was that of a higher city tax rate in 2017, which would be increasing .3 mills. Even with an increased tax rate, the mayor is estimating to bring in less tax dollars then the city did in 2016. This drop can be directly attributed in the massive dip in the industrial income of Kittatinny.
Petykiewicz said, “This is a financial emergency.” and, “My biggest concern is people leaving because they can’t afford to live in Kittatinny.”
Red flag number two raised with the proposed budget comes in the regards to its effects to law enforcement in Kittatinny. The mayor sees it to be necessary to lay-off two police officers in an effort to cut back on city spending. No one was more opposing to this matter than Chief of Police, Roman Hruska.
Many including Bjarne Westhoff who is the president of the Pennsylvania Police Association Local 34, feel as if this opposition could go past the budget and down to a personal dispute between the two. However, this may be a figment of some imaginations because both the police chief and the mayor agreed to take a 10% pay cut in an effort to save the jobs of two Kittatinny police officers.
The changes that would come from the laying-off of two officers would cause the 4 a.m. to noon patrol and emergency response shift to be handled by Schuylkill County sheriff’s deputies.
Chief Hruska said, “This will put lives in danger, someone could die because of this.”
Another notion that warrants mentioning is the proposition to remove garbage pickup from the tax levy. In another effort to cut spending Petykiewicz wants to add the charge to Kittatinny citizens’ water bill and contract Tioga Sanitation Company to handle garbage pickup and removal.
Additional speakers at the press conference included City Council President, Denelda Penoyer, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 644 President, Martha Mittengrabben. Throughout out both of their responses, the two shared a common ambition. That being an even higher tax rate than the mayor had proposed for the 2017 budget. Penoyer assured that an increase to 5 mills would do enough to prevent cuts within the Kittatinny Police Department.
Amongst numerous harsh loses, a bright spot for the proposed budget comes in the form of the city’s expected raise in commercial income. In lieu of the tough propositions brought on by Mayor Petykiewicz, this spike of over $20 million for the city will be a pebble of optimism for the people of Kittatinny.
The Mayor urges everyone to know that this is not the final draft of the budget for 2017 and can and will be changed if necessary. In fact he encourages people that his door will always be open for those whom have suggestions to help the city of Kittatinny endure this rough time.
State law requires a balanced budget to be approved and signed into law by December 1, 2016.