2016 Budget Story: Kittatinny, Pennsylvania

Tragedy struck the city of Kittatinny, Pennsylvania due to the downsizing at Susquehanna Steel Corporation. After shutting down the second blast furnace at Susquehanna Steel Corp., 600 jobs were lost, including a 10.2 percent decrease in the city’s total tax base. The press conference was held today to dicuss Kittatinny’s upcoming budget for 2016. Gustavus G. Petykiewicz, mayor of Kittatinny, opens up the trial by stating; “I come to you with a heavy heart… these are not actions I take lightly.” The changes that must be made for the citizens of Kittatinny will be drastic, but “we must respond to it”. Accompanied by Mayor Petykiewicz for the trial included Roman Hruska, chief of police, City of Kittatinny; Denelda Penoyer, president of Kittatinny City Council; Martha Mittengrabben, president of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 644; and Bjarne Westhoff, president of Pennsylvania Police Association Local 34.

For the budget of 2016, Petykiewicz proposed the following changes to be put into action. Due to the closing of the blast furnace, the city of Kittatinny has lost $100 million. Petykiewicz plans to raise the city tax rate to 4.3 mills, remove garbage pickup from the tax levy, and reduce the police force from 10 to eight officers, removing all shifts between 4 a.m. and noon, leaving sheriff deputies on call for emergencies. Minor changes addressed in the budget include a 15 percent increase for parking meters, a car replacement for the Police Department, and an investment on a new weed removal vehicle and a combination dump truck/snow plow for the Parks Department. The weed removal vehicle is good investment for the city, but it may be an investment that “could wait a year”, replies Petykiewicz.

Kittatinny’s tax rate is suggested to take a slight increase in the proposed budget. Suggestions were brought to the trial that the tax rate rises 25 percent for all residents in 2016. Many members were in favor of the tax rate to increase up to 5 mills to prevent even more job cuts. Garbage pickup will be added to every household bill. In contrast to bigger issues from this budget, many members favor that an average 30 dollars per month for garbage pickup will be manageable.

In reaction to the proposed budget for the police force, Hruska replies to changes. “I cannot stand idly by and watch a city of this size be deprived…” Hruska adds that this proposed budget is a “hare-brained idea”. President Westhoff replies, “I think we’ll get past this and find a better solution.” All members stay determined in proposing a new idea to keep the full police force in order to prevent a dangerous situation from happening.

City council president Penoyer responds to the proposed budget. “We will have public hearings about the budget… days, nights, even Saturdays… we’re gonna be really busy.” Penoyer is determined to find a way to save the additional jobs that could be lost in this proposal. Job cuts are proposed to take affect at Kittatinny Police Department and AFSCME. Penoyer is reaching out to Trade Readjustment Allowance to help aid the workers whose jobs were taken.

If all are in agreement, the proposed budget may be changing to include a ten percent cut for all non-unionized salaries and look into reopening union contracts expiring in 2017. Mayor Petykiewicz’s response was “we must move forward… we’re gonna work together on this.” Mittengrabben also agreed to the shared cut in salary. The 25 members of the city council will meet tomorrow to finalize on this decision. “There must be a spirit of shared sacrifice… unless we make Kittatinny a good place to live, no one will live here,” replies Mittengrabben. Final changes to the budget will be addressed accordingly, which will be finalized March 31.

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