Kittatinny Budget Controversy

Today Kittatinny, Pennsylvania  mayor Gustavus Petykiewicz released his budget proposal for 2016. He plans on eliminating a police shift from 4 a.m. until noon, raise taxes, and have residents pay for their garbage pickup.

“I come to you with a heavy heart. These are not actions I take lightly. We are having a fiscal crisis in the city of Kittatinny and we must respond to it,” said Petykiewicz.

Kittatinny has suffered greatly since closing the Susquehanna Steel Corporation last year. The loss of this production has created a 10.2% decrease in the industrial tax base. Roughly 600 people lost their jobs and still remain unemployed today.

The largest concern is cutting the police shift. From 4 a.m. until noon every day there will be no officers on duty, all emergency calls will be sent to the county sheriff’s office. Police Chief Roman Hruska said “I cannot stand idly by and watch the city of this size be deprived of regular police protection a third of each day.” Along with this shift cut, it is in the proposal to cut two officers. It would cost about $70,000 to employ each officer and Hruska is doing what he can to come up with the money to save their jobs and proper police protection.

One proposed idea was to raise the taxes above what the mayor suggested. The original proposal was to raise the taxes from 4 mills to 4.3 mills. If you take an average house worth $100,000 the owner would pay about $400 in property taxes. By raising taxes to 4.3 mills the owner would now pay $30 more. The proposal from Denelda Penoyer, president of Kittatinny City Council, suggested the taxes get raised to 5 mills. Instead of paying $400 in property taxes, the owners will now pay closer to $500. This raise would prevent the cutbacks in the police department, but so many citizens are still out of work and may not be able to meet the increase.

Some people question the necessity of equipment purchases such as a driveable weed-removal machine and a combination dump truck/snow plow machine. Petykiewicz finds them necessary to keep the town looking nice and more attractive to tourists.

Garbage collection is another area that is proposed to be cut. Citizens should not notice a difference in their garbage pick up, Tioga Sanitation Co. will continue to pick up garbage once a week. The difference will be the extra $30 fee added onto your water bill. This change could save the city $187,000 a year. Petykiewicz said “we all have to make sacrifices, it is going to be tough.”

In the current proposal all city personnel have a salary freeze. After speaking with the city officials today, they are all willing to look into taking a 10% cut of their salary. Penoyer said “we have to show we are part of the solution rather than the problem.” Martha Mittengrabben the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 644 and Bjarne Westhoff the president of the Pennsylvania Police Association Local 34 both agreed to talk to their members about re-opening their contracts.

Penoyer and Petykiewicz urge citizens to contact them directly with their concerns. The city council will be holding public hearings starting this week, a schedule will be released soon, and all citizens are encouraged to come and voice their opinions.

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