NEW CASTLE Budget would raise city taxes by 2 mills

The tax is needed to help repay money borrowed for a downtown revitalization project.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- City residents will be faced with their first increase in city taxes in more than a decade under the proposed 2002 New Castle budget.
Mayor Timothy Fulkerson introduced the $11.1 million spending plan at Tuesday's council meeting. It is about $80,000 less than the 2001 budget, which was $11,221,482.
The tax increase is needed to pay for $1.9 million city officials borrowed to pay for a downtown revitalization project.
The average city resident will see about a $20 increase in their city taxes if the 2-mill increase is approved by council next month. A public hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 4 and council will vote on it Dec. 20.
Mayor Fulkerson called the spending plan "lean and mean."
Cutbacks: There will be four fewer people employed by the city this year and that accounts for some of the $80,000 decrease from last year's budget, said John DiMuccio, city business administrator. The jobs were left vacant through retirements and employees' leaving for other jobs, not layoffs, he noted.
Among the jobs eliminated will be the mayor's assistant Ted Saad, who is leaving to join the law practice of Verterano and Manolis. Saad's duties will be taken over by other city employees.
Other vacant jobs not being filled are in public works and recreation, DiMuccio said.
The city administrator said there are no plans to purchase any equipment or cars in the coming year.
Give and take: The city expects to save about $145,000 on its workers' compensation insurance by the city's taking over its administration, the mayor said.
That savings, however, will be offset by a 17 percent increase in health insurance, he said. The city will pay an extra $180,000 next year for its health coverage, according to the budget.
City officials say they expect to see less money coming into the city next year, expect a higher delinquent rate on taxes paid and estimate that the value of a mill will decrease from $97,000 to $94,000. They said the slumping economy and property valuation appeals are to blame.
The mayor has budgeted 3 percent pay increases for all nonunion city employees. DiMuccio said they are still negotiating contracts with unions representing clerical, public works and code enforcement workers.

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