GREENVILLE Council to seek state input on financial-aid eligibility

The financial problems led some residents to ask council to abandon the partially complete sports complex.
GREENVILLE, Pa. -- Borough council will seek a state determination of municipal financial distress in the borough.
Surrounded by about 200 residents offering their opinions and possible solutions to a budget deficit of more than $1 million, council members unanimously passed a resolution that gives the state Department of Community and Economic Development the authority to determine if the borough qualifies for grants and loans and other financial recovery assistance, council president Richard S. Houpt said.
Tuesday evening's vote doesn't bind the community to accepting help from the state even if it does qualify, but gives it the opportunity to use the results of the study to help itself if officials decide to go that route, Houpt said.
A report last week showed the borough still had a $614,254 outstanding debt from 2000 and a $450,000 outstanding debt from 2001, he noted.
Even with the 5-mill tax increase officials have petitioned the courts for, budget figures for this year are showing an expected deficit. Houpt didn't say how much he thought that would be.
Sports complex: Many of the residents attending wanted to know who's to blame for the financial problems. Some said they felt that council should stop construction on the town's 42-acre sports complex and give the bond money back to the state.
The complex, scheduled to open April 1, has met with many delays and, according to several council members, is now at a standstill because of a flooded sewage system, collapsed retainer wall, and several cracks and breaks that have developed in walls, doors and windows of the maintenance building.
Houpt said council is seeking legal advice on what to do about the construction problems, and although he is still hopeful the complex will open on time, it is possible it will not.
Councilwoman Pamela S. Auchter assured residents that the complex was not responsible for the borough's budget problems. She said all but $300,000 of the $3 million borrowed for the construction has been spent. Giving it back is not an option, Auchter said.
"You're going to be paying for it whether it's open or closed. I think we need to make the best of it at this point," she said.
Opinion: Councilwoman Robin S. Douglas offered one explanation for the budgetary problems. She said that expenses and revenues in past budgets "had no basis in reality."
Council members said it had been the practice of past boards to let the borough manager take care of the yearly budget. That practice, they said, has now changed, and council members worked on this year's budget.
Houpt said the investigation into how the deficit occurred will continue, but so far officials have found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
A hearing on the tax increase request has been set for 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Mercer County Common Pleas Court. Council will finalize the 2002 budget at a special meeting that evening in the Lecture Hall at Greenville High School.

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