WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA Housing cuts anticipated
The agency is working on contingency plans in the event that the projected cut becomes a reality.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
SHARON, Pa. -- The Mercer County Housing Authority could face a 30 percent drop in its federal operating subsidy in fiscal 2003-04, which begins July 1.
L. DeWitt Boosel, executive director, told his board Wednesday that miscalculations by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which supplies the subsidy, are expected to result in a $250 million nationwide shortfall in housing authority operating funds in the current fiscal year.
Rather than ask Congress for additional funds to cover the shortfall, HUD has indicated that it will cut subsidy payments to public housing authorities by about 30 percent in their allocations for next year, Boosel said.
Mercer County hasn't gotten the official notice yet but is anticipating it, he said.
Mercer County received a $2,213,621 subsidy for fiscal 2002-03 and can now expect $664,087 less next year, "which would have a pretty drastic effect on our operations," Boosel said.
Carol Gurrera, board chairman, said she fears a cut that big could result in employee layoffs.
"We're going to be developing some contingency plans," Boosel said, explaining that the agency wants to be prepared if and when the cut comes.
The $2,213,621 subsidy represents about 75 percent of the cost of operating the authority's 659 public housing apartment units around the county. The rest comes from rent payments from tenants.
Robert Evanick, Lawrence County's Housing Authority director, said he is waiting for official word from HUD before taking any measures to make up the expected 30 percent deficit.
Evanick said he is hoping Congress will make up the difference if there is a shortfall. He noted this isn't the first time HUD miscalculated the federal operating subsidy figures.
Has enough money
Evanick said that if the shortfall isn't made up by Congress, the Lawrence County Housing Authority has enough money in its reserves to cover the deficit and he doesn't foresee any cutbacks or employee layoffs.
The director said Wednesday he hadn't yet calculated how much money would be lost if HUD does decide to cut the subsidy by 30 percent.
In other business, Boosel said the Mercer County authority received the results of a HUD survey of authority tenants who were asked to rank the agency's performance in five categories.
"We do have some things we need to work on," he said, referring to a couple of scores below the 70 percent mark.
Boosel said 497 surveys were mailed to authority tenants and 156, or 32 percent, replied.
XLaure Cioffi, Vindicator New Castle Bureau, contributed to this report.