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Williamsport fines, fees rising

June 14, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

A 20 percent budget gap led to agreements Monday to increase Williamsport's parking fines, sewer rates and fees for park rental, trash pickup and administration, Mayor James G. McCleaf II said.

Last month, the Williamsport Town Council heard that its fiscal year 2004 general-fund budget of $1.2 million had a shortfall of about $260,000.

McCleaf said at the time that the town was advised to raise its general-fund revenues by about 30 percent and its water and sewer fund revenues by about 20 percent.

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On Monday, the town council took steps in that direction, such as:

· Proposing to raise the sewer rates 20 percent. A public hearing on the request will be held at the July 11 council meeting.

· Proposing to eliminate a prompt-payment discount for parking meter and street sweeper tickets.

Clerk/Treasurer Bonnie J. Errico said that as many as half of the tickets are reduced from $5 to $2 if they are paid within a day. The measure proposed Monday would make the fine $5 for every ticket. The council will vote on the idea June 24.

· Proposing to add a new $20 fee to process demolition permits. The council also will vote on that on June 24.

· Eliminating a resident discount for renting a pavilion at Byron Memorial Park. Everyone will pay $65, starting Jan. 1. The rate has been $50 for residents and $65 for nonresidents.

· Eliminating a resident discount to use the Community Building at the park. Everyone will pay $125, with a $100 security deposit. The rate has been $100 for residents and $125 for nonresidents, with a $50 deposit. That also takes effect Jan. 1.

· Raising the cost of renting a gazebo at the park from $25 to $65, again starting Jan. 1.

· Raising the cost of weekly trash pickup from $7.50 per quarter to $15 per quarter. That will take effect July 1 and will be billed monthly instead of quarterly.

Councilman Earle R. Pereschuk Sr. said the town lost about $100,000 on the trash pickup program in fiscal year 2004. If the fee is tripled, as was proposed Monday, the loss could be limited to about $30,000, he said.

Assistant Mayor Monty R. Jones objected to such a rapid increase and the town council ultimately settled on the compromise.

· Raising the cost of a scheduled trash pickup, with a backhoe scoop, from $5 to $10, again starting July 1.

Later, McCleaf acknowledged that the fee increases were tied to the town's financial problems.

Auditor Ron Shifler told the town council last month that the increases were a way to stem the losses.

"There's going to be a cash-flow problem real soon," he said at the time.

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