2014-11-10 Work Session Minutes

MINUTES
HAZLETON CITY COUNCIL
WORK SESSION
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2014

Council met for a work session on Monday, November 10, 2014 in Council Chambers. The work session began at 6:00 p.m.

In attendance were Council President Jack Mundie, Council Vice President Jean Mope, and Council Members Keith Bast, Jeff Cusat and David Sosar. Also in attendance was Mayor Joe Yannuzzi.

Mundie thanked the Mayor for attending the meeting. Sosar said he was happy the Mayor was here, but he felt Pribula’s input would be helpful as well. Sosar suggested having another work session with Pribula and the Mayor present. Mope asked the Mayor if he could put the narrative regarding the budget next to the appropriate line items as was done in the past. She said it make things a lot easier.

The Mayor said there is a one mill change in the budget for the addition of more police officers, and there are some small changes to some other line items. It is close to last year’s budget, and it only increased about 0.16% from last year. Mundie asked if the Mayor’s budget includes 3% raises for all non-union workers. The Mayor responded yes. He added that all union contracts have a 3% raise included in them for next year, and the non-union employees would receive the same increase as has been done in the past. Sosar said that 0.16% would be about $200,000, and the Mayor agreed. Sosar said he has received complaints about the proposed 26% tax increase, and most people have a problem with the pay increases for the non-union employees. There are a lot of senior citizens in this community, and they are only receiving a 1.2% increase in their Social Security benefits next year. The 3% salary increase includes those workers receiving $50,000 or more. Sosar said that he has been on a pay freeze for the last three years. The Mayor said the cost-of-living increase for Social Security recipients is different than those people who are working. He commented that the working people need to be able to afford to raise their families. He added that in the past three years, he has replaced three high-paying jobs with individuals making lower salaries. He said two part-time positions in Community Development were replaced with one full-time position. The combined salary of the two part-time workers in Community Development was more than what the current full-time person is receiving. Mope commented that the reason for that is because Fermin had a lot less experience than the former director, Annetta Williams. Sosar said a lot of people in this town are just receiving Social Security and these increases may be a hardship for them.

Sosar asked how the City is receiving $249,000 for the leasing of the parking garage. The Mayor said he believes that figure is incorrect. Cusat said according to the contract with the DeAngelos, it should only be $90,000. Mundie said the other parking lot might also be in that figure. Cusat said he received the Parking Authority’s audits for the last five years. He broke down the figures as follows: $74,262-meters; $82,113-rentals; and $60,714-garage. The grand total is $224,000. Sosar said there is about $133,000 extra in Line Item #363-3212. The Mayor said Pribula may have put the City’s income into that figure. Cusat stated the City only received $28,000 for the meters last year. The Mayor felt that we will receive more in the future. Cusat said according to his calculations, there are 250 parking spaces in the garage, which amount to approximately $159,000 in overstated revenue. The Mayor said he will get an explanation from Pribula about that, and, if the budget is passed, he will have Pribula change it to reflect “garage lease.” Sosar said the meters were taken down on Broad Street during the Broad Street Corridor project, and asked when they were replaced. He said this would reflect a decrease in our revenue from the meters. The Mayor responded the meters were replaced in the spring of this year, and if Council would have passed the Pango pay-by-cell resolution, that amount would be increasing.

Cusat asked why the storm water revenue was put into the budget when it was only for one year. There is $300,000 in Line Item #392-3207 for this. The Mayor said this was billed in 2014 for the year 2013. Cusat said he was under the impression that the money for storm water management was supposed to go back into the sewer transmission fun in accordance with a resolution that was passed last year. The Mayor said some of that was used for wages relating to this matter. Sosar said he has a problem with transferring this money to the general fund. This should be in a dedicated fund.

Sosar mentioned the timbering project and indicated the City already received $200,000. The Mayor said we received that in 2013, and nothing else is coming in on that. All we were supposed to receive was $200,000. If the HCA gets any more, they will keep it. The Mayor stated that the HCA felt the timbering was worth more, so they made another deal. Sosar said as he understood it, the money would be better but it would take two to three years to see all of it. He said the City should revisit this matter. He reviewed the RFP for the timbering. An arborist came in and gave his opinion on the matter to the HCA. A second RFP was then put out with different specifications in it. Bast said he believes the arborist recommended select cuts. Sosar agreed and said the original RFP was for straight cuts, which is not good timbering policy.

Sosar asked about the unencumbered funds account. The Mayor said this was pertaining to the tax amount loan received by the City. The City did not need a tax and revenue anticipation note (TRAN) at the beginning of this year because there was enough money to cover the payment. The Mayor felt the City will need a TRAN for 2015. Sosar asked for the dollar figure for the unencumbered funds, but the Mayor did not have that amount with him. He said there were problems with the tax bills this year, and the city and county taxes were put on one bill. Mope asked if the unencumbered funds were used to start the 2014 year. The Mayor responded yes, so that we did not have to borrow any money. This went out in March or April. Sosar asked the Mayor to get Council this information as soon as possible.

Mope asked about the transfer from the airport to the general fund. The Mayor said we pay for the Airport and then they reimburse us. It is the same way with Transit and Community Development.

Mundie asked about the Parking Authority employees. The Mayor said there are three full-time and two part-time employees. Of the three full-time employees, one is going into the Police Department, one is going into Code Enforcement, and the last is going into Maintenance under the Highway Department. The two part-time employees are staying at the Parking Garage. The Mayor said one of the full-time employees, Danny, plowed all of the parking lots for the City, and the DeAngelos may want him to plow the Parking Garage.

Sosar commented that Pribula does not like breaking down Transit, Community Development and the Airport any more than they already are. Mayor Yannuzzi said that some of these line items were never in the budget before, and Pribula is now putting them in. Sosar said he needs further information regarding some of the line items. Mayor Yannuzzi said Pribula wants to show all reimbursements in the budget.

Sosar commented on the $75,000 in professional services, and asked why we are spending $18,679 in hospitalization under that item. Mayor said that should be titled as legal, and not professional services. Mope said line item #5105 is for the City Solicitor, and the Mayor said he would prefer the title be Legal Department. Sosar asked where the Legal Department would be based, and Mayor Yannuzzi responded that it would be based in City Hall. Mundie commented about special legal counsel and labor counsel. Mayor Yannuzzi commented on the line items for contracts and special litigation. He said the amount will depend on who we hire and how much they know. When there was in-house legal counsel in the past, questions were answered immediately. He added that this person will be attending all City Council meetings. Mope said everyone on Council agrees that this is a good idea. Sosar asked if the in-house Solicitor will be some small private practice along with his work for the City, as long as it does not interfere with the City’s work. He said the City should come first and there should be no conflict. Mayor Yannuzzi said he would prefer that the in-house Solicitor only do City work. Mope asked if he will receive compensation for working after hours, and Mayor Yannuzzi said no, it will all be included in his salary. Mundie said he agrees this is a good idea, and asked if Council will be given the opportunity to approve the new City Solicitor. Bast said that Council cannot tell the Administration who to hire, and the Administration will draw up his contract. Mope said that we need a Solicitor that will cooperate with all of us. Mayor Yannuzzi stated the new Solicitor will be nominated by him and approved by Council. Mundie said he has a problem with the Mayor telling Pribula and Slusser not to attend the Council meetings. Mayor Yannuzzi responded that he never told anyone not to come to the meetings, and it was there choice not to come. He said between the City Solicitor and the Legal Advisor, it was costing the City $750.00 a night for each meeting. Sosar commented that these things can be dealt with at a later date.

Mope asked about the $5,000 in legal defense expenses. She wanted to know if this amount was for the illegal immigration lawsuit. Mayor Yannuzzi said no, but he was not sure what the amount was for. He added that the legal defense fund is not in the budget. Mope said some of these expenses were paid from the general fund. Cusat stated there is a deductible of $25,000 for special legal services, but Line Item 404-5314 has nothing in it. Mundie asked if there are any legal actions pending, and Mayor Yannuzzi said yes. Mundie asked the Mayor to ask Pribula to send him a list of all the legal actions pending. Mope said there should be a line item for the deductible.

The Mayor commented on employee retirements, and said that all sick, personal and vacation time has to be factored in. Cusat commented that there should be about $50,000 in the budget for two anticipated lawsuits.

Mope asked about the engineering salaries. She asked if the amount listed was for both Alan Wufsus and Alfred Benesch. The Mayor responded yes to both. The Mayor said most of the work done by Dominic Yannuzzi is under engineering. Mope said some of Yannuzzi’s work is also under the Airport, and there should be a better accounting for all work done by Alfred Benesch. Mundie said he is unhappy with the invoices received from Yannuzzi for his work performed for the City. He lists the work done in one big paragraph and it is not broken down. Mundie felt that the work performed by Yannuzzi does not fall under a professional service and it should be put out for bid.

Sosar asked about the salary increase to $129,438 for employees in building and plants. He asked if this includes two more people and an increase in the health insurance. The Mayor responded that there is one more employee in buildings and plants that came from the Parking Authority, as well as an increase in the cost of the health insurance.

Mope questioned line item 5321 (communications), and asked if this is for the cell phones. The Mayor responded no. Cusat said it is for the phones and phone systems in all city-owned buildings.

Sosar commented on the police overtime, and asked why there is $40,000 more listed for the next two months for overtime. He felt this was a little high. Bast said the figure used was as of October 8, 2014, so that makes it almost three months. DeAndrea said Council asked that all overtime be shown whether or not it was reimbursed, so the way it was documented was changed. He added that he cannot predict or control the reimbursement. Mundie said that it was not Council’s decision to change the way the overtime was documented. It was the auditors who said everything needs to be accounted for.

Sosar asked if each department prepares its own budget each year. The Mayor responded yes. The Department Heads meet with Pribula first and verify all the numbers.

Mundie asked why there is nothing listed on page 19 for previous years. The Mayor replied that is strictly for the separate public safety tax, which had not been used before.

Sosar asked if all snow plowing is done in house, and the Mayor responded yes. Mundie stated that is not correct. We put a contract in place for some additional plowing. The Mayor stated sometimes we need to use a hauler to get rid of the snow, but he will check into further. Sosar said the HCA could help us with this in accordance with the Master Services Agreements with the City. The Mayor agreed. Mope asked about the amount shown on page 23 under Highway Aid, and Cusat said that amount is for salt and cinders and does not include plowing.

Sosar said line item 440-5122 shows a substantial increase in salary for the Airport manager. The Mayor responded the previous manager left, and a new one was hired later this year. The new manager had a lot more experience than the old manager; therefore, he was hired at an increased salary. Mope said no one on Council has met the new Airport manager yet, and he should be introduced to us. Sosar asked about the increase in AV fuel purchases (440-5123). The year-to-date amount is $115,146, and the budget for 2015 is $278,000. Cusat said they were buying more fuel in the winter when it was cheaper to fill the tanks. The Mayor added that we expect to have more airport traffic next year. Mundie commented on the condition of the Airport terminal. He said it is a mess and repairs were started by were not completed. The Mayor said this is being done with donations only. People are donating their time and materials to the project. He added that the man doing the repairs has his own construction company, and he works on the Airport when he has time to do it. Sosar asked about line item 440-5470. He said the year-to-date figure is $4,177 and next year’s total is $10,000, but Pribula did not provide an explanation for this. Mayor Yannuzzi said he will get an answer from Pribula on this item. Sosar asked about line item 440-5460, contracted services, for $42,600. Cusat said he believes that may have been for the purchase of a loader.

Sosar asked about purchasing some more asphalt before the end of the year. Mundie said the City just purchased a 4-ton asphalt recycler, and we should be just using recycled materials at this time. Mayor Yannuzzi said there is a lot of milling to do and the recycled materials have to be screened first. Mope said the good thing about the asphalt recycler is that it can be used to patch potholes all winter long. Asphalt cannot be used in the winter. Sosar suggested picking up some asphalt to mix with what we already have. The Mayor said there is a lot of recycled material left. Mope stated that the workers at the Highway Garage are making screens to go through the leftover materials.

Cusat said he believes the collection rate for the taxes (301-3100) is too high, and it should be about 88%. Pribula calculated it at 91%. The $3 million figure is too high because we only collected 88% last year. Cusat asked Council and the Administration to consider not selling the delinquent taxes. He feels we can bring in an extra $67,000 if we do not sell them. Mayor said it is a good idea, but it takes a lot longer to get all of the money, and it comes in in smaller amounts. If we sell them, we get a very large amount up front. Cusat said that the discounts are not being factored into the figure.

Cusat felt the amount of $175,000 for licenses under line item 321-3780 was too high because we only brought in $125,000 so far this year. He also felt line item 321-3785 was too high. Cusat added that we should not be getting any more in because the cutoff date to pay them was January 15, 2014.

Mope commented on the $55,000 figure listed at line item 331-3120. She also said the figure at line item 331-3130 regarding parking fines was too high. DeAndrea said we are coming up on snow ban season now, and we will probably be giving out a lot of tickets this year. The Mayor stated the signs for the snow ban have already been put up.

Cusat asked about the volunteer firemen’s workers compensation. He asked if that gets paid out of the general fund. Leshko responded yes, but it is for both paid and volunteer. He added that there is a 5% safety committee discount included in that figure. Mope asked why the operating supplies for the Fire Department are zero. Leshko said there never has been any money in that account. The Firemen’s Relief Fund gives them enough money and grants to cover most of their expenses. The rest comes under repairs and maintenance.

Cusat questioned the contracted services for Code Enforcement, line item 413-5450, for $60,000. He felt that figure should be compared to licenses and permits, 321-3000, because they correspond to each other. DeAndrea said repairs and the work done by Kyle Kehoe go under contracted services. This includes repairs to computers, changes to software, etc. Mope asked about the increase in salaries in Code Enforcement. Cusat said that figure includes one full-time employee from the Parking Authority, the two part-time Code Enforcement Officers, and the licenses and permits clerk salary, which is currently vacant. Sosar said there is a large jump in the health insurance. The Mayor pointed out that the two part-time people in Code Enforcement do not receive health insurance.

Cusat felt the $100,000 figure in recreation fund revenues, 301-3100, should be brought down to $79,000. The Mayor said that $95,000 was collected this year. Cusat stated that there should have only been $91,000 billed out this year. The Mayor responded that he believes some prior years may be in that amount. Cusat said he believes this needs to be looked into further because the collection rate is his biggest concern.

Mundie asked the Mayor to have Pribula come to the next work session. Mayor Yannuzzi said he will do that, but he will try to get some explanations from him first. Mundie said he does not want a 26% tax increase. Mope commented on the Fire Department’s salary freeze for the first year of their contract. The Mayor commented that he feels we definitely need more police officers. Bast said that whether you hire part-time or full-time police officers, taxes will still need to be increased to cover the cost. Cusat said there will $300,000 missing from the storm water fund, and he has serious issues with the revenue figures. Mundie commented that he would like to sell the land for sale at the HCA. He added that the closing of Weir Minerals will cost us money because we will be losing taxes, etc. Bast stated that 90.5% of the budget is for salaries, health insurance, pensions, contracted services, etc., 7.5% is to run the City, and only 2% is left over. He commented that 98% of the budget is just for the “bare bones.”

Mundie adjourned the work session at 7:30 p.m.