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Salisbury commissioners discuss 2013 budget, ward changes and leaf pick-up

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 14 2012 08:44:40 AM CST
Updated On: Dec 14 2012 10:08:16 AM CST
Salisbury Twp. commissioners
SALISBURY TWP., Pa. -

Salisbury Township residents face a 10 percent tax increase in 2013.

Township commissioners plan to adopt the 2013 township budget at their next meeting on Dec. 27.

A resident with a home valued at $232,400 will pay $30 more in taxes in 2013, explained Cathy Bonaskiewich, assistant township manager and finance director.
Even with the tax increase, officials project a $209,108 deficit.

A one-time tax increase will not solve Salisbury’s deficit, Township Manager Randy Soriano advised commissioners. He suggested additional tax increases will be needed in the future.

Commissioners wrestled with details of the $5.95-million budget during the workshop portion of their Thursday night meeting.

Also during that meeting:

• Soriano announced that several hundred residents may be shifted from one Salisbury ward to another, which means a different township commissioner will represent them and they will vote in a different place.

• One township commissioner complained, again, that the township has not picked up his leaves.

• Commissioners unanimously ratified a new four-year-contract with members of the township police department.

• Resident Wendell Mukics presented a $500 check to the police department for its K-9 program. He said he helps out the police department every year.

Salisbury has five wards, with each of its five commissioners elected by residents of a different ward.

A proposed change affects two of those wards so they will be closer to having roughly the same populations.

Based on the U.S. Census, Ward 2 has 3,296 residents but Ward 3 has only 1,988.
The boundary lines between the wards will be changed so 300 to 500 residents now living in Ward 2 will become part of Ward 3.

Under one scenario of that proposed change, Ward 2 would have 2,949 residents and Ward 3 would have 2,335. Under another, Ward 2 would have 2,556 and Ward 3 would have 2,728.

James Brown, president of the commissioners, said they may approve the ward change at their Dec. 27 meeting, but Soriano indicated it probably won’t happen until January. Soriano said all residents affected will be notified by the township when the wards are changed.

Commissioner James Seagreaves represents residents of Ward 2 and Commissioner Debra Brinton represents Ward 3.

After the meeting, Brinton said she sees no issue with proposed ward change. “It might as well be that they are equal.”

Soriano told commissioners they still can amend the 2013 budget on Dec. 27, but at the end of Thursday’s meeting, Brinton said: “If we need to discuss something else, we better be discussing it tonight. I don’t want to be here until 11 o’clock on the 27th. If I have to be here until 11 or 12, let’s do it tonight.” She polled her colleagues and all indicated they are satisfied with the tentative budget.

The 2013 budget includes money for one additional full-time police officer. Police Chief Allen Stiles said his department will have a total of 17 officers after commissioners approve the budget. He originally requested two additional officers in 2013, but earlier in the budget deliberations it sounded like he might not get any.

The township manager said the 15 members of the Salisbury Township Police Officers Association will get 2 percent wage increases in 2013, 2.5 percent in 2014, 3 percent in 2015 and 3.5 percent in 2016. He said police will be contributing toward their health insurance premiums each year. They will get one more holiday, Dec. 24, for a total of 11.

Police officers Don Sabo and Kevin Soberick, who helped negotiate the contract with Soriano, said they are happy and satisfied with the result, especially because “it’s a hard economy.”

Commissioner Robert Martucci complained the township never has picked up the leaves at his home.

But John Andreas, Salisbury’s public works director, said Martucci’s leaves would have been picked up if had them out by the edge of the road on time. “We don’t miss anybody,” Andreas said. “We don’t forget anybody. And we follow through until the job is done.”

Andreas said leaves have been collected in about 90 percent of the township since late October. After the rest are collected, “we’ll come back through the whole township again to do a final clean-up.” He promised his crews will be back in Martucci’s neighborhood as early as next week.

While Soriano suggested leaf pick-up is an administrative matter and not a legislative matter, Martucci said commissioners get calls from residents who want to know when their leaves will be picked up. “We direct them to you guys and they get no where.”

Martucci said even his wife could not get a definitive answer when she called the township to find out when leaves would be picked up. “She knew no more when she hung up than when she called.”

The township manager suggested Salisbury needs to do a better job communicating with residents about when leaves should be picked up in their neighborhoods. He said some residents put leaves at the curb soon after they fall, but they are not picked up for many weeks. Others find leaves were picked up before they had a chance to rake theirs.

Andreas said he is down a half dozen workers, but his crews collect leaves on more than 80 miles of roads.