Coatesville to continue operating under 2014 budget

Council delays budget workshop to next month, looks to solve financial woes

By Kyle CarrozzaStaff Writer, The Times

CoatesvilleLogo-copyCOATESVILLE – The city will continue to operate off of the 2014 budget in February after city council postponed passing a 2015 budget on Wednesday.

Council had originally planned to hold a regular meeting Monday of this week night and a budget meeting Wednesday night, but due to weather, the city moved Monday night’s meeting to Wednesday and deferred the budget meeting to next month.

Council President Linda Lavender Norris said that they expect to pass a budget in February.

Council also announced that a public meeting will be held Monday to fill the seat left vacant by former member David Collins.

In order to address some of the city’s financial woes, council discussed plans for collecting solid waste bills that have gone uncollected for some time. Solicitor John Carnes said that Coatesville could get a list of homeowners from the county, which they cross reference with the addresses being billed.

Council Vice President Marie Lawson proposed having a day where the city could waive late fees for residents with unpaid bills. The residents who pay could then be recorded into the system so that they will be properly billed in the future.

“Right now, we’re in a situation where we need all the bills; we need all the money that comes with those bills,” said Lawson.

While the city would lose money from not collecting late fees, she said that the money paid and billing information would make up for it.

Council also discussed holding tax incentive programs to draw businesses to the city. In particular, they talked about implementing Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance. LERTA grants tax breaks for businesses that that renovated blighted sites in the city, waiving taxes on renovated property for the first year and incrementally increasing the tax to the normal rate over 11 years.

To better organize city proceedings, council intends on appointing liaisons for each the city’s departments. Liaisons will be council members that will work with their appointed departments in order to improve communication between council and city employees and gain a better understanding of the issues facing the city.

During citizens’ hearings, Paul Evans of the Coatesville Housing Association raised concern over what he called “the ugliest tax of all,” crime. Evans said that in addition to the city’s high income and property taxes, crime deters citizens and businesses from moving into the city. He cited bank and strong armed robberies as actions that need to be stopped as well as a rash of car windows being broken in the West End.

Resident Paul Trizonis presented the idea of installing cameras in the city, particularly in parts of the West End. He gave multiple examples of cameras working to reduce crime in cities around the country. After researching the topic, he said that he believes federal or state funds exist that would help cover the cost of installing cameras.

Khadijah Al-Amin voiced concern over other types of crime that could occur in the city. Al-Amin cited a forensic audit released in 2012 that covered 2009-2010. Completed by Barabace, Thornton, & Company LLP, the audit found numerous flaws in the cities accounting systems including weak electronic and physical security policies, a lack of oversight in ticket payment and bill collection, and other issues that the report said could leave the city susceptible to misappropriation, data loss, and burglary.

Council member Ed Simpson pointed out that the state police investigated the issues listed in the report and found no evidence for crimes having been committed.

Also during citizens’ hearing, Coatesville Area Public Library Director Dr. Lut Nero thanked council for its support of the library. Nero said that with the city’s support, the library has been able to implement numerous programs and beautify the facility. In addition, the library is in the process of reaching out to the community, including regular meetings with Coatesville Area School District Superintendent Dr. Cathy Taschner that allow her to inform residents of district events.

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