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Evans City approves 2024 budget, allocates less for potential police services

EVANS CITY — Council approved its 2024 budget Monday, Dec. 4, with no tax or fee increases.

“It remained the same as last year,” secretary Lori Brooks said.

The approved budget was balanced at $860,641 in revenue and expenses, with the borough’s primary expense notably diminishing in the coming year.

“It was the police — sadly it won’t be this year,” said council member Patty Tumminello-Murphy. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

With the Evans City-Seven Fields Regional Police Department’s ongoing dissolution, Cheri Deener-Kohan, council president, said the borough had noticeably decreased the amount allocated to the department.

“We kept them on the budget at the same time because we don’t know what the end result is going to be,” Deener-Kohan said. “So we have to have some money set aside.”

The borough’s 2023 budget allocated $325,000 for its contracted police services, with actual expenses coming in $65,708 short as of December. The 2024 budget allocates a flat $200,000 for the department.

“Just for the expenses, once it’s dissolved,” Tumminello-Murphy said. “We want to make sure there’s money there to take care of expenses and then, if it’s not needed, we can reallocate it.”

The borough’s second-largest expense in 2024 will then be full-time wages for public works employees, increasing from $109,000 to $154,648 as it promotes a new full-time employee, Kris Rusk, for the coming year.

Deener-Kohan said stormwater improvements will remain a major capital improvement project for the borough, offset by the $528,320 Municipal Program Infrastructure grants awarded through the county in January.

To that end, borough authorized a stormwater construction agreement with J.S. Paris Excavating at Monday’s meeting.

“To perform the work in accordance with the description of the municipal infrastructure programs,” Deener-Kohan said. “Specifically, the installation of a new stormwater sewer system along the entire length of Elizabeth Avenue, as well as installation of an asphalt ledge and new paving along the top section of Elizabeth Avenue.”

‘The end result’

As of Monday’s meeting, Deener-Kohan said arbitration was ongoing for a buyout agreement in the dissolution of the regional police department.

With both Evans City and neighboring Seven Fields working toward the dissolution of the department, the two remaining full-time officers — Chief Joe McCombs and Sgt. Donald Meyers — have been in buyout negotiations since late summer.

Borough solicitor Ryan Mergl said the municipalities planned an arbitration meeting Thursday, Dec. 7, at the Seven Fields municipal building.

“We’re moving forward with the negotiations with the police department,” he said.

Following the conclusion of talks between Evans City and the Jackson Township Police Department at the borough’s Nov. 6 meeting, Deener-Kohan said the municipality is relying on state police as the dissolution concludes.

“We’re looking at some other things that are in the wind,” she said, “but we have to hear what the arbitration is before we can move forward.”

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