Kittanning Council moved one step closer to the hiring of a borough manager last night.
With a 6-1 vote, Council authorized advertising an ordinance that would create the position of the borough manager. The ordinance will be adopted at the April public meeting. Council may then decide to advertise to take applications for the position.
Councilman Scott Davis, who was appointed personnel chairman in January following his election to the 2nd Ward seat, gave council members an overview of the position that included duties and qualifications, knowledge and skill requirements, and compensation. The salary for the position was not set, but left open-ended and would be based on the experience of the qualified candidate. Davis requested Council to take action last night to create the position.
Davis said the Personnel Committee met with the President of the Pennsylvania Association of Boroughs, Bill Rossey, who is the borough manager for Sharpsburg. Davis said he was impressed with Rossey’s ability to secure over $5 million in grants for his borough.
Councilman Andy Peters raised objections stating he felt Council should put it on a referendum on the May Primary ballot to allow the voters to decide. Councilwoman Betsy Wilt disagreed, stating that the general public doesn’t understand the operation of the council or the position.
“Everybody I talk to is against this,” Peters said. “I think you guys are under-educated on this matter.”
Council Vice-President and Finance Chairman David Croyle said he has spoken with two other boroughs, one in eastern Pennsylvania and one in southcentral Pennsylvania, who stated the borough manager is able to secure funding that outweighs the cost of the position. He pointed to Ford City, who has had a borough manager for more than five years.
“I will not vote for a borough manager unless it is stipulated in the contract that he will be able to secure grants with a specific formula that is much more than the cost to Kittanning Borough,” Croyle said.
Peters asked Croyle how the borough manager would be paid, since it was not part of the approved 2018 budget. Croyle supplied a three-page document to council members outlining results of his audit of key line items that could be adjusted to save as much as $100,000.
“I’m not saying that we spend that much for the salary of a borough manager. I’m just showing you cost savings that can provide for hiring one,” Croyle said. He showed over 11 line items that were inaccurate and needed to be adjusted. “Once we hire a borough manager, I am sure that person will find other cost-savings for us through their management of borough resources.”
In giving examples, Croyle showed where police overtime was exaggerated. There was $65,000 budgeted, but only $40,000 anticipated. Of that $40,000 – assuming the rate of reimbursement remains at the 2017 rate of approximately 96% – there would be an additional savings of $38,000. He also said the line item for tax revenue was underestimated by approximately $50,000. He said the cost for commission paid to the tax collector was adjusted last year by Council, and expected to bring a savings of $10,000 this year.
Croyle pointed to cost overruns in grants secured over the past few years that has resulted in thousands of dollars of fees to the Borough. He said much of that could have been avoided with proper management. In 2017, Kittanning had to pay back more than $10,000 for a grant to fix Orchard Avenue because of what he called mismanagement. He also stated that had the $50,000 grant for Façade improvements been approved by the State last year, the Borough would have had to pay $10,000 to the County to administrate the grant – something a borough manager could do.
Peters said he was concerned about getting into a contract with someone and it not working out, and the Borough being “stuck”. Solicitor Ty Heller pointed out that the newly created position would not be something that couldn’t be changed or dissolved in the future.
“The Borough Code says that the borough manager shall serve at the pleasure of Council – meaning they are specifically ‘at will’ unless you give them other rights in the contract. So the starting place is ‘at will’,” Heller said.
Croyle made the motion to advertise the ordinance for the creation of the borough manager position that will be adopted at next month’s meeting. The motion received a second from Wilt, and approved by all present except Peters. Councilman Wilber Stitt was not present.
The next public meeting will be held on April 2 at 7PM in Council Chambers in the Municipal Building.