by Jonathan Weaver
Last week, Ford City Borough Mayor Marc Mantini vetoed Ford City Borough Council’s 2015 tax ordinance.
At the December 29 special meeting, council members voted unanimously (5-0) not to raise taxes and keep the tax rate at 17.4 mills without much discussion. Council members also adopted the $7.5 million budget at that meeting.
“I’m against it – I believe the citizens of the community were left shorthanded in terms of (police) protection,” Mayor Mantini said. “I’m against what (Council) did to the police department.”
Since the beginning of the month, Mayor Mantini said the full-time police department has struggled after Council decimated the public safety portion of the 2015 funding plan.
“They dismantled a good police department,” Mayor Mantini said. “It’s horrible what happened here – I’ve never (seen) morale this low.”
Police Committee Chairwoman Vickie Schaub said she has seen Pennsylvania State Police troopers from the Kittanning barracks patrolling the municipality during shifts not able to be covered by full-time Police Sgts. John Atherton or Mark Brice or any part-time officers remaining on the active roster.
“I haven’t heard any negative (responses) from anybody,” Schaub said. “I understand why (residents) want 24-hour coverage, but I refuse to raise taxes for wages.”
Borough Manager Eden Ratliff and other members of Borough Council have tentatively set up a special public meeting for 7AM Saturday morning to address the mayor’s veto.
The meeting will be held at the Ford City Borough office – which is usually closed on weekends. The office is open 8:30AM-4PM Monday through Friday.
“Having a conversation with (council members), it seems as though they are looking to override the mayor’s veto of the 2015 tax ordinance,” Ratliff said. “My understanding from (Borough Solicitor Anthony Vigilante) is that we can only spend money on regular reoccurring bills and payroll until the 2015 tax ordinance is adopted.
(Currently) anything the Council may want to do, any expenses that might come up that aren’t regular or payroll we would not be able to pay for because of this veto.”
He said he has not heard any disapproval from local residents about the tax ordinance adopted.
“I think that the citizens of Ford City are very pleased that the current elected council members are keeping the taxes at the same rate rather than raising them,” Ratliff said.
According to the most recent additions to the Pennsylvania Borough Code, Council has until midnight Sunday to meet regarding the veto since Mayor Mantini submitted his veto on Thursday, January 15. At least five of the six council votes are needed to override the veto. If not, Ratliff said other action will be needed.
“If, after reconsideration, a majority of all elected council members plus one votes to override the mayor’s veto, the ordinance shall have full force and effect as if it had received the approval of the mayor,” the codebook reads.
Since the 2015 budget was not adopted via ordinance, it was not subject to approval by Mayor Mantini – only by a majority of council members.
The special meeting may be rescheduled in an effort to have a majority of the six-member council present.
Taxes were raised three-quarters of a mill at the end of 2013 .75 mills – a .50 mill replacement for the fire department’s use and .25 for street lighting taxes.