WILKES-BARRE — The city might not hit the $1 million budgeted this year for parking meter revenues after doubling the hourly rate, city Administrator Ted Wampole said Monday.
“I think we may end up a little bit short,” Wampole said.
If it misses the mark, Wampole said, he hopes the city will make up for the shortfall in other areas.
Recurring and anticipated deficits factored into Mayor Tony George’s decision in June to ask that the state declare Wilkes-Barre financially distressed under Act 47. The state Department of Community and Economic Development began its review of the mayor’s request and will make a determination on whether to appoint a coordinator to put together a recovery plan to place the city on stable financial footing.
The mayor boosted the hourly meter rate to $2 in order to balance his $49.4 million general fund budget. A draft of the July monthly financial report listed $434,191 in meter revenues or 43 percent of the budgeted total of $1 million. The monthly figure was $155,540 or 56 percent more than the $278,651 that the city collected in July 2017, Wampole noted.
There was still the possibility that the revenues could pick up, Wampole said. “We’ll get a better idea when school begins,” and students park at the meters downtown, he said.
The garbage bag fee, meanwhile, showed higher revenues compared to the same period last year. Residents are paying roughly 30 percent more for the bags they fill for curbside pickup, however.
This year the city budgeted $1.63 million in revenues for the bags. As of July 31, the city collected $784,185 or 48 percent of the budgeted total, according to the draft report. That means bag revenue was $231,178 (41 percent) more than the $553,007 collected for the first seven months of 2017.
“That’s definitely trending higher,” Wampole said.
Overall, the city reported approximately $30.9 million in revenues or 62 percent of the budgeted total. Expenses amounted to $21.8 million or 44 percent of the budgeted total. The balance dropped by $1.7 million from the June report to $9 million in July, according to the most recent draft report.
Overtime was within the budgeted amounts for the most part, with the exception of the fire department and garbage collection.
Firefighters exceeded their budgeted total of $50,000 for the year. According to the draft report, overtime was $90,189 or 180 percent of the budgeted amount.
The department is short-staffed and the city has no intention of hiring new firefighters, Wampole said. A $1.1 million federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant awarded in 2016 to retain six firefighters for two years expired in July. The city budgeted to maintain the firefighters through the end of the year.
Mike Bilski, president of the Wilkes-Barre City Fire Department International Association of Fire Fighters Local 104, said six men have retired and another four will leave by the end of the year.
The department has been able to meet the minimum staffing level of 11 people for each of the four shifts and no fire stations have been closed, Bilski said.
But, Bilski said, “It’s tough on the guys.”
The union has begun contract negotiations with the city and held one meeting. “We had a very good sit down,” Bilski said, with other sessions expected.
Emergency overtime for the ambulance service also was over budget, according to the draft report. Through the end of July, the overtime was $11,313 or 141 percent of the $8,000 budgeted for the year.
The city reported $83,051 in overtime for garbage collection, or 111 percent of the $75,000 budgeted. The city topped the $15,000 budgeted for double time for cleanup after special events. It paid $20,905 or 139 percent of the annual budgeted amount, according to the draft report.
The Hollenback golf course also added to the overtime expenses. Through the end of July the city paid $4,166 or 167 percent of the $2,500 budgeted for the year. In addition, the city paid $1,165 in double time or 233 percent of the $500 budgeted.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.