MAYOR PROPOSES 2013 BUDGET

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City of Allentown Proposed 2013 Budget

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski delivered his proposed 2013 city budget to City Council on November 7th. The budget calls for nearly $88 million in spending and does not require the city to utilize the reserve fund balance.

In his message to City Council, Pawlowski said, “The proposed 2013 Budget and Program of Services will see a continuation of the austere spending and employment practices we have pursued these past seven years. It maintains essential city services while reducing costs where appropriate.”

The administration anticipates finishing 2012 with expenditures $192,000 under budget.

The 2013 budget holds the composite property tax rate at 17.53 mills for a ninth consecutive year. The Earned Income Tax and Business Privilege Tax remain stable, as does the $52 Local Services Tax and user fees.

According to Pawlowski, the next few months are critical to the city’s future. “We are in the midst of confronting Allentown’s most serious financial challenge in its 250 year history. Our city is saddled with over $200 million legally binding full faith and credit general obligation debt in the form of our pension plan’s unfunded liability.  This growing debt not only dictates what we are required to contribute to our pension plan each year (our “MMO”) but just as importantly, it diverts away valuable – but very limited – funds from other much needed services for Allentown residents, taxpayers and business owners.

Our MMO for 2013 – including debt service on outstanding pension bonds is $18 million, which represents a 20% increase over the $15 million we were required to pay in 2012. This $18 million also represents more than 20% of our General Fund budget and will grow significantly to come close to 30% of our General Fund in just a few short years. This is absolutely unsustainable.”

Pawlowski and members of City Council are exploring the long-term leasing of the city’s water treatment and distribution system and the sewer collection, treatment and disposal systems. The purpose is to raise revenues to meet the city’s rising pension obligation payments.

“A minimum pension payment of at least $23 million by 2015 is too great a burden on city taxpayers,” Pawlowski said. “This proposal represents a fantastic opportunity to cover our costs, shore-up our bottom line and avoid tax increases for the foreseeable future.”

Pawlowski praised city department directors and bureau chiefs for their efforts throughout the budget formulation process. “I want to thank them for their time and effort in helping put together a budget that continues to provide outstanding services at reasonable costs to our taxpayers.”

MAYOR PAWLOWSKI’S PROPOSAL FOR A PERMANENT FIX FOR CITY FINANCES

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City of Allentown’s Waste Water Treatment Plant

The City of Allentown continues to explore a Concession and Lease agreement for its water and sewer services.  Here is a link to a video presentation by Mayor Pawlowski that explains the problem and the proposed solution.  Please click on “Mayor’s Water and Sewer Lease Video” at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTH4j1FOp78&feature=plcp. 

Seven companies were chosen from numerous submissions because of their vast experience with water and wastewater facilities management as well as their experience in the region to possibly run the water and sewer services.  They are: Aqua Pennsylvania, American Water, Access Capital, Lehigh County Authority, Macquarie, NDC Housing and United Water.

“All seven of these companies are first-rate and we will choose the company that is the best fit for the residents of Allentown,” said Mayor Pawlowski.  “Even though we’re still working on this plan and working it out with City Council, we want to find the right company to work with once this plan has been thoroughly explored and finalized.”

These seven entities were pre-qualified to bid based on extensive research on each company.  This completes the first stage of Allentown’s due diligence in screening entities that will be invited to submit bids for this plan, and the city will continue the process with the next step of performance evaluations, and review of financing plans.

“This plan would make the pension fund solvent, and put the city on solid, financial footing for years to come,” concluded Pawlowski.

For more information on the proposed plan, you can also visit the City of Allentown’s web site at:  http://www.allentownpa.gov/Portals/0/files/Mayors-office/Public%20Questions%20%20Statements_Water%20%20Sewer%20Lease%20Public%20Meetings_Aug%202012.pdf

YES WE DID, AGAIN!

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President Obama

On Tuesday, November 7th, Democrats made out well in the local elections, as well as the country unanimously re-electing President Barack
Obama.  Former Councilman Mike Schlossberg, who ran unopposed, will represent the 132nd District, replacing the retiring Jen Mann, while Dan McNeill will represent the 133rd District, previously held by Democrat Joe Brennan.

“The people spoke,” said Mayor Pawlowski.  “They see that the country is heading in the right direction under President Obama, and that putting Mitt Romney in the White House would be a terrible choice.  We also have strong leadership in Harrisburg with Mike and Dan heading out there, they’ll even be sharing on office.  They’re going to do great things for the residents of Allentown and the Lehigh Valley.”

Obama took 52% of the vote in Pennsylvania, and 53% in Lehigh County.  Kathleen Kane was elected the first woman and first Democrat to serve as Attorney General, while Democratic Senator Bob Casey easily won re-election.

Now that the elections are over, Democrats hope to carry over the momentum and enthusiasm to local Democrats who are up for re-election next year, like Mayor Pawlowski.  The local Democratic Party is planning another push to elect as many local Democrats as possible, and fund-raising begins now.  To donate to Mayor Pawlowski’s re-election campaign, please click on this link:  DONATE

CITY WEATHERS HURRICANE SANDY

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Powerlines downed by Hurricane Sandy

The City of Allentown endured Hurricane Sandy as it reached the Lehigh Valley on Monday, October 29th.  High wind gusts knocked down trees around the city resulting in massive power outages for city residents, but the city was spared the flooding that was expected from the storm.

“My house lost power, as did most residents,” said Mayor Pawlowski.  “Without the predicted rain we had no major flooding, which could have made things a lot worse.  I know a lot of us were inconvenienced without power, but we made out better than the Jersey Shore and New York City did.  I want to thank our Public Works crews and our Police and Fire personnel who worked throughout the storm.  They did a heck of a job.  We also need to thank the PPL crews and private contractors who helped restore our power.  They had an impossible task and worked around the clock until the job was done.”

The Red Cross opened an emergency shelter at Ag Hall during the storm, and then one at Dieruff High School to offer food, clothing and shelter.  Several supermarkets like Weis, Wegmans and Redners provided free ice to those without power, while PPL offered reimbursement for ice purchased at other locations. Some area restaurants offered free hot meals to those without power as well.

“I also want to thank those local businesses that stepped up to help as well,” added the Mayor.  “We showed we are a true community by everyone working together to help those in need.  I’m very proud of how Allentown made it through this storm.  This is what makes our city great.”

MARCHING ON: CITY ENJOYS POSTPONED HALLOWEEN PARADE

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2012 Allentown Halloween Parade

The City of Allentown’s 2012 Halloween Parade went off without a raindrop on Sunday, November 4th, after being postponed from the previous Sunday due to the on-coming Hurricane Sandy.   Those who braved the cold and damp weather were treated to a delightful mix of marching bands, dance groups, auto clubs, community organizations, and cultural groups like Puertorriqueños Unidos, who dazzled the crowd with their colorful costumes while they danced to Latin music.

Approximately 60 groups, divided into nine divisions of marchers and floats made their way down Hamilton Street from the start of the parade at the Allentown Fairgrounds to the conclusion at Ninth & Hamilton streets.  Mayor Ed Pawlowski walked the parade route delivering candy to the children who lined the parade route.

“Nothing puts smiles on faces like candy,” said the Mayor.  “The kids got a bonus this year with the rescheduled parade, getting candy a week after Halloween.  I know a lot of people in Allentown have been struggling without power, so this gave them a chance to take a break and enjoy themselves for an hour or so.”

The panel of judges recognized the following award winners…

Marching Bands
1st Place – Harrison Morton Middle School $500.00
2nd Place – Trexler Middle School $300.00
3rd Place – Allentown Central Catholic High School $200.00

Floats
1st Place – Cub Scout Pack 146 $500.00
2nd Place – Brownie Troop 6408 $300.00
3rd Place – West End Youth Center $200.00

Marchers
1st Place – Puerto Rican Culture Preservation Org. $300.00
2nd Place – Gress Mountain Ranch $200.00
3rd Place – Girl Scout Troop 690 $100.00

DANCE GROUPS RECOGNIZED
XCAPE
Born into the Arts
HALA (Hispanic American League of Artist)