PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Rich Fitzgerald wouldn’t get specific about his 2014 County budget before addressing council member Tuesday night, but it’s clear that holding the line on taxes is a top priority.
“We’re going to work and do our best to keep taxes as low as we can,” he said.
Allegheny County’s tax millage rate last went up just before Fitzgerald took office.
“We’ve only raised them once, one time in 12 years, and we hope to continue that,” he said.
But the problem for county officials is that spending keep going on.
“With an $800 million budget, even with 2 to 3 percent inflationary increases in wages and costs and other things, you’re looking at $20 million a year that you’ve got to make up,” he said.
And state and federal cutbacks to the county hurt too.
Councilman Bill Robinson, the budget chairman who supports a tax hike, says the county needs more money.
“I believe we need $50 million in new revenue to do everything the executive would like to do, the council would like to do, and our constituents would like us to do,” he said.
Fitzgerald rejects that, saying he’s looking at ways to save money.
“We continue to try to find efficiencies, and we will do that,” he said. “We have found some efficiencies, you consolidate some services. Technology certainly helps you in some regards, but at the end of the day the biggest part of the budget is personnel.”
And Fitzgerald holds out the option of cutting the number of county workers – something his predecessor once did.
Whatever the executive’s proposed budget, Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh, a Republican, says council needs to act independently.
“It has become, to my unhappiness, a rubber stamp for the county executive,” she said.