2022 BUDGET UP FOR REVIEW Mt. Lebanon commissioners will be discussing next year’s budget at a series of workshops, before voting to adopt it at its December 14 meeting. The remaining workshops are scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Friday, December 3 and, if needed, Monday, December 6, in the commission chambers in the Mt. Lebanon Municipal Building, 710 Washington Road. You can also view the workshops live on Zoom, and see the recorded video on www.mtlebanon.org.
Mt. Lebanon Municipal Manager Keith McGill and Finance Director Andrew McCreery work with department heads and staff office chiefs to develop a working budget. Next year’s budget calls for a 0.2-mill increase in real estate tax. This increase represents $20 in taxes for every $100,000 of assessed home value. The increase would bring in an additional $544,390 annually.
McGill says the proposed increase would be used primarily for non-recurring expenses in 2022 and also to build financial capacity for future years. Among the one-time expenditures are the implementation of a parks master plan, tennis court reconstruction, improvements to basketball courts and an expansion of the root-damaged sidewalk repair program. Additional future expenses are $47,320 for the hire of a sustainability coordinator/assistant planner (budgeted for a mid-year start), and maintenance of the municipality’s automated accounts payable system and automated license plate reader.
Revenue from earned income tax is projected to increase by 2.4 percent and based on recent market activity and low interest rates, real estate transfer tax should bring in about 5.3 percent more than last year.
The budget is available for viewing online at www.mtlebanon.org, and paper copies are at the Mt. Lebanon Public Library and at the customer service center in the Mt. Lebanon Municipal Building during business hours, 8:30 to 5.
Next year’s recommended operating budget totals $36 million. Big-ticket items covered by the capital improvement budget account for another $7.83 million; debt service costs of $3.34 million and payment of $8.79 million to the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority for mandated stormwater improvements brings the total combined budget to $55.9 million.
The 2022 operating budget is increasing by 2.2 percent from 2021, fueled mainly by a 12.4 percent increase in commodities and a 3.4 percent increase in contractual services.
GETTING A HANDLE ON AIR QUALITY Mt. Lebanon residents can now access real-time air quality data from air monitors in several locations all across town.
The municipality purchased four of the monitors, manufactured by PurpleAir, and placed two at the Mt. Lebanon Municipal Building, and one each for the recreation center and public works complex, both on Cedar Boulevard. Other PurpleAir monitors are located at Keystone Oaks High School, Jefferson Middle School and Foster, Lincoln and Hoover Elementary schools. A few more are in private homes.
The monitors are designed for either indoor or outdoor use. Built-in WiFi enables the monitors to upload the data to a map, which you can access at www.purpleair.com by clicking on “Map.”
Mt. Lebanon is working on a climate action plan and Tim Reidy, a member of Mt. Lebanon’s Environmental Sustainability Board, sees the monitors as a crucial part of the plan.
“Pittsburgh has a lot (of PurpleAir monitors), but the South Hills in general has very few,” said Reidy. “All the way to the Mon, it’s pretty empty.”
Residents can use the real-time data to plan activities; teachers and students can incorporate the air quality information into studies, and Reidy sees the potential for wider use.
“This can help us to track air quality, maybe send out alerts on bad days,” he said. “We’re spared some of the worst air quality, like the conditions in Clairton and some other places, but some days, a temperature inversion can happen and the monitors can help us track that.”
Reidy also sees the air monitors as a way of raising public awareness about air quality. In Millvale, which has an ecodistrict and has a climate action plan in place, air quality data is displayed in real time at the public library.
“I think this can set a precedent in the South Hills,” Reidy said.”
REDUCING OUR CARBON FOOTPRINT The municipality buys its electricity from Constellation Energy. With one more year left on our contract, Constellation forecast a steep increase in energy costs by the time the contract expires in November 2022.
“We were in a position to extend the agreement so that current costs would be locked in at much lower rates,” said Public Works Director Rudy Sukal.
During discussions with Constellation, Sukal asked about the possibility of carbon-free energy. Constellation Energy is retiring carbon credits from a nuclear power plant it owns.
A carbon credit is a certificate that permits the holder to emit one ton of carbon dioxide or some other greenhouse gas. The credit has to be purchased. The credit certificates can either be resold or retired. Retiring a carbon credit takes it off the market.
The idea is, if a company is not currently able to reduce its carbon footprint, it can pay money to a company that’s further ahead in its pollution control, and thus is able to reduce its carbon footprint by a ton. Since nuclear power doesn’t generate greenhouse gases, the power plants can collect money from companies that generate pollution. The bottom line is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is great news that we went with the carbon-free solution,” Ward 5 Commissioner Andrew Flynn said in an email. “I know it’s a small administrative change, but is extremely important win that marks the municipality as a leader.”
SEWER WORK ENTERS NEW PHASE Mt. Lebanon is gearing up for more work on its sewer infrastructure, under a new phase of a consent order with the Allegheny County Health Department.
The municipality is one of 83 communities served by the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN). All of the ALCOSAN communities had been under a consent order that expired this year.
The aim of the new order is to reduce the amount of groundwater that flows into sewer pipes. Following a storm, cracked and broken pipes allow groundwater to find its way into the sanitary sewer system and can overload it.
The system is further overloaded by unsanctioned connections to the sanitary system, from downspouts, driveway drains and other outlets.
This new order covers a six-year time span. Communities have five years to plan and implement engineering and construction projects that will reduce the amount of groundwater by a specified amount, and a year to demonstrate the projects’ effectiveness by monitoring the amount of groundwater flowing into the system.
Even if a municipality is already under ALCOSAN’s threshold, the order mandates that those communities reduce their groundwater inflow by an additional 10 percent.
Funding for the mandated projects will come primarily from Mt. Lebanon’s sanitary and storm funds.
All meetings are in the Mt. Lebanon Municipal Building, 710 Washington Road and on Zoom.
COMMISSION Tuesday, December 14. Discussion session, 6:30 p.m., Room C; meeting, 8 p.m., Room A
WORKSHOPS 5:30 p.m., Friday, December 3 and (if needed) Monday, December 6
COMMUNITY RELATIONS BOARD
Wednesday, December 8, 6 p.m., Room C
DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND
Community Awareness and Community Building, 7:15 p.m., Wednesday, December 8; Recognition, Event Planning and Incident Response, 7 p.m., Thursday, December 9; Police Engagement Working Group, 5 p.m., Monday, December 27
7:30 a.m., Friday, December 17
6:30 p.m., Thursday, December 9
5 p.m., Monday, December 20
No meeting scheduled
PARKING FACILITY ADVISORY BOARD No meeting scheduled
PARKS ADVISORY BOARD
6:30 p.m., Tuesday, December 7
7 p.m., Tuesday, December 21
SPORTS ADVISORY BOARD
No meeting scheduled
7 p.m., Wednesday, December 1
ZONING HEARING BOARD
7 p.m., Thursdays, December 2 and 30