State College Borough Council approves parking changes, talks budget

Borough Council on Monday began discussion of next year’s budget, which includes a $31,891 natural gas impact fee from the state that staff must figure out how to handle.

While municipalities receiving the fee can use it for various items, borough residents last year adopted by referendum a home rule charter amendment that bans natural gas drilling. So Finance Director Norma Crater said her staff has set it aside until they decide if the funds can be spent or must be given back.

The borough’s budget narrative indicates that staff anticipate returning the entire amount.

Also Monday, during a regular meeting ahead of the budget discussion, the council approved two traffic changes, following reconstruction of Corl Street and Fraser Street.

Council had few budget questions Monday night, but review of the budget will continue into December. The next discussion opportunity comes at a work session tonight, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the municipal bulding, 243 S. Allen St.

Crater and other staff outlined several sections of the budget, including the $20.9 million in general fund expenditures, 53 percent of which comes from taxes.

With an overall increase of about 3 percent, Crater said it’s not entirely clear why earned income taxes are up slightly for 2013 — about $25,000 from 2012 projections.

“There’s not enough information about whether it’s an increase in wage earners or better collection practices,” she said, noting that Act 32, the new state law related to EIT collection, may be contributing to that. “Staff is going to continue to monitor those trends.”

Assistant Manager Roger Dunlap reviewed the capital improvements budget, which includes 29 projects at a price tag of about $12.5 million. Highlights include construction of the new municipal maintenance building, the downtown master plan, fixing the Memorial Field sinkhole, and parking garage maintenance.

Regarding the traffic changes, the council approved prohibiting loading and unloading in the travel lanes of Fraser Street. A sign allowing for that during certain times was posted after Fraser was realigned at Beaver Avenue.

Manager Tom Fountaine said the posting was designed for quick food deliveries, but that larger trucks are making deliveries that take more time. That has created a safety hazard for pedestrians and other vehicles, he said.

“Staff believes that there is adequate loading zone space on College Avenue at the corner of Fraser Street,” Fountaine said, reading the meeting agenda narrative.

On Corl Street, Fountaine said a fire hydrant was placed in a new section of the street during its recent reconstruction. The placement conflicts with a parking sign, because parking is prohibited within 15 feet of a hydrant.

The council unanimously approved both changes.