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Politics & Government

County Council Passes 2013 Budget, Cuts Controller Funding

Allegheny County Council passed a $799 million operating budget for 2013 on Tuesday night. The spending plan includes a deep funding cut to the County Controller's office, though the cut was not as large as originally proposed by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

The budget legislation passed on a 13-1 vote, with Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh as the only dissenter. The councilwoman said she voted against the plan because she did not want to cut funds for Controller Chelsa Wagner's office, and because she thought the plan could be more streamlined.

Councilwoman Heidelbaugh noted that the only reason the millage rate was reduced from 5.69 to 4.73 in this budget is that the county was legally required to avoid a windfall of extra revenue from the reassessed property values to be used in 2013.

"It's my opinion that if we had done some real hard work this year by looking at the programs, looking at the jail, which we've never done despite repeated requests, that we could be making savings and we could have reduced the millage even further," said Heidelbaugh.

The councilwoman introduced an amendment to add nearly $250,000 to the Controller's budget, but she registered the only 'yes' vote for the change.

Controller Wagner delivered a fiery speech before the budget was passed, calling it a "shameful evening" for the county. Wagner said the budget cuts roughly seven percent from the Controller's office while not cutting any other county office.

"The departments under the Executive are receiving more than a $19 million increase," said Wagner. "They're receiving more than a six percent increase. That never happened under County Executive [Dan] Onorato, nor under County Executive [Jim] Roddey. It is unprecedented."

However, Council Members William Robinson and Barbara Daly Danko argued that Council did end up restoring about $200,000 to the Controller's budget, up from the County Executive's original proposal to cut $600,000.

The Controller's budget will fall from about $6.3 million in 2012, down to roughly $5.9 million in 2013. The Controller had asked for her funding level to remain flat from year to year. Wagner has said that the funding cut will probably result in layoffs within her office.