The City of Latrobe has an early Christmas present for taxpayers: Next year’s $5.9-million budget includes no tax increases.

While it is only a draft budget, little is likely to change before it goes up for approval at Latrobe City Council’s next regular meeting on Dec. 9.

“No tax hike,” city solicitor Zach Kansler reiterated when a council member asked specifically if the budget will include any tax increases.

The 2020 budget reflects a modest increase from 2019’s $5.7-million budget.

Meanwhile, council voted to approve a two-year contract agreement with new city manager John Antinori of Unity Township, setting his starting salary at $75,000.

Antinori, a former New York City businessman who grew up in Crabtree, is a 1983 Greater Latrobe Senior High School graduate who also has a bachelor’s degree from St. Vincent College and a master’s degree from Penn State University, both in English literature.

Shortly after his hiring was announced earlier this month, he said he recently returned home to the area after living in New York City for 25 years and he is looking forward to having “a chance to contribute something back to where I grew up.”

Antinori previously said he has “pretty extensive experience” in building budgets and managing teams at large organizations in the private sector.

According to his resume, he brings “years of experience in enterprise-level program management, business development and digital operations” to the table.

At one point, “as part of a six-person executive team, (he) helped transform R/GA from a New York City boutique with 40 employees and annual revenue of below $10 million into the premier digital agency in the world, with well over 1,000 employees in 13 cities and seven countries and over $200 million in annual revenue.”

He also worked in e-commerce at E&J Gallo Winery; served as part of the executive management team at AKQA, a marketing and communications company, and worked on two computer game software start-ups, Paragon Software and Take-Two Interactive.

Most recently, he worked at IBM with a “cross-discipline, cross-organizational” team to redesign its cloud web presence.

Antinori previously said he doesn’t see the shift to a job in municipal government as “that huge a jump,” and he’s looking forward to working with the city’s other leaders to help Latrobe prosper.

He also happens to be Latrobe Mayor Rosie Wolford’s cousin. She said that she recused herself from taking an active role in his interview during the hiring process — aside from listening in — and put councilman Ralph Jenko in charge. Jenko and fellow council member James Kelley said previously they were immediately impressed with him during the interview.

Antinori told the Bulletin after his hiring was announced that he’s wasn’t yet ready to comment on the specifics of his plans for taking on the role of city manager, as he only just found out he got the job. Asked by members of the media for additional comment Monday night, he again declined.

The city manager’s salary was budgeted at $53,201 for 2019, although the actual total spent on the salary by the city in 2019 so far is listed at $66,914.15 in budget figures, likely the result of an unusual line of succession for the post this year.

There was a shakeup months ago with the departure of former city manager Wayne Jones, who was succeeded by public works director Michael Gray. Gray worked as both public works director and city manager on an interim basis — filling two of the city’s most demanding roles simultaneously — before he was hired to permanently fill the city manager post, but he recently resigned for personal reasons.

Council’s agenda also includes:

  • Approval of the city’s proposed Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) program, a federally mandated stormwater pollution reduction initiative which will include a new fee for all property owners in Latrobe — including residential, commercial and industrial properties, both taxable and tax-exempt alike.

The amount for the fee has not yet been set, as the city’s consulting engineer, Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. Inc., is still analyzing the data that will be used to determine the appropriate fee. It will be a flat rate for residential properties but based on impervious space for other properties.

Kansler said the program is set to go into effect Jan. 1.

“We’ll roll it out in 2020 and start collecting fees,” he said;

  • A salary ordinance covering several city employees who are not subject to the Latrobe’s collective bargaining agreement. Officials didn’t discuss specific salary amounts or raises yet, but noted that the ordinance likely will be up for approval either in December or January;
  • Signing an agreement with West Penn Power accepting ownership of the electrical lines that run under city streets and service the new lamppost-style street lights around town. The loops that service those lights are now connected to city meters.

Mayor Rosie Wolford said West Penn Power has proven to be a “phenomenal” help, providing the city with information about the electrical systems which will prove invaluable to the city moving forward.

“We’re in really good shape. They did a tremendous job,” she said;

  • Consideration to open a PA Invest account for the city’s Liquid Fuels funds through the state Treasury to address bookkeeping concerns and take advantage of higher interest rates than those typically available at banks. Councilman Ralph Jenko said he reviewed the proposal and saw no downsides or risks involved;
  • Approval for renewal of the payroll services the city uses for its employees;
  • A promotion and a new hire in the Latrobe Police Department, as noted by Latrobe Police Chief John Sleasman;
  • Proclamations by Sleasman which will recognize several city police officers for their service.

In other business, city secretary and director of administration and finance Roxanne Shadron said that she got some additional information regarding findings for the city’s 2018 audit which she can share with council.

Council also entered into an executive session at the end of its agenda prep meeting Monday night to discuss matters of litigation, according to Kansler.

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