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Williamsport Council Concerned About Police Salaries

WILLIAMSPORT — Williamsport Mayor Gabe Campana is proposing to use money from gas drilling impact fees to cover the salaries of police officers. Some memb...
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WILLIAMSPORT -- Williamsport Mayor Gabe Campana is proposing to use money from gas drilling impact fees to cover the salaries of police officers. Some members of city council call that plan a risky move.

Williamsport City Councilwoman Bonnie Katz bagged chocolates at her store on Pine Street in Williamsport. Katz budgets her business.

"You have to budget where you're going to go. You have to decide what your customers really want, but there are things that you just can't do if you don't have the money," said Bonnie Katz.

She's also working to finalize Williamsport's budget for next year.

"$700,000 that the mayor put in the budget to be used for public safety," said Katz.

The 2015 budget proposed by Mayor Campana does not call for a tax increase. It uses $700,000 from natural gas impact fees to cover police salaries.

"If you budget something for this year with that kind of money, what do you do for the following year and the year after when you don't have that kind of money coming in?" Katz said.

Impact fees are collected by the state from natural gas drillers. That money is then divided among communities affected by drilling. Katz says this year, Williamsport's share of impact fee money was used to fix streets and add lights.

Katz says property taxes alone won't pay for police salaries.

"To count on it for someone's salaries and to have it go away unexpectedly I think would be a bad idea," said Kyle Engel.

Newswatch 16 spoke with some homeowners in Williamsport who say they would like to see more officers on the payroll and the city needs to find a way to pay for it.

"It's not fair to these guys to work overtime and you know stretch them so thin, especially in a dangerous situation," said Engel.

"I'm hoping that council and the mayor can work something out that we don't have a tax increase, but yet can still have the police complement that we need," said Dave Rizzo.

Katz says the council has also agreed to put money aside for new officers in the coming year. At this point she says it's too soon to say where the money for police salaries will come from.

"Nobody wants a tax increase. They really don't, but I can't guarantee that at this point,” said Katz.

Newswatch 16 did try to get in touch with Mayor Campana on Thursday. He wasn't available to make a comment. Williamsport is expected to have next year's budget finalized by December 18.