Easton Mayor Sal Panto

Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. gave his annual state of the city address at City Hall in Easton on Wednesday. //// - NEWS - CHRIS SHIPLEY / SPECIAL TO THE MORNING CALL (CHRIS SHIPLEY / SPECIAL TO THE MORNING CALL / March 12, 2014)

Easton finished fiscal 2013 with its eighth surplus in as many years, a recent audit found.

The report from city auditor Palmer & Co. released Monday found the city's general-fund surplus was $336,043 in 2013.

"I think the audit is validating what we've tried to do," Mayor Sal Panto said at a press conference.

Fiscal restraint, Panto says, is the reason why a budget surplus has become an annual event for Easton.

But the city is facing the same rising pension and health care costs that plague cities across the state.

Easton saw a spike in medical insurance claims in fiscal 2014, creating a $1.7 million deficit in its health benefits fund. City Administrator Glenn Steckman said the city paid 14 or 15 severe claims in 2013, but the number in 2014 appears to be smaller.

The city is transferring $150,000 of to help bolster its depleted health benefits fund.

Another $50,000 of the surplus will be apportioned to anew fund geared to offset a $5 million unfunded liability for benefits for former employees.

Another $100,000 of the surplus will go to the revolving capital fund.

The city's debt rose to $50.4 million during 2013, an increase because of $16.92 million debt associated with the construction of the new city hall and transportation center. A reevaluation by Standard and Poor in October 2013 boosted the city's credit rating from A- to A+, which will make borrowing cheaper and easier for future capital projects, Finance Director Chris Heagele said.

But the "elephant in the room," Heagele said, was the more than $4 million the city paid to employee pension funds in 2014.

Like other mayors in the valley, Panto is backing an unsponsored pension reform bill by Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, that would lessen the potential liability for employers.

blandauer@mcall.com

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