Council Fails to Approve Preliminary 2012 Budget
Even cutting of jobs and services will not avoid a tax increase.
One by one, fellow council members told President Guy Ramsey as they walked into the Dec. 5 Macungie Borough Council meeting that they just could not vote on the budget all had agreed upon last week.
Indeed, it was a long night before the six council members finally came to one very uneasy agreement involving a tax increase of three-quarters of a mil, or about $45,000.
If approved, a tax increase of .75 of a mil would raise the real estate tax on a $150,000 home – assessed at $75,000 – by $56.25 per year.
One by one, each coucil member unveiled his or her own 2012 budget proposal, none of which garnered even one vote other than its presenter’s.
“We’re at an impasse,” Ramsey said as he started canvassing each member for the third – or maybe the fourth – time.
Council members Dorothy Kociuba, Jean Nagle and Ramsey’s versions leaned toward drastic cuts in borough services and no tax increase.
Less austere – but still frugal – versions from Joseph Sikorski, Robert Bogert and Chris Becker focused on keeping particular services they thought were most important to Macungie taxpayers’ quality of life. Tax increases on their plans were as much as 2.45 percent.
On the table:
- A full- and a part-time police officer positions which would require adding $44,000 to the budget to pay part-time officers to fill scheduling gaps
- The shrinking of two administrative positions to 24 hours each and no benefits from 40 hours with benefits
- A public works position
- Sustaining $350,000 in carry-over funds that pay borough bills through April when tax money starts coming in and
- The mandate to keep 24/7 police coverage using Macungie’s own police force
The most controversial issue was whether to keep 24-hour protection by the borough’s own police force.
Several members pointed out that in a recent borough survey police, fire and ambulance coverage was rated first in importance to borough residents.
Other issues included the fact that among the unionized borough administrative staff one position, currently held by Karen Holt, the Macungie Institute’s building coordinator, would be cut back to 24 hours from 40, and that Holt would lose her health benefits.
Ditto for the administrative assistant to the Borough Manager. Currently, Cindy Hartzell holds the position and would lose 16 hours of work per week and her eligibility for health benefits.
“What we’re dealing with is the new normal,” Ramsey said. Council members agreed the economy just is not coming back – not now anyway – and that smaller government, one the borough can afford, must be considered.
And though some thought it too austere and others too frivolous, late in the evening council passed a motion to advertise a new preliminary version at 7 p.m. Dec. 12.
It includes the elimination of both police officers’ positions, the slashing of the administrative positions, the intact carry-over funds and the continuation of the 24/7 police coverage mandate.
Council Member Robert Bogert introduced the compilation, though he made it quite clear that if it were up to him alone, he would opt for a tax increase and keep all the borough services.
By law, the borough must post the approved preliminary budget before publicly posting it for 10 days. After that it can be formally voted on and adopted.