Any budget discussion in which the term "Pandora's Box" is mentioned is not going to be smooth.
But, in this classic display of the good, the bad and the ugly, the term was absolutely used -- and meant -- in the course of the rollout of Macungie's preliminary budget at its Dec. 3 meeting.
Council Member Chris Becker who, of all seven members of council, spent the most time during 2012 counting the borough's beans, was the one to portend rough times. But not without heated discussion.
In the end, the preliminary budget was passed and will be advertised and on display for 10 days.
The good news is there will essentially be no increase in real estate taxes. Due to Lehigh County's tax restructuring which says taxes will be based on 100 percent of appraised value -- rather than 50 percent of the appraised value as has been the system up to now -- the millage rate for the borough of Macungie will be 2.5 mils as of Jan. 1. Under the 50-percent appraisal system, millage in 2012 was 8.45 mils.
According to council members Joseph Sikorski and Becker, that calculates to be just about exactly the same. It will mean an increase of about $2 per household. They called it a draw.
The "bad" is that there will, however, be an increase in sewer charges. Per quarter the 2013 fixed rate will be $43.56 with a $3.54 flow rate per 1,000 gallons. In 2012 the fixed rate per quarter was $36.16 and the flow rate was $2.99 per 1,000 gallons.
Then came the ugly.
The Macungie Police Department gave council a heads-up that one or more officers will require surgery in 2013. It means that there will be more than 30 weeks in 2013 that an additional officer will be needed to cover the sick time being taken by the full time officer or officers to provide the borough with the protection it's getting now.
The proposed 2013 budget allows for the hiring of a 32-hour per week officer with no tax increase, but Mayor Rick Hoffman has said he will veto the tax ordinance that would support such a budget.
Essentially, council is within its rights to hire a 32-hour per week officer -- which would mean guaranteeing the new officer four shifts per week -- but the mayor will not allow those shifts to be put on the schedule.
The mayor did not attend the council meeting. Members of council who had spoken with him repeated his mandate that there will be only 25 police shifts scheduled each week.
After contentious discussion, council passed the preliminary budget in a 5-2 split vote: Council President Jean Nagle and Councilman Linn Walker voted against it. Council members Debra Cope, Sikorski, Becker and Gregory Hutchison voted for it.
It will be on display at the borough office and on its website after 10 a.m. today.