Tension was palpable as Macungie Borough Council began its Nov. 21 meeting. The issue was the borough’s 2012 budget and the nearly $300,000 needed to balance it.
Some believe the only way to balance it is by raising taxes.
However, several passionate residents stepped to the podium to make their disinterest in that method.
Paul Jarrett begged council to curtail spending. He pointed his remarks at the salaries of borough workers which some say are excessive.
Though Borough Manager Chris Boehm stands to make $58,802 in 2012, she says she is the lowest paid borough manager in Lehigh and Northampton counties. Other administrative salaries for borough office workers in will range from 38,480 to $41,912.
Salaries for public works employees in 2012 will range from $38,168 to $54,205.
And next year, police salaries will range from $36,899 for the part-time officer to $58,469.
Borough Manager Boehm, Police Chief Edward Harry Jr. and Public Works Supervisor Tracy Smith have all turned down the $500 increases in their 2012 salaries that would keep them as the highest paid members of their respective departments.
Other compensation thought by some to be excessive involves medical benefits. If an administrative, public works or police department worker gets medical benefits through a spouse, the borough pays directly to the worker half of what it pays for benefits to a worker who subscribes to the benefits.
That’s $7,700 added to the paychecks of workers who get their benefits through a spouse.
After the meeting, council resumed the budget workshop that began an hour before the meeting.
The original budget proposal Boehm presented to council about six weeks ago included expenses that were 12 percent lower than expenses in the 2011 budget.
The problem is that revenues are down 23 percent heading into 2012.
The biggest reason for the drop I borough income, said Council President Guy Ramsey, is the dip in collected from truckers who for years illegally drove on the Route 100 hill between Buckeye Road Route 29 in Upper Milford.
“We will not have between $80,000 and $120,000 in revenue we once had from truck fines.
A recent Morning Call story spelled out exactly what the borough would be losing.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy the danger is gone and nobody will be killed by a big truck coming down the hill,” Ramsey said.
The second reason for the budget shortfall are the legal fees the borough has accrued since Mayor Rick Hoffman took office almost two years ago, Ramsey said.
“We didn’t sue anybody, we were sued,” he said.
A third reason involves a sharp decrease in the number of grants the borough has enjoyed over the past several years, he said.
After discussing several ways to balance the budget that involve severe cuts in services – including laying off workers and cutting borough services – council charged Boehm with the challenge of coming to the next budget workshop meeting with a balanced budget proposal that involves no tax increase.
“It’s going to be ugly,” Boehm said.
The next budget workshop – to be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 1 in the Macungie Institute auditorium – will yield the proposal council will vote on at its Dec. 5 meeting.