Tamaqua Borough Council managed to hold the line on its budget for 2011 without raising taxes. However, one councilman disagreed with the proposed budget and council also resolved to try to reduce spending in the police department.
The tentative budget sets the real estate tax at 16.75 mills for general purposes and 0.5 mill for the buildings and equipment fund, for a total of 17.25 mills. Borough manager Kevin Steigerwalt said that each mill generates about $72,000. The borough's estimated revenues for 2011 are $13,237,516. Expenditures are estimated at about $12,939,506.
Councilman John Trudich was the lone negative vote on the tentative budget and the accompanying tax ordinance. After the meeting Trudich explained that he favored spending cuts.
"We gotta save money," he said. "Every year, we're borrowing money to pay the bills. We can't keep operating like that. There's got to be cuts some place."
During the meeting Councilman Brian Connely explained that the borough has been saving money in areas like insurance, where it qualified for a significant discount due to the implementation of a safety program, and the street light project.
Council also approved a proposal from the Pennsylvania Municipal Health Insurance Cooperative for group life and disability insurance, which will be effective Dec. 1. Councilman Tom Cara said the proposal will save the borough about $4,000. Steigerwalt said there will be no change under the new policies, and in fact, they may be slightly better.
Council President Micah Gursky also noted that the borough has not backfilled positions that have been vacated due to retirements in order to save money.
After a lengthy executive session to discuss personnel and real estate matters, council reconvened to approve a motion to have the police committee meet with the mayor to draft the shift schedules for the police department, that will maximize the use of full time officers, and hopefully, result in cost savings to the borough.
Setting the police schedule has caused controversy in the past between the mayor and the police chief. However, Gursky said that the borough needs to reduce spending, possibly in the area of overtime.
In other business, council approved the reappointments of Richard Hadesty to the borough authority and F. Patrick Davison to the water authority, based on recommendations from the authorities. Council approved the Tamaqua Chamber of Commerce's annual Santa Claus parade, to be held on Dec. 3rd, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Council approved certificates of appropriateness for the enclosure of a rear second-floor porch at 39 Market St. and the sign installation at a business at 113 W. Broad St., based on recommendations from HARC.
Gursky also said that members of the neighborhoods, downtown, and historic district committee met with members of the HARC to discuss their ordinances. HARC will be reviewing their ordinances and putting together some recommendations for changes.
Steigerwalt brought council up to speed on several projects that are going on in the borough. He praised the efforts of sewer department workers following a vehicle accident that caused extensive damage to the pumping station at Owl Creek.
"They responded quickly and did a great job setting up temporary pumps," he said. There was no disruption in service to area residents. Steigerwalt added that it may take three to four months to repair the estimated $200,000 worth of damage that was done to the pump station.
The bid opening for the demolition project at 311 Orwigsburg St. will be held on Dec. 1. Steigerwalt is currently preparing the bid packages for the 2011 street materials.
The South Ward playground project is also under way and the borough's engineers are currently preparing the permit applications for the proposed work on the Owl Creek dams that is scheduled to begin next summer, if the permits are approved by DEP.
Council approved a move to curb paving of Pleasant Row, along the 500-foot section of wall that is currently being repaired. Although it was approved, it will most likely not occur until next spring. Council also agreed to look into the cost of repairing the remaining section of the retaining wall, which is still stable.
Cara announced that there will be focus groups held at the Tamaqua Public Library by St. Luke's Hospital for a community health assessment. The groups will be held on Nov. 22 and 29, at 7 p.m. Participants will be required to fill out a survey.
Refreshments will be provided and all participants will receive a $10 gift card for Boyer's or DiMaggio's.
To register for a focus group, contact Elizabeth Roth at (610) 954-2063.
Resident Philip Ryan, of Hazle Street, asked where the borough is at with processing handicap parking permits. Councilman Ken Smulligan said that there are currently 14 permit applications on hold until the new year.
"We're considering changing when and how the applications are handled. We've been overwhelmed with applications," said Gursky.