A meeting of Lansford council to discuss the upcoming budget on Monday drew a quorum at least for awhile, and not long enough for officials to get a grasp on whether a tax increase will be needed.
After three meetings in a row had to be canceled because not enough council members showed up, last night's gathering drew five of the seven officials. President Adam Webber, Rose Mary Cannon, Mary Kruczek, Danielle Smith and Tommy Vadyak began scrutinizing the current spending plan, questioning this and tweaking that.
Council members Andrew Snyder and Lenny Kovach were absent.
The meeting, which began at 6:30 p.m., ended at 8 p.m. when Smith had to leave to go to work. Webber declared the meeting adjourned.
Another budget meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the borough office, above the American Fire Co. No. 1 on East Patterson Street.
On Monday, council members at least started the process, going over revenues and expenses, line by line. They also considered a suggestion by borough tax collector Danny Wynn to drop the $10 annual per capita tax, which is hard to collect, and instead bump up the property tax millage to offset the loss.
Vadyak favored the idea, pointing out that many residents simply don't pay the per capita tax. In fact, he said, it may cost the borough more to try to collect the levy.
"There are people out there who are just basically laughing at us because they know we can't collect it," he said.
Cannon, however, advised council to wait until the current budget is reviewed because taxes might have to be increased elsewhere.
The current budget calls for 32.47 mills. That means the owner of a property assessed at $25,000 paid $811.75 in real estate tax this year $76.50 more than last year. Each mill is expected to generate $34,085 in revenue for the borough in 2012. That's up slightly from this year, when a mill generated $33,880.
However, Webber pointed out that the amount actually collected can vary. For example, he said that under the current millage rate, the borough would get $1,090,720 if 100 percent of property owners paid their taxes in full. That amount would drop to $927,112 if 85 percent paid.
This year, only 82.7 percent of property owners paid their taxes, generating $725,691.30.
As council members studied the budget sheets, Kruczek disputed the accuracy of delinquent tax collection figures, including real estate, library, pension, Earned Income and other levies.
The figures listed were "impossible to be correct," she said. She and secretary-treasurer Beth Seymour concluded that an auditor currently working to sort out and organize borough finances had notb yet entered some figures into the computerized system.
Some categories reflected shortfalls. They included the landlord licenses and inspections fees account, which the borough had anticipated would generate $25,320. So far this year, the fee has brought in only $9,556.25. That prompted resident, business owner and former mayor Bob Silver to tell council that bills for those fees are being sent out.
"It's a sin that the borough budgeted that much money and it's off by $15,763 that's almost half the payroll for that person (whose job it is to send the bills out)," he said.
The shortfall, Webber noted, represents about a half-mill.
Smith said that invoices for handicapped parking fees also are not being sent.
Council also noted that people are not paying the required moving permit fees. Council anticipated $4,500 from the fees, but so far has collected only $3,500.
The problem is that people move in and out under cover of night, Vadyak said.