Slatington's as-yet-unapproved 2014 borough budget took center stage at a special meeting Monday night held immediately after the Finance/Planning/Zoning, Public Safety, and Human/Community Services Committee Workshop meeting.
During the brief opening committee meeting, Fire Chief Keith Weaver asked the council present to consider publicly honoring two veteran firefighters who had recently been recognized during a fire department ceremony for their 40-plus years of service and subsequent retirement. Afterward, all three committees gave brief updates before the council then called to order the special meeting to tackle the budget.
A preliminary budget had been adopted on Monday, Dec. 9. However during that meeting, President Daniel Stevens had noted that two of the six budgets, the fire budget and the general budget, were not yet balanced.
Also at that meeting, Stevens had suggested two possible remedies for balancing the fire budget, one of which was to impose a users fee on residents needing the borough's aerial truck assistance. Almost immediately, the other council members expressed that they would rather not impose a fee.
The other remedy that had been suggested to balance the fire budget had been to lower a debt payment for the aerial truck.
Stevens later explained that a past council had purchased the aerial truck years ago by borrowing money from another fund. Repayment of that debt had stood at about $16,000 in recent years. However, just last year the council had upped the repayment to about $20,000.
After discussing the subject in detail, the council decided to simply move that payment back down to approximately $16,000 in 2014.
Just before convening for an executive session during which personnel matters were discussed, the council adopted a number of resolutions, including the 2014 final budget and its tax levy ordinance.
In order to balance the general budget, the council increased the real estate tax by .25 mills, moving it to 5.25 mills. This amounts to about a 5 percent increase, Stevens later noted, which means if a property owner now pays $500 in taxes, his or her taxes will increase by $25. He also said that water/sewer/garbage user fees will not increase.
Though adopted, the budget and tax levy ordinance did not pass unanimously. Stevens chose to abstain, citing that both contained information regarding the new borough manager position for which he might apply.
Meanwhile, Vice President Bryon Reed said he did not approve of the increase due mainly to a position on the police force that was budgeted for that he did not feel was necessary.
Most of the other five members seemed less than enthusiastic when approving both the budget and the tax levy ordinance, including Councilman David Schnaars who responded, "A reluctant yes."