For the first time in five years, Tamaqua residents are facing a tax increase.
Council voted to adopt and advertise 2014's $7.56 million budget at Tuesday's meeting. The proposed budget contains a 1.5-mill tax increase, which puts the rates at 17.25 mills for general purposes, 1 mill for the building and equipment fund, and 0.5 mill for the Wabash Capital Improvement fund.
Previously, the millage stood at 16.25 mills for general purposes, 0.5 mill for the building and equipment fund as well as the 0.5 mill for the Wabash fund. Each mill generates approximately $70,000. A household assessed at $25,000 can expect to pay about $37.50 more in taxes next year.
Borough manager Kevin Steigerwalt attributed the increase to a general increase in costs across the board. Council President Micah Gursky said cost cutting measures the borough has put in place, combined with a decrease in what the borough is paying for workmen's compensation insurance, and cuts to the police budget, helped keep the increase to a minimum.
The preliminary budget will be available for public viewing until next month, when council votes on the final budget.
In other business, council approved handicap parking spaces for applicants at 25 S. Nescopec St. and 231 W. Spruce St. They adopted an ordinance establishing parking meter rates of 25 cents per hour in borough parking lots and meter permit parking areas and 50 cents per hour in the non-permit parking areas. Steigerwalt said the new meters will be ordered immediately and should be installed early next year.
Council also voted to advertise an ordinance establishing a stop intersection for east bound traffic on Mountain Avenue at the intersection with Federal Street
Council approved an ordinance amending the Quality of Life ordinance. The changes to the ordinance include adjustments to the fines and some other clarifications that the initial ordinance did not include, such as the 24-hour window to put garbage out and return empty cans.
Council also adopted an ordinance establishing additional parking regulations, including parked cars that are unlicensed or uninspected, or may have had the license revoked.
Council heard from Peter Alicandri, the owner of Confetti's Restaurant. Alicandri asked that the borough provide a checklist of what the code enforcement officer is going to inspect in a food service operation.
"It's problematic for me. I get no hint at all as to what the inspection entails," he said.
Alicandri, who has been operating his business for 20 years, also questioned the need for re-inspection fees.
"There is a potential for abuse there. It can become very costly," he said. "We want to comply, obviously, but at my age, 78, it might turn out to be too costly for me."
Steigerwalt said he will review providing a checklist with the borough's code enforcement department.
Council had a brief discussion about the intersection of East Broad and Greenwood streets. Prior to the PennDOT improvement projects, there was a turn lane from East Broad onto South Greenwood that no longer exists. Mayor Christian Morrison said that people who are used to the previous traffic pattern still follow it while people who are not familiar with it follow the current layout and there have been many near misses in the area.
Councilman Brian Connely advised council that the water authority is going after funding for infrastructure improvements and it has put together a financing package in the amount of $9.4 million.
Connely said that all the other loans that the water authority had have been rolled into one loan and the interest savings from doing that is between $70,000 and $80,000.
Gursky announced the borough is currently applying for a "City Revitalization Investment Zone" or CRIZ.
"This allows a community to take part of any of the state taxes that are paid in that area, amusement tax, liquor sales tax, personal income taxes, for example, and use them for improvement projects in the area," he explained. "The city of Allentown, they are using this to build the arena."
Gursky said the application process is competitive, but it could mean a lot for the downtown area. The application included all highway and general commercial properties in the borough, as well as any establishments that have a liquor license.