Tamaqua Mayor Christian Morrison has vetoed the budget adopted by Tamaqua Borough Council on Dec. 15. Morrison informed council of his veto on Christmas Eve and provided the TIMES NEWS with a copy of that letter.
"This letter is to officially inform you that I will use my power as Mayor to veto the 2010 Tamaqua Borough budget that passed on Dec. 15, 2009," he wrote. "Although cuts have been made over the previous year's budget, I feel that increasing taxes over $140,000 is fiscally irresponsible to the borough property owners and unreasonable in this current economic climate. As all families are being required to do, we must find ways to cut more and avert any tax increases.
"Many weeks ago, I proposed measures to the Finance Committee that would provide substantial savings in the Borough Police Department. Chief Mattson also proposed $96,000 in savings to the committee through changes in police scheduling. Unfortunately, the Finance Committee has not accepted to pass these savings on to the borough taxpayers. I believe if we further examine the other departments, more savings could be found.
"And, although we are facing increasing expenditures in regard to pension contributions and Council's decision to fix the Owl Creek Dams, we can all agree that we knew these expenses were forthcoming and did not just surface overnight. That is why, even though I was criticized for doing so, I vetoed last year's no tax increase budget. In doing so, I offered proposals to cut borough spending by $150,000 through downsizing. Had these suggestions been incorporated, the taxpayers wouldn't be faced with any tax increase this year while still fulfilling our pension obligations and being able to fix the dams.
"That is why in addition to the present, we must be willing to look at long term solutions for the future. Unfortunately, past borough councils have ignored this responsibility. I would propose studying the privatization of the borough authorities and regionalization of policing.
"We can look beyond the traditional approach of governing and still be able to provide the basic functions of government. It comes down to the financial fact that borough residents simply cannot afford any tax increases."
Council passed its 2010 budget on Dec. 15, calling for a 2 mill tax increase. The current tax rate is 17.25 mills. The budget lists $8.6 million in expenses.
At that meeting, Tamaqua Borough Council President Micah Gursky noted more than $200,000 in budget cuts were made to the initially proposed budget. He noted that 1.5 mills of the tax increase will be used to repair the Owl Creek Dams. The borough faces a state mandate to either rehabilitate or breach the two dams at the Owl Creek Reservoirs. The issue was placed on the November ballot, as a referendum, and the majority of voters elected to go ahead with repairs.
Aware that Morrison planned to veto the budget, council scheduled a special meeting for today, at 4:30 p.m., in council chambers at 320 E. Broad St. The purpose of the meeting is to overturn the mayor's veto. The public announcement was published in the Dec. 26 edition of the TIMES NEWS.