Coaldale borough council has embarked on its journey toward a 2012 budget, and the road promises to be a rocky one.

"It's going to be rough this year," said Councilwoman Nancy Lorchak. "The borough bills are being paid by the elderly and the working class."

Currently, property owners pay a real estate levy of 22.54 mills. That means the owner of a home assessed for taxes at $25,000 pays $563.50 in property tax $50 more than in 2010.

When council adopted the 2011 budget last December, it anticipated about $1.5 million in expenses. At the time, each mill could be expected to generate about $20,000.

As it begins crafting the 2012 spending plan, council anticipates eliminating overtime for employees to save money.

Every penny of revenue is crucial. Council on Tuesday discussed its gratitude for the $17,000 a year St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital pays in lieu of taxes. The money helps offset the borough's costs of plowing snow and salting access roads to the hospital and for the police officers who are often called to quell disturbances there.

The borough in January expressed its gratitude by agreeing to sign on as the applicant for a $1.5 million state grant that helped pay for new operating and recovery rooms at St. Luke's.

In other matters, council congratulated new Code Enforcement Officer Jamie Lee Nicholas for his enthusiastic start. Nicholas was hired Oct. 11 and was sworn in Oct. 28. He presented his first report at Tuesday's public meeting. He listed three occupancy permits/inspections; described four complaints/actions taken; detailed three violation notices. Nicholas also went to Schuylkill County court on the borough's behalf in the matter of 250 E. Water Street.

In that case, Judge John E. Domalakes denied property owner Diane L. Riccardo's request for a preliminary injunction to stop the borough from enforcing its property maintenance ordinance.

In other property matters Tuesday, borough zoning officer Peter A. Sachon reminded residents that anyone planning to change or build any sidewalk, curb, driveway or structure must contact the borough office to make sure the work complies with zoning and building codes.

Councilman Joseph Hnat said there have been problems with people using asphalt to bridge driveways to streets or create curbs. Borough snowplows have been damaged when the blades strike the frozen asphalt.

Council may also buy a backflow prevention device for the home of Steve Tentylo of 226 Water St. Tentylo and his wife have complained to council about sewage backing up into their basement during heavy rains. Hnat said he'd get prices for the device to see if the borough could buy and install one.

Also on Tuesday, council heard from representatives of SL Pecora Electric, LLC, of Drums, Luzerne County, which provides solar and wind power equipment. Council may decide to use alternative energy to power the Coaldale Complex, which houses the PathStone/Carbon County Head Start program. The electric bills there are currently about $700 a month.

The company will examine the building to see if solar or wind power is feasible and determine an estimated cost.

Council also agreed to ratify a four-year contract with the borough workers' Teamsters Union. The pact gives the workers a 2 percent salary increase.