Following an executive session, during which members of the public stood outside for about half an hour, Lansford council voted to hire an accounting firm to gather and organize information so the borough will be able to draft a 2013 budget.
With Councilman Lenny Kovach absent from the special meeting, council members Samantha Yasson, Andrew Snyder, Danielle Smith and President Rose Mary Cannon voted to hire the firm. Mary Soberick and Tommy Vadyak were opposed.
Council decided to hire someone to do the budget preparation work as secretary-treasurer Beth Seymour is out on sick leave for an undetermined length of time.
This year's budget increased the property tax rate by 1 mill, bringing the levy to 33.47 mills. That meant the owner of a home assessed at $25,000 paid $836.75 this year, up from $811.75 in 2011.
For the past few years, council has struggled to put together budgets because borough financial records are incomplete, disorganized or simply not there. A team composed of council members, businessman Bob Silver and auditors last year discovered there were unpaid bills, and unrecorded bank deposits and fee payments.
Compounding the problems this year, the auditors abruptly quit in October, leaving undone the 2011 audit.
Further, there are no typed minutes of meetings. That led to an argument Tuesday between Vadyak and Cannon. Vadyak suggested council purchase a speech recognition software program, Dragon. Versions range from about $100 to $300. The program translates speech into text. Vadyak said the missing minutes could be done very quickly by using the program.
However, Cannon disagreed, saying the program would not work for that purpose.
Vadyak also suggested bringing Silver in again to help. But Silver, who was in the audience, declined.
Council meets next at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12 in the borough hall at 1 E. Ridge St.