It may be late, and it may not be perfect, but Lansford finally has a proposed 2013 budget.
At a special meeting Thursday, council, with member Andrew Snyder absent due to work, voted 5-1, with Tommy Vadyak opposing, to accept the budget proposal it had rejected on Jan. 3.
The $1,474,446 balanced spending plan, crafted by council President Rose Mary Cannon, calls for a slight drop in the property tax rate, from 33.47 mills to 32.91 mills.
That means the owner of a home assessed at $25,000 would pay $822.75 in real estate tax this year, down from $836.75 last year.
The proposal breaks down to 26.32 mills for general purposes; 1.4 mills for debt; 0.61 mills for parks and recreation; 1.20 mills for fire protection; 2.78 mills for lighting; 0.1 mill for the Panther Valley Public Library; and 0.50 mill for the pension fund. The spending plan also restored $10,000 for part-time police officers that council cut a couple of months ago.
Prior to approving the budget, Cannon read a lengthy statement, in which she listed reasons why council had failed to approve a final budget before the Dec. 31 deadline. They included the lack of a required 2011 audit (the auditing firm walked off the job on Oct. 31); the difficulty of getting council members to attend budget meetings; and a lack of accurate figures for years.
Cannon said financial reports had not been completed two-and-a-half years, due to office staff turnover and other reasons.
The vote to approve the budget was difficult. Councilwoman Samantha Yasson had worked with other council members to draft a budget, but eventually decided, after much thought and discussion, in favor of Cannon's spending plan.
Councilwoman Mary Soberick also was skittish about the budget, but eventually voted to approve it so that council could once again pay bills, take a $100,000 tax anticipation loan, and qualify for grants.
She cautioned that council would have to keep a close eye on each month's spending and revenue. That way, she said, council would be able to spot accounting errors and fill in any missing figures.
"It's not the budget that controls us," she said. "We have to control the budget."
Without a budget in place, council could only meet payroll and pay utility bills.
However, Councilman Lenny Kovatch, who is in charge of borough streets, said he bought salt.
"I'm not going to jeopardize the townspeople," he said.
During the lengthy discussion and debates that preceded the budget approval, Vadyak reminded council that budgets are fluid, and that they do not have to be strictly adhered to.
He likened spending plans to toilet paper.
Borough resident Bob Silver urged council to act on a budget immediately, just so a spending plan would be in place, allowing the town to continue operating.
"If you put this off much longer, we're going to be in real deep doo-doo around here," he said.