Tamaqua overrides mayor's tax veto
Tamaqua Borough Council overrode Mayor Christian Morrison's veto of the proposed 2010 tax ordinance at last night's special meeting without any changes to it passed on Dec. 15.
Resident Dan Miorelli questioned whether cuts had been made, based on the mayor's veto.
"The mayor's proposal does not give us any cuts. The mayor vetoed the budget, presented his reasons, but there was nothing in there about cuts," said council President Micah Gursky.
Morrison brought up $96,000 that he said both he and Police Chief Dave Mattson felt could be saved in the police department by working on the shift schedule. Morrison referred to what he called "battles" between himself and the chief earlier this year, related to scheduling issues and resulted in Mattson's suspension, which was overturned by council.
"Quite frankly, through those battles, things got confused and turned around. It looked like it was a fight between the chief and the mayor about who does the schedule, as opposed to what the schedule should be," he said. "Now, the staff does their own schedule, and quite frankly, are not interested in changing the schedule that they have."
Gursky pointed out that it would be financially irresponsible to take that $96,000 out of the budget.
"Our finance, wage, and salary committee is not going to get into this," he said. "The mayor has been in office for four years and we haven't seen a nickel of savings. Just because the mayor says he can do it, we haven't seen it."
"If we choose to work together on this, we could get it done. That's what it's going to take." Morrison also stated that $35,000 had already been cut from the police department budget, but that was not taken out of the millage.
Gursky and borough manager Kevin Steigerwalt both cited areas where cuts were being made.
"In this year's budget, planning, zoning, and code enforcement will be combined into one position," said Gursky, who added a retiring code enforcement officer will not be backfilled.
Steigerwalt said that at one time there were 14 people in the street department.
"Now, there are eight. As people have retired, we have not backfilled them," he said.
Miorelli asked why the borough budgets $8,000 for the Downtown Tamaqua program.
"It's a good investment," said Gursky. He said that grants, like the $200,000 that was just received from the U.S. Department of Justice for the police department, are just some of the returns that the borough gets for its $8,000.
Morrison closed by recommending several items for future consideration, including the regionalization of the police force and the privatization of various borough authorities.
"I hope and pray that tomorrow, this council digs in and looks at any reductions that we can make," he said. Councilwoman Cathy Miorelli was the sole no vote on the tax ordinance.
Council also approved a request from Downtown Tamaqua to hold the annual New Year Eve Ball Rise. Miorelli noted that in previous years underage and public consumption of alcoholic beverages have been observed and hoped that this practice would not continue.
Gursky also presented council with a three-page report on the borough's accomplishments for 2009. Gursky noted that five ordinances were passed, including the 2009 property maintenance code updates.
The borough received $5.2 million in funding to help with the Owl Creek Dam project and another $250,000 for energy efficient heating and cooling installation at the water treatment plant. Contracts were negotiated between the Police Collective Bargaining unit and the UAW Local 1612. The Eastern Schuylkill Planning Region Joint Zoning Ordinance and the ESP SALDOs were finally approved.
He also noted that the borough hosted six parades this year, including the county's annual Fireman's Festival.
"As we look to 2010, we need to look at what we want to accomplish as well," he said.