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Budget worry

Published November 13. 2010 09:00AM

Summit Hill Borough Council has yet to put together a tentative budget for 2011 and has met just once to discuss the pending spending plan.

Although the budget figures haven't been formulated, the one certainty is that the borough is facing a major deficit and a likely tax increase.

To address the budgetary concerns, council has scheduled budget meetings every Monday night from Nov. 15 to Dec. 6, as needed. The sessions are at 7 p.m. in the borough hall.

Dialogue at this week's council meeting reflected the strain on members regarding spending.

Last month, the council received bids for cleaning the borough hall, police station, and community center.

This week, with little discussion, the council voted by a 6-1 margin to reject all the bids. The opposing vote was by councilman Mike Kokinda.

Chief of Police Joe Fittos asked for the police department's participation in a "Buckle Up" seat belt enforcement campaign. He said a police officer would be put on duty specifically for seat belt enforcement during a specified period. The salary for that officer's time on the Buckle Up campaign would be fully reimbursable by the North Central Highway Network.

The program would be some time between Nov. 15and Dec. 6.

Although Fittos repeated several times that no borough funds would be utilized, the council was divided on approving the matter.

By a 4-3 vote, Fittos will be permitted to participate in the Buckle Up campaign.

Favoring participation were Kokinda, Council President Joseph Weber, Harry Miller, and Bill Chapman. Opposed were Michael Alabovitz, Kenneth Boyd, and John O'Gurek.

In another police matter, Fittos asked to have four officers attend a program on computer technology at the Carbon County Telecommunications Center on Feb. 16.

"Is this something you really feel you need?" asked Chapman.

"Any training with electronics is good," Fittos responded.

He said the police would be working with the forensics unit of the state police at the session.

The council said only Fittos will be permitted to attend.

One borough resident asked how many tax increases occurred in the past five years. He was informed that tax hikes occurred in four of the preceding years.

Another resident, Charles Ziegler, said he is on a fixed income and that Social Security is not providing any increase for at least two years.

"Should we cut services?" asked Boyd.

"We will talk budget on Monday," Weber said. "Unfortunately, it's easier said than done to hold the line."

He added, "We won't get anything finalized on Monday."

"How do you offset the 30 percent increase on insurance?" asked Councilman O'Gurek.

It was also explained that because of factors beyond the scope of the council, substantially less revenue is coming from real estate and occupational taxes as expected.

In 2010, $579,069 was budgeted for real estate tax income, but only $518,712.50 was received.

Earned income taxes were budgeted at $230,000 for 2010, but has collected only $178,615 so far.

Sanitation income was budgeted at $313,320, but to date only $243,398 was collected.

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