It's either a tax hike or a layoff
Only three members of Summit Hill Borough Council attended a budget workshop meeting last night the third such workshop held this year.
They came up with one conclusion: Either the borough must raise taxes by at least 1.2 mills or one of the borough's two full-time general laborers will have to be laid off.
Present for the workshop were council President Joseph Weber and members Michael Kokinda and Bill Chapman. Weber and Kokinda have been present for all the workshops, as has been treasurer Kira Michalik.
Weber said it will take the full council to make a decision on which direction the officials decide. Another workshop session is set for 7 p.m. next Monday. Weber said he hopes a tentative budget can be agreed upon at that meeting.
Michalik presented a new budget layout which shows a one-mill increase, but this will leave the borough $2,000 short in income versus expenses comparison.
The budget presentation eliminates a $4,000 annual payment to the borough's fire department as well as contributions to the Recreation Commission and Shade Tree Commission.
The council also discussed eliminating some street lights in the borough, with possibly as many as 18 removed from White Bear Drive.
Three residents of White Bear Drive attended the meeting and two of them expressed concerns about removing street lights, citing safety reasons.
The two who were opposed said they have lived on White Bear Drive for 30 years. In their first two years living there, there were no street lights and burglaries occurred at their residences. Since street lights were installed, there have been no burglaries.
"It's awfully dark when there are no lights," one resident said.
"I'm not in favor of turning off street lights," Chapman remarked. He did concede that there might be areas where thinning could occur.
Kokinda said that if street lights are removed, and it is later deemed these lights are necessary, the borough might be saddled with paying a fee to PPL to have them returned.
A concern of Kokinda is that the budget is very tight.
"We cut a lot of unknowns," he said. One example is gasoline. He said if gas prices rise, there's nothing in the budget to pay the added expense.
It was clarified that the borough has gotten most of its money for the building project from the state. Of the $1.25 million grant, only about $120,000 is still outstanding.
This money is being held up because one of the contractors didn't pay the state's prevailing wages to its employees.
Weber said he is hoping the council will be able to give borough residents a better idea next week on the status of the budget.
"I don't want to lay anybody off," he said, adding that he doesn't feel the borough can operate with just one full-time maintenance employee.
Shawn Hoben, fire chief, asked Weber, "Of all the scenarios, the budget's cut for the fire company?"
"Yes," agreed council members.
"Remember," Hoben responded, "it's the only free service the borough has."