Coaldale residents facing 3-mill tax hike
CHRIS PARKER/TIMES NEWS Marian High School students Alexis Kein, Emily Comensky and Chau Vo meet Coaldale Borough Councilman Steve Tentylo at a public meeting Tuesday. The students attended the meeting as part of a government class.
Coaldale taxpayers are facing a 3 mill, 13.3 percent property tax increase.
Council on Tuesday reluctantly approved a preliminary 2012 budget that calls for the hike. Council members Dave Yelito, Nancy Lorchak, Tom Keerans, Steve Tentylo and President Susan Solt voted to approve the spending plan. Councilman Andrew Girard was opposed and Joseph Hnat was absent.
If the increase remains unchanged, the millage rate will be 25.54 next year. That means the owner of a home assessed at $25,000 would pay $638.50 in borough property tax. That's up $75 from this year.
Details of the budget, including projected revenue and expense figures, were unavailable as of late Tuesday.
Each mill generates about $20,000, Lorchak said. Two of the three additional mills would go into the general fund and the remaining mill would be split between the street light fund and the workmens' compensation account. Lorchak said the workmens' compensation bill increased by $12,000 this year and now stands at $52,000.
The proposal drew concern from all but Yelito, who said he doesn't mind paying the local tax "because this is my borough."
"Three mills is fine with me," he said.
Yelito went on to say that the increase wouldn't be needed if a coal company whose name he did not specify would ante up the substantial amount of back taxes it owes.
That money is apart from the back taxes owed by residents.
Last year, the borough was short about $79,000 in delinquent property taxes, Lorchak said. That's almost 4 mills.
Lorchak and Girard worried the increase would trigger even more delinquencies.
"We hate to do this because it makes it even harder for those who do pay their taxes," Lorchak said. "But we have to keep the borough solvent. We just don't see any other way."
Girard opposed the proposal for just that reason.
"I just don't see people being able to (pay) that. Delinquencies will increase," he said.
Lorchak, who is on the budget committee, was apologetic, saying the group had been working for months and is at a point where nothing more could be cut.
"It is what it is," she said. "We don't have the money to run the borough."
Solt also felt bad about the proposed increase, but said that costs are going up for everyone. She thanked taxpayers.
"They are the ones keeping this town afloat," she said.
Lorchak said that the budget could be opened in January, after a new board is seated.
In other matters Tuesday:
• Fire Chief Richard Marek said it cost the company $300 for 1,500 pounds of absorbent to mop up fuel oil spilled by a borough resident who was hauling the liquid in a tank in the back of a pickup truck on Nov. 27.
The oil spilled from the area of the car wash along borough streets to High Street. The state Department of Environmental Protection mandated the cleanup, Marek said.
The truck driver may also be charged for the fire company's time and equipment use, he said.
Marek said the man has not been cooperative as the fire company has been trying to get his insurance information. It was unclear whether police would file charges.
• Council approved a new four-year contract for its four full-time police officers. The pact, already approved by the Fraternal Order of Police, grants a 2 percent raise, Keerans said.
• Code Enforcement officer Jamie Lee Nicholas said he has cited Lisa O'Brien, the owner of a vacant, mold-infested half-double house at 132 W. Ridge St. He said he would continue to cite her and that she has not been cooperative, hanging up on him when he called to talk with her about the house.
• Thanked Yelito for purchasing and donating four high-sodium vapor lights for the Coaldale Complex.
• Thanked residents Kathy and Tom Maruschak for their efforts in making the Streetscape project a success.
• Solt introduced three Marian High School students, Alexis Kein, Emily Comensky and Chau Vo, who attended the meeting for their government class.