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As deadline nears, Lansford is still without a budget

Published December 20. 2012 05:04PM

The year is fast drawing to a close, but Lansford borough has yet to draft a 2013 budget. In order to comply with state law, the borough has only until Saturday to approve a preliminary budget.

"A budget must be on public display for 10 calendar days, and be adopted by Jan. 1, 2013," said E.J. Knittel, Senior Director, Education and Sustainability for the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs.

Council members who attended a public meeting Wednesday did not discuss the budget directly. Currently, the borough levies a 33.47 mill property tax. That means the owner of a home assessed at $25,000 paid $836.75 this year, up from $811.75 in 2011.

After the meeting, council President Rose Mary Cannon said she was working on the 2013 spending plan.

Crafting a budget is even more complex this year than last: One of the key components is completion of the 2011 audit. That's not been done because the auditors who were performing the study, Maillie Falconiero & Co., of Pottstown, Montgomery County, abruptly quit on Oct. 31.

On Wednesday, Cannon asked council for a motion to hire another company, Hutchinson, Gillahan & Freeh of Quakertown, Bucks County. Her suggestion was met with several minutes of dead silence.

"No one wants to have the 2011 audit done?" she asked.

That triggered an angry response from Councilman Tommy Vadyak, who said Cannon was the only council member who has met with the firm.

"I never met with these people. I don't know who these people are. I never saw their credentials or anything," he said. "I'm going to vote for somebody I have no knowledge of?"

Cannon said Vadyak had received a pamphlet and other information. She also said "there were not many who come into" Lansford's situation.

Vadyak then moved to publish a notice seeking an auditing firm. His motion was supported by Danielle Smith, with the other attending council members all voting in favor. Councilwoman Mary Soberick was absent, and Councilman Lenny Kovatch arrived later in the meeting.

In a related matter, resident Bob Silver gave council members a list of eight yes-or-no questions, which Cannon answered.

She answered "no" to six of the questions: Has the borough completed the required 2011 audit?; has the borough approved (meeting) minutes for all of 2011?; has the borough arranged to repay the large sums of money back to the Sewer Transmission account?; and, does the borough financial statement indicate the figure to be repaid to the Sewer Transmission account?

Cannon answered "yes" to the question: Has the borough borrowed large sums of money from the Sewer Transmission account?

In response to the question, "Did the audit company walk out on the audit?" Cannon said that she believes Silver has a "copy of the letter that they sent." Silver said he did not. Cannon said a copy was sent to him.

"They severed their services," she said.

On the question of whether Cannon publicly stated that the "firm would only say it was a professional decision," a question pertaining to Maillie Falconiero & Co.'s abrupt departure, Cannon said the firm "did not state that in the letter. I had to call ... and that was all that he would tell me."

In answer to the question, "During the (state Department of Community and Economic Development) visit, did (DCED's Governor's Center for Local Government Services northeast representative Matthew P.) Domines visually inspect the financials of the borough," Cannon ansered "Some of them."

Borough council in June asked DCED to examine borough's police, financial and secretary/administrative operations to find out what it is doing right, and what needs improvement. The state's mostly positive response arrived on Sept. 7 in a letter from executive director Fred A. Reddig.

After Cannon answered the questions, Silver noted that her answers confirmed statements he made in a Nov. 24 letter to the editor of the TIMES NEWS. In an addendum to his list of questions, Silver noted that his "personal thoughts are that no professional accounting firm would walk off an audit and simply state, "professional decision."

He submitted a request for a copy of the firm's resignation letter under the Right To Know law.

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