Councilman Mark Gibson, who, as a paid driver for the Empire Fire Company could be said to benefit financially by voting for the budget, which makes contributions to the fire companies, abstained from the vote.
But the budget, officially balanced at $38,530,729, otherwise received unanimous support from the remainder of council.
Also adopted with Gibson’s abstention, was the tax rate ordinance.
It is broken down as follows:
• General fund — 6.71500 mills;
• Debt fund — .55000 mills;
• Library fund — .19700 mills;
• Street light fund — .33700 mills;
• Parks and Recreation fund — .90600 mills;
• Fire house maintenance fund — 1.50700 mills;
|Council President Stephen Toroney|
For the average residential property in the borough — which is assessed at around $75,000 — that works out to an annual bill of $765.90.
Toroney thanked Finance Director Janice Lee for her hard work.
“It’s an early Christmas present for the citizens and taxpayers of our town,” he said.
“We’ve been working toward this since 2010,” said Councilman Dan
Weand, who chairs council’s finance and administration committee.
“It took many years to dig ourselves out of the hole we were in,” Toroney said, which prompted Borough Manager Mark Flanders to remark, “we’re not out of it yet.”
Lee declined to take all the credit. “It’s just evidence of everybody working together,” she said. “It was a team effort.”
“I think the start was the EIP report,” Toroney said in reference to a report paid for partly through the state’s Early Intervention Program for municipalities in financial trouble.
The 141-page report was written by an Ohio consulting firm named Management Partners and contained the startling prediction that unless Pottstown radically changed the way its borough and authority government is run, that borough property taxes would jump by 75 percent; water rates by 25 percent and sewer rates by 19 percent in the next five years.
In addition to there being no tax hike in 2013, there will also be no increase in water and sewer rates.
The report highlighted a number of looming problems, not the least of which has been the steady drop in Pottstown’s total assessed property values.
The report contained 122 recommendations designed to save $370,000 a year and was cited as the primary reason for borough lay-offs that occurred subsequently.
Among the other recommendations was a suggestion to merge the public works department and the borough authority.
While that has not happened exactly, Flanders told council that in 2013 he intends to consolidate the maintenance of the water and sewer treatment plants into a single department “and make a stand-alone maintenance department called ‘Utility Maintenance’ that will do work on both plants on a work-order basis.”
He said that department will be overseen by Brent Wagner, the utilities coordinator.
“If we hadn’t had the EIP report, we wouldn’t have had a plan and we wouldn’t be here,” Toroney said.
“The EIP report gave us that blueprint.”