Sayre council adopts budget, sewer rate hike

SAYRE -- The borough council Thursday voted to adopt the 2014 budget and the ordinance establishing the 2014 property tax rate at 10.37 mills.

The $10,194,388 budget will continue to fully fund borough services while keeping property tax rates steady for the fifth year in a row.

The budget includes $5,239,550 in the general fund, $412,250 in the Urban Development Action Grant fund, $63,144 in the parking lot fund, $3,549,431 in the sewer fund, $902,185 in the capital reserve fund and $127,828 in the Liquid Fuels fund.

Council members also voted 4-1 Thursday to adopt an ordinance establishing sewer fees for next year. Rates for residential customers will increase by $20 per quarter beginning with the April 2014 sewer bill, increasing the bill from $117 per quarter to $137.

Councilman Gene Osmun voted against the sewer rate increase, and Jim Daly and Bob Flick were absent from Thursday's meeting.

Officials have said the sewer fee increase was necessitated by costs associated with mandated upgrades to the Valley Joint Sewer Authority plant in Athens Borough. The borough has begun to pay its 46 percent share of debt service on a $20 million loan taken out to finance the project.

Osmun requested that the council's administration committee review sewer rates next year and try to find ways to alleviate the burden on sewer customers.

Mayor Denny Thomas also expressed concern over the sewer rates, pointing out that many sewer customers are senior citizens with limited income. The borough also has sewer customers who are delinquent on their bills even before the rate increase, he argued. "We're chasing people already," he said.

Despite the increase, Sayre Borough continues to have the lowest sewer fees per quarter out of the VJSA's four member municipalities, said council president Henry Farley.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.