Towanda Boro's proposed 2013 budget includes no tax increase
TOWANDA - At a budget workshop on Wednesday, Towanda Borough Manager Tom Fairchild Jr. presented the proposed $6.4 million Towanda Borough budget for 2013, which includes no tax increase.
Under the 2013 budget, the General Fund, which is the borough's main operating fund, has $1,306,870 in expenditures and $1,305,958 in revenue, a difference of $912, Fairchild said.
"It's a very balanced budget," he said. "That's the main reason why I am not recommending any sort of tax increase for 2013."
The General Fund is where the bulk of the revenue from the borough's real estate tax is deposited, he said.
The borough council is scheduled to vote to adopt a tentative 2013 borough budget on Dec. 3. The council will then give final approval to the budget at a meeting later in December which, at this point, looks like will take place on Dec. 27, Fairchild said.
Fairchild also said the General Fund is expected to end 2012 with a fund balance of $300,215 and end 2013 with a fund balance of $363,227.
"That ($363,227 fund balance) is a very good fund balance." Fairchild said. "It will get us through three months of operations until the real estate taxes start to come in, and it will cushion us against a catastrophe."
Council members' reactions to the budget were mostly positive.
"This is really good," Council member William Kovalcin Jr. said.
"I think it's a pretty good budget," council member Shannon Clark said. "It's much better than the last few years."
The 2013 borough budget is more than $3 million larger than the 2012 budget, mainly because the borough expects to receive funds from PEMA and FEMA to rebuild the storm sewer system that carries a stream called College Run through the borough, Fairchild said. The College Run storm sewer system sustained significant damage in a storm in April 2011, he said.
Among the other highlights of the budget are "$70,000 worth of paving, starting in the First Ward. That's where most of our needs are (for paving)," he said.
Because of the way the borough's roads were constructed, paving is often an extensive project in the borough, he said.
"In most cases, we have to mill out (the roadway) and do base repairs," he said.
The budget also details how the borough will spend the $173,000 in impact fee revenue that the borough received this year, Fairchild said.
A total of $40,000 of the impact fee revenue would be spent on an emergency generator for the Towanda Municipal Building at 724 Main St., where borough Emergency Operations Coordinator Bill Manville now has an office, he said.
The emergency generator would provide electricity for Manville's office and probably also the borough council's chamber, as well as heat and lighting in the building, Fairchild said.
In addition, $100,000 of the impact fee revenue would be used to begin to address the unfunded liability in the borough's police pension fund, he said.
"I think we'll still be attacking that for several more years," he said. By spending $100,000 in impact fee revenue on the pension fund the borough would avoid raising the real estate tax by 3 mils, he said.
Approximately $35,000 of the impact fee revenue would be used to repair the bricks in the sidewalks in the borough's downtown.
"They need to be taken out and raised," Fairchild said.
Fairchild said he was confident that the impact fee revenue could be used for those three purposes, as there is a lot of flexibility under Act 13 in how the impact fee revenue can be used.
The budget includes $225,000 in state grant money to pay for the upgrade of the borough's traffic signals to video-activated ones, a project that is expected to occur this spring, Fairchild said.
The budget also includes funds for the annual spring cleanup, which will take place again this year, he said.
Among the revenues for the budget is a $2,500 payment-in-lieu-of-taxes that the Northern Tier Regional Planning & Development Commission will make this year. The NTRPDC has not been making a PILOT to the borough.
The budget also includes $10,000 in gas royalty payments on the one-third share of the mineral rights that the borough owns at its former landfill site on Bridge Street Hill, Fairchild said. This year, the borough received $12,000 in royalty payments on the gas lease on the property.
The budget also includes funds to hire a another full-time police officer, and the council debated whether to keep those funds in the budget. The cost of the hire would be partially offset by the fact that, due to the new hire, the borough would need fewer hours worked by part-time officers.
If the new hire went forward, the borough would have a total of seven full-time police officers, including the chief, Fairchild said.
Fairchild said that having seven full-time officers "seems like a lot, compared to other boroughs."
Council member Jean Miller said: "The (amount) of crimes has kind of been down (compared to the past) but they've been more serious, involving a lot more than one officer (to address them)."
Council members said they want to hear from Police Chief Randy Epler on the need for the additional officer before deciding whether to include funding for the officer in the budget.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org