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Council Rejects Resolution To Make Cuts to Budget

Candace Braun

Budget cuts, including reducing scheduled road repairs, trimming two police officer jobs, and reducing meter patrols, were all part of a resolution presented by Councilman Andrew Koontz to the Borough at its meeting on June 22. Council defeated the resolution by 5 to 1, with Mr. Koontz its only supporter.

The resolution was presented to Council as a means to reduce the $21.94 million Borough budget for 2004. The budget, which has yet to be voted upon because the Borough is waiting to hear if it receives state aid, is set to increase taxes by 14 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Mr. Koontz's proposed bill called for a revised schedule for road reconstruction that would not increase the Borough's debt service, a decrease in its police force from 34 to 32 members, due to the loss of a federal grant several years ago that supported the salaries of the additional staff, a reevaluation of meter patrol staff now that potentially more drivers are parking in the Spring Street garage, and urged the Borough to begin talks with the Township over consolidating their police departments. The bill also looked at cutting staff in the Borough's engineering department.

"If we were to move this resolution ... we'd show that we're being serious about budget cuts," said Mr. Koontz, who first presented this resolution to Council several weeks ago.

The five remaining Council members felt the move was too significant and too quick, and that the Borough's administrator should be left to make his own recommendations to Council as to where cuts should be made.

"I think this resolution is good and it brings up some good points, but I think we need to wait," said Councilwoman Wendy Benchley.

Councilman Roger Martindell agreed, saying that the bill was a good example of some of the significant cuts that will need to be made in the future.

Councilman David Goldfarb said he felt that budget reductions could be made without so many swift, quick actions. He gave an example of how the Borough now has 10 positions that have been vacated and have yet to be filled. He said that while some of these positions must be filled, leaving others vacant is a better way to handle the situation, rather than blatantly cutting staff elsewhere, such as the police department.

"There can be staff reductions made, if they're made carefully," he said.

Councilwoman Peggy Karcher said she felt that passing this resolution would make it appear as if these were the only actions that the Borough intended to make concerning the budget.

"If we zero in on these five items ... it sounds like we're letting everyone else off the hook," she said, adding that the Borough needed to examine all possible cuts and make the most efficient changes which have the least consequences to services or departments.

Mr. Koontz argued that his bill merely initiated some of the many cuts that will need to be made in the coming months: "We have had months to look at ways to reduce expenses ... We need to get the ball rolling."

Mr. Martindell said he wasn't sure if the Borough would be able to keep its promise to keep 2005 spending the same as 2004 spending, as any cuts to departments or services will receive complaints from residents.

"I think we will hear quite loudly that [residents] don't want us to make the cuts," he said.

The 2004 budget, which was scheduled to be voted on at a special meeting on June 29, may be pushed back again to a meeting on July 13, as the Borough has still not received any word on whether it will receive the $400,000 it has requested in state aid.

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