HONESDALE—Plans for next year's budget was a prominent talking point at the recent Honesdale Borough Council meeting held Monday evening.
The discussion contained highlights and summation of the more in-depth conversation held the week earlier at a special meeting held Tuesday, October 10.
Council will meet again on Monday, October 23 in City Hall at 6 p.m. with the intent to finalize and tentatively adopt the new budget.
After crunching the numbers, Borough Secretary Judy Poltanis announced at Monday's meeting that the borough would need a 9.76 percent increase in millage rate (a total of about 6.75 mils)for general purpose taxes to break even on the $19,000 deficit needed to cover the borough's anticipated baseline expenses in the upcoming year as discussed at the October 10 meeting.
One mil represents one dollar per $1,000 of property value for a home.
As an example of what this means to the taxpayer, Poltanis stated that, the average assessed property in Honesdale Borough costs $131,800. Currently, general purpose taxes on said residence cost $810.57.
Under the proposed increase, general purpose taxes on that same residence would cost $889.65, representing an increase of $79.15 on the tax bill.
As this is an average estimate, actual tax values will vary depending on the price of one's home.
After establishing a baseline of expenditures, Poltanis stated capital purchases for each borough department were placed on a separate list to be added or swapped into the working budget as council sees fit.
These include purchase of Glock handguns and a new phone system for the Honesdale Police Department, a two percent non-uniformed personnel wage increase, filing cabinets to store critical records in the Zoning Office, a part time position for administrative assistance in City Hall, and other resources to be considered by the borough.
Each of these capital purchases, if added into the budget would alter the value of the anticipated increase.
At the October 10 meeting, Councilor Chris Murray inquired as to the cost of adding two full-time police officers into the budget to help with the scheduling issues which have been discussed at length throughout the year.
Poltanis reported Monday night that to cover the cost of said addition would raise the millage increase from 9.76 percent to 16.10 percent, or 7.14 mills.
On the average residence listed earlier, this represents a tax bill of $941.05, an increase of $130.48.
Council President Mike Augello stated the department currently has three full-time officers and “a very active chief” who is functionally a fourth full-time officer.
The remainder of the department consists of part-time officers who frequently hold positions in other departments, some of which have strict policies regarding the number of hours their officers can work before coming into their shift.
Council also discussed the possibility of establishing a capital reserve to collect revenue over several years to put toward larger purchases for the borough such as new vehicles.
“We have to make hard decisions over the next week,” stated Council President Mike Augello Monday night.
While gauging the need for each of the capital changes listed, he cautioned that some, though not necessarily an immediate purchase, could potentially become more costly if left unattended for too long.
“This is not an easy decision for anything that we do,” said Augello.
Poltanis explained that the new council which will be voted in next month has the right to reopen the budget if they so choose.
Should they do so, they would need to finalize it by February 15, 2018.
Honesdale tax history
Before discussing the budget options, Poltanis reviewed the last ten years of Honesdale Borough's tax history.
Taxes in 2007 were 3.3 mils.
They were raised by 15 percent to 3.8 in 2008 and again in 2009.
Taxes remained steady until 2012 when they were raised again by 15 percent to 4.98 mils.
2014 saw a 7.3 percent increase (5.35 mils) followed by a 9.35 percent increase in 2015.
Taxes were also raised in 2017 by 5.13 percent increase to a total of 6.15 mils.