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Bolivar considers tax increase

| Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, 12:15 p.m.

Faced with the possibility of eliminating Bolivar's police department and adding the cost of fire hydrants to residents' water bills, borough council members said they still hope they can balance next year's budget.

About 20 residents crammed into the borough building Saturday morning when council met to discuss the budget.

The total spending plan is around $58,000.

Between public input and a two-hour discussion Saturday, council was able to create a new budget that left a surplus of $4,000, without factoring a $7,000 cost for street lights.

A previous budget plan listed the borough's expenses at $88,000, with a shortfall of nearly $30,000.

That leaves two scenarios that council members must work out before the next regular council meeting set for 7 p.m. Dec. 6.

Council can pass on the cost of street lights to residents, based on property values or frontage, or raise taxes by 1 mill to continue to cover the cost of the street lights.

Taxes have not increased since 1990. They are currently set at 10 mills.

“Look at your cost of living expenses in two decades,” said borough treasurer Patricia Betts. “Everything has gone up in cost, and we haven't raised taxes.”

“I say we raise taxes 1 mill,” said council President Clark Baird. “We need to have some money for the future of this borough.”

“I'm not voting for an increase,” responded Councilwoman Sue Bartow. “I'm not here to raise taxes.”

Council members will meet again before the Dec. 6 meeting to finalize the budget and decide what to do about the street lights.

Resident who attended the meeting largely supported eliminating the police department, at a savings of more than $21,000, including saving gas expenses.

“As much as I don't want to cut the police — I'd love to have them around on the weekends — if we can't afford them, we can't afford them,” said resident Gary Baird.

“You can save $21,000 a year if you cut the police. They don't do anything anyway. Cut them to zero. (A borough department) has never worked yet,” added resident Bruce Clawson.

Residents advocated giving up the spring cleanup day to save $900, and eliminating the mayor's salary to cut $600.

They said they would be willing to pay $6 annually to pay for fire hydrants, which would be an additional charge on water bills, starting Jan. 1. The cost would be tacked onto residents' water bills through the Highridge Water Authority.

Plans are for council to approve a preliminary budget on Dec. 6. It will then be available for public review for 30 days at the borough building before council votes on the final draft at its reorganization meeting in January.

Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or jphraner@tribweb.com.

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