Saxonburg proposed budget shows tax increase, police department cutback
Saxonburg's proposed budget for the coming year includes a 21 percent property tax increase and slashes $20,000 from the police department budget.
Council members aren't happy about either, they said Wednesday.
“I don't think we have a choice,” said Councilwoman Pamela Bauman. “I hate the increase, but I don't know what more we can do (to cut costs).”
The borough is losing $20,000 in annual revenue because Butler County decided to relocate the district judge's office from the borough building.
And the borough has to pay on a $120,000 loan used to fund the first phase of Main Street Stormwater Project.
Council plans to vote on the $640,800 budget on Dec. 5. The budget increases taxes a total of 4 mills, to 22.66 mills. Two mills will pay down the borough's debt for five years. Once the debt is paid the tax rate could drop.
One mill generates about $12,800 for the borough.
When council began budget discussions, it was looking at a $33,000 budget gap. Council usually sets aside $30,000 to funds for capital improvements, vehicle purchase and building maintenance, but this year revenue didn't even cover general expenses.
“Council decided to put $15,000 in the set asides, and the rest was made up with nickels and dimes,” Borough Manager Mary Papik said.
Mayor Jody Pflueger worries how the cut to the police department's budget for part-time officers will affect citizens' sense of security.
The police department has 11 part-time officers and one full-time officer — the police chief.
The $20,000 cut means a reduction of 1,461 available hours for part-time officers. It brings the department's budget to about $134,000, Pflueger said. Council set aside $10,000 of the cut for a new police vehicle and capital improvements.
“Our police force won't be as visible,” the mayor said. “We do a lot of business checks and other things that might not be eliminated but won't be as frequent.”
Council President William Gillespie Jr. said the police department's budget simply needs to be more closely monitored.
“It has to be a reasonable budget and it has to be managed properly,” he said. “I think we have two officers on duty when we could be getting away with one.”
Council spent about an hour on Wednesday whittling away at other expenses to reduce the budget gap, including cutting professional conferences, contingency funding for engineering fees and money set aside for attorney costs related to revising borough ordinances.
Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or firstname.lastname@example.org.