After two hours of what one Hatboro Borough Councilman characterized as a “three-ring circus,” the governing body adopted its 2012 budget which calls for a $52 tax hike for every $100,000 of assessed property.
The final vote came after several failed attempts and lots of discussion, mostly centered around whether the council should transfer $4,432 from its capital fund to cover unaccounted for, yet previously agreed upon salary increases for the codes department and borough manager.
In the end, after discussing a total government shutdown if a balanced budget could not be adopted by Dec. 31, the council voted 4-3 to adopt its $4.5 million budget as it had been originally outlined and considered at the beginning of Monday night’s meeting.
With the exception of Councilwoman Nancy Guenst who voted affirmatively, the Democrats on council said they did not favor a tax increase and would not vote for a budget – or an ordinance - that raised taxes. One of the residents in attendance argued that when the council approved advertising the ordinance, which called for the increase, they, in essence, approved a tax hike.
Besides not wanting to raise taxes, Councilwoman Patty Fleming said that when she took office two years prior, the spending plan only accounted for a half-year salary for one of the employees. Finding money to cover the difference was problematic, she said after the meeting.
“I want the salaries covered,” Fleming said at one point during the meeting. “I want all the salaries in this budget.”
Since the transfers were not approved, Fleming said officials would "find some fat in there," most likely in materials and supplies, to cover the difference.
Councilman John Zygmont, who in frustration suggested telling all department heads to cut 10 percent across the board, said he would not approve a budget in which the last-minute transfers had been made.
“Tonight we were in here to vote on a budget. Apparently people weren’t taking it very seriously up until tonight,” Zygmont said, directing his next comment to Fleming, who chairs the finance committee. “It’s embarrassing. The chairman of the finance committee can’t vote for the budget.”
Several times, Councilman Bill Tompkins, in an attempt to reach a compromise, asked “Is there a motion that the finance committee can put forth and support?”
Council President Marianne Reymer, whose , responded that she would not vote in favor of a budget that Councilman Vincent LaSorsa had worked on and would not himself approve.
“When the members of the finance committee vote for their own budget I will consider it,” said LaSorsa, who, along with Zygmont, works as a CPA.
In other business, the council heard details of two banks that considered granting Hatboro a tax anticipation note – also known as a bridge loan – to cover expenses in the first quarter of 2012.
Borough Manager Steven Plaugher said M&T Bank would offer a loan of up to $4.5 million that could be paid back with interest rates varying from 2.67 percent to 2.99 percent depending upon how quickly the money was repaid.
TD Bank would offer either a $400,000 or $600,000 loan with a fixed rate of 2.75 percent.
The council took no action on the loan and officials said it might not be necessary.