COOPERSBURG – Borough Council Vice President Jack Felch and former President Dennis Balascak sparred Tuesday night over the first draft of Coopersburg’s 2011 budget.
Balascak took exception to the simplified, one-page budget Felch presented to the council. Felch explained that he built the one-page budget by first preparing a detailed, itemized budget. He said that including all income and expenditures on one page in a summarized format is “easier to communicate, to put on the webpage, and to make available to the public” than a line-by-line budget stretching over many pages. It was precisely that level of detail which Balascak insisted on having at his disposal.
Mayor Timothy Paashaus agreed with Felch that the simplified format was better, but also agreed to Balascak’s demand for a detailed draft of the budget. Linda Minarik and Larry Pummer also asked for more detail, which Felch said he would make available for the council’s review.
Felch asked council members to give the budget committee guidance on whether they wanted to hold steady on costs across the board, or to conversely approve all requests for additional funds. Minarik suggested giving each requestor less than the full amount requested. Richard Nalichowski pointed out that increasing funding would force a tax increase.
Felch predicted no need for a tax increase next year. He said the borough was $378,000 in the black at the end of October.
According to Borough Council President Gary Hovis, Tuesday night’s preliminary budget presentation would be the first of three opportunities for the public and the council to discuss next year’s budget. Hovis said he plans to approve the 2011 budget in December.
In light of the fire department’s request for an increase and funding needed for the ambulance service, members debated whether or not to continue funding for the business revitalization program, and whether to increase funding for the Southern Lehigh Public Library. Minarik said the library does a lot of good for the community, and a $700 increase for the library was not comparable to thousands more for the fire department and ambulance services. Pummer said he’d like to “boost” those departments first, and help the library afterwards, though he spoke favorably about the library’s significance. Harvey Greenland and Pummer both suggested reducing or completely eliminating funds for the business revitalization program. “I don’t think we should just dismiss” the people involved with the revitalization program, said Minarik. Pummer questioned “throwing money at it when it’s just a shell of what it was” and said funds should go to the fire department, ambulance service, and police department instead. “The bottom line is service to the community,” said Balascak. Pummer told the council that the proposed police budget is “more accurate” than in previous years. Balascak said he was “not in favor” of a proposed two percent across the board salary increase, and suggested a “merit increase” for deserving employees.
The next Coopersburg Borough Council meeting will be held at Borough Hall on Nov. 23 at 7 p.m.