In a 4-3 vote on Tuesday evening, the Baldwin Borough Council passed its 2012 budget, which does not increase property taxes. However, residents will pay more for sewage services.
The $10.7-million budget keeps 's property tax rate at 6.61 mills, or $661 per year for anyone with a property valued at $100,000 (land and building value combined). (Click here to calculate your individual taxes.) But residents will see sewage fees increase from $8.25 to $8.85 per every 1,000 gallons, and the monthly surcharge will increase from $6.25 to $6.75.
Councilmen Ed Moeller, Larry Brown and Bob Collet voted against the budget and the accompanying ordinance that fixes the borough's tax rate, saying that the $750,000 designated for road work didn't go far enough.
“I thought we could do more,” Moeller said after the meeting.
The three dissenters coalesced around a plan that Collet previously presented to fellow council members that would raise property taxes by 0.33 mills and designate roughly $1.3 million for road repairs. The council voted against that plan along the same opinion lines at a meeting earlier this month.
Originally, Collet said that he wanted even more money—about $1.7 million and a tax increase of 1 mill. At some point, he said, residents will have to make sacrifices for needed projects.
“We tried to go for the Cadillac first. Then, we backed off,” Collet said. “It's tough times, but the raise that we wanted ended up at like $3 a month” for an average homeowner.
That sentiment didn't bode well with council President Michael Stelmasczyk.
“It's a terrible time to raise taxes,” Stelmasczyk said, adding that the 2012 budget increases spending on roads by $250,000.
“We have a 50-percent increase,” he said. “We're going to be paving a lot of roads next year.”
The increase in sewage fees, which the council unanimously approved, passes on to residents about 5 percent of a 7-percent increase in Allegheny County Sanitary Authority rates, Stelmasczyk said.
“I think we put together a very good budget in the face of tough economic times,” he said.
Earlier this month, the council approved borrowing $2.7 million and refinancing an existing bond to cover $7.4 million in sewer repairs. At Tuesday's meeting, Baldwin Borough Manager John Barrett said that the amount that the borough will have to repay over the 20-year life of the loan is $1 million less than initially projected.
Barrett said that a rating of “AA-” that Standard & Poor's gave the bond issue is a good sign of financial stability. According to the financial analytics group's website, the rating puts Baldwin four spots below the highest rating of “AAA” and 18 spots above the lowest rating of “D.”
As council members began leaving the meeting and Collet gathered his things, he said that the push for more road repairs isn't over.
“Next year, we'll keep fighting for it,” he said. “That's all.”
Moments later, Stelmasczyk could be seen pacing the floor, head down.
When a reporter asked if he was OK, he said that he was considering what the new year would bring. Pumping his fists in the air and searching for words, he noted a “faction” among council members that resulted from debates over the budget.