Greencastle budget passes without property tax hike

Shawn Hardy news@echo-pilot.com

Greencastle Borough Council adopted a 2020 budget that keeps the property tax rate at 15 mills during a special meeting Monday night.

The vote was 6-1, with Councilman Duane Kinzer opposed.

The general fund shows $1,813,970 in expenditures and $1,789,960 in revenues, with the $24,000 gap being paid from the fund balance, according to Lorraine Hohl, borough manager.

The spending plan is a combination of priorities set by borough council and continues best management practices, Hohl said.

She identified key priorities as:

  •  Personnel: Hiring a code enforcement officer and filling the fifth full-time slot on the police force
  • Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library Rain Garden: Memo of understanding and grant application
  • Professional development: Travel and training account increase

Best management practices include:

  • Sewer plant upgrades to maintain infrastructure
  • Wellness program to promote employee wellness, potentially lower health care claims, lower cardiovascular loss and promote employee retention
  • Computer and software updates to ensure security of borough network

Mayor Ben Thomas Jr. presented a photocopy of a $1 bill to show where tax dollars go.

Seventy cents of each tax dollar goes to the Greencastle-Antrim School District (112.84 mills). Thomas noted the school tax is an investment in our children who will one day hopefully be running the borough and local businesses.

Twenty cents goes to the county (29.1 mills) and the library system (1.05 mills), with 10 cents going to the borough (15 mills).

Councilman Larry Faight said a lot of meetings and lot of scrubbing went into the final budget.

Councilman Frank Webster said at one point a tax increase as high as 3 mills was on the table.

 From the audience 

Several members of the public had questions about the budget, including individual items and an increase in the borough contribution to the employee pension plan.

Eddie Baxter noted increases in travel dues and subscriptions, which Hohl said are for professional development. She said the Fitbits he asked about are part of the wellness program.

"If we have healthy employees, we have better production," Hohl said.

Responding to another question from Baxter, several council members said the increase for tools and equipment is because maintenance employees had been bring their own tools from home.

"I'd like you guys to buckle down and look at the line items," Baxter said. He said that meant not just items he questioned, but the whole spending plan.

He also asked why the budget was not available for preview online and explained how hard it was to sit in the lobby to review and make notes on the budget.

Charles Eckstine also mentioned being put in a "cubbyhole" and not getting questions answered when he reviewed the budget.

The borough increased its pension plan contribution from 1.5 to 2 percent. Eckstine said he does not believe the pension plan is well understood and down the road will take the borough to "not a pretty place" as employees get higher wages and are living longer.

Only government agencies offer guaranteed retirement today because private companies can't afford it, Eckstine said.

Tim Fetterhoff suggested looking at options like 401(k)s.

Council President Steve Miller said in 2020 the pension plan impact and options are going to be considered, including IRAs and 401(k)s.