Lansdale Borough is poised to pass a $30.5 million budget with no real estate tax increase for 2012 on Dec. 21.
The proposed budget also includes a fund balance, as of Jan. 1, 2013, that is $321,600 greater than it was at Jan. 1, 2010.
In the 2011 budget, a $472,000 surplus remained following $29.5 million in revenues and $29 million in service costs. That surplus was transferred to the reserve fund.
Of that $472,000, $150,400 of it was set aside last year and it will now be used to balance out the revenue requirements for the proposed expenses in 2012, according to borough manager Timi Kirchner.
That leaves $321,600 available for future budgets.
The current real estate tax millage in Lansdale is 3.5 mills. Taxes were raised in the 2011 budget to cover expenses through that year and onward, according to administration and finance chair Dan Dunigan.
“Last year was the pill to swallow,” he said. “How we kept taxes level was we had a plan, and the plan for at least a three-year period was considered in last year’s tax increase. We planned it out in such a fashion that the tax increase last year would carry us through this year and likely, depending on how things shake out, as much as next year.”
Dunigan said the goal is to provide stability to the taxpayer to try to avoid nickel and diming them.
“We had a lot of things to fix and lot of things to turn around, and that took that tax increase last year,” he said. “The benefit of having done it last year, it gives you that time value of money, and we developed a plan and the 2012 budget is a continuation of that plan.”
As administration and finance chair, it is his job to present the budget in such a fashion and present it to the public in a way that’s more understandable.
“You can’t get $10 of service and pay $8.50 for it,” he said. “Eventually, you run out of somebody else’s money, and we were on a path to run out of somebody’s money.”
On Wednesday night, Kirchner led the public and council through a 2012 budget presentation.
In it, one theme was enforced throughout – investing in Lansdale is like investing in your home.
“You provide necessary infrastructure maintenance and improvements – so much the Borough of Lansdale. You expect safety, basic services and a high quality of life – so does the Borough of Lansdale. You anticipate and plan ahead for unforeseen situations – so must the Borough of Lansdale,” she said.
Kirchner then compared each department of the borough to a room in a home: Community Development to a foyer, Public Works to a garage, Parks and Recreation to the yard and so on.
In the 2012 budget, Kirchner said money has been set aside to hire an assistant director of code enforcement. This new position will report to Code Enforcement Director John Ernst.
In fact, Ernst will no longer be called “Code Enforcement Director.” Per the new budget, he will now become “Director for Community Development.”
“(The budget) also calls for new technology to be used in the field, thus speeding up the process and minimizing paperwork and administrative time,” she said.
The 2012 budget includes money to hire two new public works employees, and money to cover costs related to legal and engineering fees associated with Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems legislation.
The 2012 budget also continues the commitment to Lansdale Library.
The parks and recreation department will increase by one staff member in order to round out maintenance requirements of a 170-acre park system, Kirchner said.
“The parks director is well connected in the arts and entertainment field and will shepherd the 311 West Main Task Force as it determines the future of that important building that has the potential of being a great downtown destination. The 2012 budget has money in it to provide additional assistance to that task force,” she said.
The police department will hire one more officer in the 2012 budget, bringing the department to full complement “allowing the department to shift from a reactive posture to a more proactive posture,” Kirchner said.
“We want people in this borough to know that they are safe while they sleep. Public safety is, after all, the primary purpose of government. This council has not shirked its duty to that purpose,” she said. “And the result? As our chief so eloquently says, ‘Our crime has dropped … the boots on the ground day after day, night after night, keeps us all safe.”
The electric department will continue improvements through the capital plan by planning for ordered improvements to substations, Kirchner said.
“The work of this department in Madison lot kept the overall costs of the streetscape projects down and significantly improved the look of Madison Street,” she said.
The borough will continue its financial commitment to Fairmount Fire Company, Kirchner said. The Lansdale Historical Society will also receive investment from the borough.
Perhaps the biggest item in the budget is $150,000 in seed money to fund nonprofit Discover Lansdale and commit to an events coordinator in the borough.
“(The events coordinator) will be charged with developing a downtown investment district in partnership with local businesses,” Kirchner said.
The budget also calls for expenses on what is being called “small ‘c’ capital items” that are not funded from bond proceeds. “Big ‘C’ Capital projects” will be funded by the 2010 General Obligation Bond; these projects include improvements to sewer, water, electric and roads.