Tax Hike in Coudersport Borough

Council unanimously approves one-mill increase

The Endeavor News

Coudersport Borough council members agreed to advertise the municipality’s 2011 operating budget which includes a one-mill increase in real estate taxes.

One mill generates roughly $26,000 of additional revenue. That money is slated to be used to pay for operating the borough street lights.

Two Coudersport residents attended the Wednesday night meeting to implore council members to find other ways to balance the budget, rather than increasing taxes.

Gary Gunzburger, who for years was the PennDOT maintenance supervisor for Potter and Cameron counties, and Brian Wilson, a former councilman and mayor, suggested that a change in priorities might help them balance the borough’s budget without putting an additional burden on taxpayers.

“You guys are going to kill us,” Wilson said, noting that Coudersport residents last year endured a three-mill tax increase as well as a hike in their water bills. “The taxpayers are getting to the point where they just can’t handle any more. It’s time the borough starts squeezing (more from) their pennies.”

Specifically, Wilson suggested that the council consider outsourcing some of its maintenance responsibilities and then look at reducing maintenance staff, noting that the borough would then save “a considerable amount of money” on employee wages and benefits.

Wilson also suggested that the borough’s police and public works departments are over-staffed.

Borough Manager Marlin “Mud” Moore disagreed, explaining that he believes borough operations are lean. He said the maintenance department could actually use another employee, but instead is making do with a “skeleton crew.” He also pointed out that the borough did not hire part-time help last year, as typically is the case in the summer.

Gunzburger, who had spent time earlier in the day with Moore going over the budget in an effort to understand it better, warned that the borough is not “living within its means,” and too quickly looks to tax increases to solve its financial challenges.

Specifically, Gunzburger questioned the spending on parks and recreation— roughly $140,000, noting that it is about 15 percent of the general fund budget.

“When (spending on) parks and recreation is almost as much (as what’s spent on) police protection, I just wonder what the priorities are and how they are set,” Gunzburger said.

Moore took responsibility for setting the priorities, but noted that the borough’s budget has been more affected by the significant loss of revenue that occurred as a result of Adelphia’s demise.

The borough’s solicitor, Dan Glassmire, concurred, noting “the borough’s (annual revenue) has gone down the toilet.”

Moore thanked Wilson and Gunzburger for their input and invited them to come to his office and discuss the budget further. “I am always interested in people’s ideas and their help,” Moore said.

Council members agreed unanimously to advertise the budget ordinance, which includes the one-mill increase.

In a related matter, Moore told council members that the expense for repairs to the community pool came to $11,252. Members of the Save Our Area Pool (SOAP) committee agreed to help fund the repairs. They will pitch in $5,000. The remainder will be paid out of the borough’s recreation fund.

Leaky, underground water lines were replaced. Borough workers replaced the lines and Freeman Contracting performed the concrete work.

In other business, Moore informed council members that a gas company, Penn Virginia, is seeking the borough’s blessing to draw as much as 160,000 gallons of water a day from Othmer’s pond, along Ross St., across from Coudersport High School.

Police Chief Lee Gross said that he doesn’t believe there’s enough room along the roadway at the site for a tanker truck to park and noted that if the trucks are park illegally there, the driver will be cited.

Consensus of the council was to discourage the activity in whatever way they are able in an effort to limit heavy truck traffic by the school and to protect residents of that area from the noisy trucks.

In other business, Moore noted that requests have been made for two additional street lights in the borough— one on Woodlawn Ave. and the other on Hill St.

After a short discussion, Glassmire recommended that the borough contact the residents to get a better idea of why they believe the lights are needed. Gross said there have been no official complaints and no law enforcement issues in the areas.

Moore noted that two additional lights would cost the borough roughly $250 annually.

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