By Steven Hoffman
Oxford Mayor Geoff Henry recently announced that he will be turning his annual salary back in to the borough as a way to reduce the expenditures for the coming year.
“It’s a way for me to personally demonstrate that I’m committed to finding ways to control expenses that result in higher taxes,” Henry said, adding that he also turned in his borough-owned cell phone to save Oxford more money.
Henry said that he is turning his net pay back to the borough every two weeks. Mayors of small Pennsylvania boroughs receive only minimal compensation for their work—Henry said that he receives approximately $1,500 per year from the borough. He said that he wanted to donate his salary back to the borough to show his commitment to addressing the borough’s long-standing issue with high property taxes.
In late December, Henry took the unusual action of vetoing the 2014 tax ordinance that had been approved by Oxford Borough Council a week earlier because the millage rate was going to increase by .50 mills, from 11.5 mills to 12.0 mills.
Henry said at the time that the tax rates had increased too much, and property owners in the borough were shouldering too much of a tax burden.
Borough council proceeded to override the veto, and the tax ordinance was put on the books for 2014.
In January, three new members joined borough council. There was some talk about the possibility of the new council reopening the 2014 budget in an effort to reduce the tax increase of .50 mills, but the council ultimately decided that there isn’t sufficient time between now and Feb. 15, the deadline to make changes and adopt a new tax ordinance, to find ways to reduce the expenditures.
Henry said that the current council has already started having more in-depth budget discussions, which is something that he was hoping to have happen when he initially vetoed the tax ordinance.
Henry just started his third term as the mayor of Oxford. He also served on borough council for about six and a half years before that.
In other business at the Jan. 20 meeting:
~ The Starr Road Farms, Inc.-Sycamore Crossing development is about to take off again, with approximately 96 homes expected to be added over the next three years now that there is sufficient sewage capacity available in the public sewage system.
~ Peter Vanderhoef was appointed to serve as the deputy emergency management coordinator, and will assist Police Chief John Slauch with his duties as the emergency management coordinator.
~ During public comment, Oxford resident Buzz Dorety expressed his concern about how Oxford Borough police officers must respond to 911 calls to the Oxford Area High School, which is outside the borough limits in East Nottingham Township.
Dorety said that he didn’t think it was fair for Oxford Borough taxpayers to have to accept responsibility for paying for those calls.
Mayor Geoff Henry pointed out that the State Police get the first call to an emergency at the school, but the State Police may send the call to Oxford Borough Police.
Dorety said that the costs of responding to those calls should be East Nottingham Township’s burden.
Council member Randy Grace explained that the issue has been looked at, but there is a state law that requires the municipal police officers to respond to such calls. There is no requirement for another municipality to accept responsibility for the costs of those responses.
Also during public comment, Oxford resident Chauncey Boyd raised an issue with Oxford Borough Council about a recent spike in his water bill. Boyd said that he has been hooked up to public water and sewer in Oxford for more than 36 years, and when he receives a water bill it typically ranges around $100 or $120 on the high side. The latest bill was nearly $400, and he knew that couldn’t be right.
Boyd thought that the high bill might be the result of a faulty water meter reading. When he contacted the borough, however, he was told by an employee that the meters always work perfectly. Boyd did not believe that explanation.
“I guarantee you one thing, equipment does—and will—break down,” he said.
As Boyd continued to discuss the issue with an unidentified borough employee, he felt as if he was not being treated appropriately. He told the employee that he did not plan to pay the bill. He was told that if he didn’t pay the bill, he would be put on a list to have the water turned off.
Eventually, another employee from the borough’s Water Department did an inspection and it was determined that one of the toilets in Boyd’s home had been running unnoticed for between six to eight weeks, causing the higher-than-expected water bill.
While that issue was explained, Boyd said that the borough employee’s treatment of a resident shouldn’t simply be explained away, and he asked borough officials to address the problem.
He also criticized the Oxford Area Sewer Authority for hiking the rates for sewer service.
He reiterated that he doesn’t have any intention of paying the water or sewer bill. He said that the borough might think that the solution will be to turn off his water and sewer services, but he has already talked to an attorney about the matter.
“You have not heard the last of this,” he said.