No tax increase expected in Oxford Borough
● By Steven Hoffman
By Steven Hoffman
Oxford Borough officials will be fine-tuning the 2015 budget in the coming weeks, but it still appears as if the $3.6 million spending plan will be balanced without a tax increase.
At the council meeting on Monday night, council member Gary Tozzo said that the borough still expects to be able to finalize the budget without increasing the millage rate above the current level of 12 mills. Tozzo serves on the borough’s Finance Committee.
The borough recently received some good news when the projected costs for health care premiums were lower than what had been expected. Overall, spending will increase slightly from 2014 to 2015 because of increases in salaries for contracted employees and the impact of inflation on some of the goods and services that the borough relies on. These increases in projected expenditures, however, are balanced by an increase in revenues. The Ware Presbyterian Village expansion is adding about $90,000 to the borough’s coffers.
Borough council is expected to discuss the budget again on Monday, Dec. 8.
Council briefly discussed the status of Downtown Pasta, which has closed its doors as of Nov. 16 as its owners work to reorganize the restaurant on Market Street. A sign on the window announced the closing and said that the plan is to reopen soon with new partners and a new concept.
Oxford Borough officials are considering the repeal of a Lost and Stolen Ordinance that was approved in October of 2009 that requires borough residents to report lost and stolen firearms within 72 hours.
The ordinance was a common-sense attempt to track firearms that are lost or stolen and could end up in the hands of criminals.
The ordinance was intended to “give the police the opportunity to know that a firearm was lost or stolen,” explained Oxford Mayor Geoff Henry.
Henry said that the repeal is now necessary because the state’s General Assembly approved House Bill 80, which limits a municipality's authority when it comes to firearms regulations, and instead places the authority with the state. House Bill 80 also gives third-party entities—one example is the National Rifle Association—the right to sue municipalities that are attempting to regulate gun ownership. If a municipality ignores the new state law and would have its own firearms ordinances challenged, the municipality could end up having to pay the challenger's legal fees.
Henry said that one part of the borough’s ordinance requires residents to report the lost or stolen firearms, while the other part restricts people from discharging firearms in the borough.
House Bill 80 has been signed by the governor and is expected to become a law effective Jan. 7, 2015. A legal challenge to House Bill 80 could delay the date that the law takes effect, but there seemed to be general agreement among Oxford officials that it would be prudent to repeal an ordinance that could leave them vulnerable to a lawsuit.
Council member Randy Teel said that he wasn’t in favor of the ordinance when it was approved because there is no way to effectively enforce the ordinance. While some states hold the lawful owner of firearms responsible for crimes committed with the gun, Pennsylvania does not.
Council member John Thompson said that, as a law-abiding gun owner, if someone stole a gun from his home, he would definitely report it to the police.
Even if the borough repeals its ordinance, there are state regulations in place with regard to where a firearm can be discharged.
Thompson made a motion to advertise the repeal of the ordinance, and council member Tozzo seconded it. The motion was unanimously approved.
Borough council also approved the appointment of Peter Slauch to the Zoning Hearing Board for a term that runs from 2015 to 2019, and appointed James Sumner to serve on the Vacancy Board for 2015.