Oxford Borough Council discusses 2016 budget
● By J. Chambless
Oxford Borough Council approved a balanced budget without a tax increase for 2015, but it appears as if a tax increase will be likely for 2016.
Discussions about the preliminary 2016 budget continued at the Oct. 19 meeting as council members reviewed some of the recent changes to the spending plan since the first in-depth public discussion about the budget took place a week earlier.
As of now, the projected expenditures total about $3.8 million, and borough officials are considering a one-quarter of one mill increase to balance the budget. The current millage rate is 12 mills.
While each department head is working hard to constrain expenses, one of the items impacting the budget is borough council’s decision to start to phase in the anticipated costs for an issue that arose with a police department pension benefit. As of right now, the borough is allocating $44,000 for this line item.
Police Chief John Slauch explained to borough council that the pension benefit issue dates back to a contract that the borough had with its police department in 2004. The contract back then included a pension benefit that contained language that said that police officers would be eligible to retire with benefits at 50 years of age with 20 years of service instead of 55 years of age and 25 years of service. This was later discovered to be impermissible under the state code. Slauch explained that municipalities have the option of changing the eligible age for retirees, but not over the number of years of service because there is a regulation that it must be 25 years of service with one municipal police department. When the error in the contract language was discovered, the borough took actions to prevent a similar mistake in the future—including additional reviews of the contract language by a solicitor and pension benefits administrator. However, the borough is still obligated to meet the terms of the contract, which means that there could be an extra five years where an employee would be eligible for retirement benefits.
There are only three police officers in the department who are affected by this issue. Oxford Borough officials want to start phasing in the costs, which could total as much as $500,000 depending on a number of factors, so that the borough isn’t hit with a large increase at some point in the future.
In other business, Kevin Gaydos, the account executive with Armstrong Cable, responded to questions that were raised by borough council about excessive use data cap that Armstrong Cable imposes on customers.
Gaydos said that Armstrong Cable was probably one of the last large Internet Service Providers to impose these data caps. He explained that the reason that caps get imposed is because excessive usage negatively impacts all users during peak times with slower speeds for downloads. Only about four percent of the approximately 800,000 Armstrong Cable customers in seven states that are reaching the data limits in any given month, Gaydos said.
Borough council approved the appointments to the Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB). The appointees are Sherry Andrews, who will serve as the chairperson of the HARB; Townson Moore, an architect; Chuck Swope, a real estate agent; Scott Moran, a Codes Enforcement officer; and David Larson, a homeowner. The approval was contingent on a review by the borough’s solicitor.
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