Oxford Borough officials continue budget discussions
● By Steven Hoffman
During an eight-day period, Oxford Borough Council met twice to discuss ways to close a budget gap for 2016.
“It’s still a work-in-progress,” explained council member Gary Tozzo, who serves on the borough's Finance Committee, on Monday night. Tozzo said that they are still about $26,000 short of balancing the preliminary 2016 budget, but he said that's a manageable figure, and he expected that they would be able to find a combination of additional revenues or reductions in expenditures to balance the spending plan. Council voted to authorize the advertising of the ordinance for the 2016 budget and the tax rate.
Borough officials have been hard at work on the $3.8 million spending plan, which will most likely necessitate a tax increase of at least one-quarter of a mill for borough residents. The current millage rate is set at 12 mills.
During the last few weeks, the work on the budget has included borough officials going line by line and comparing budgeted numbers for 2016 with the actual expenses of 2015 to see if there might be some line items that can be reduced.
“I think there are some numbers that we can still pull back on,” Tozzo explained.
At the Nov. 16 budget meeting, council members reviewed some of the changes in the budget during the last few weeks. Officials have been able to reduce some expenditures, but not enough to balance the 2016 budget. Some other line items have actually increased during the budgeting process. Oxford Borough Council briefly discussed a request from the Oxford Fire Company for an additional $13,000 to offset some of the costs of providing ambulance service to the area. This expenditure had not been factored into the budget, so it makes the task of balancing the budget slightly more difficult.
The borough received a grant to fund a parking a study earlier this year, and the borough had budgeted some money in the 2016 budget to pursue funding for the project. It's possible that borough officials, in light of the budget constraints, will opt to reduce the amount of money allocated for this initiative for 2016.
There was also a suggestion that the department heads could be directed to reduce their departments' aggregate expenditures by 5 percent each, which would close the budget gap.
Several council members expressed concerns about asking each department to further trim another 5 percent from the budget.
“We've been doing that for as long as I've been on council,” explained council president Ron Hershey.
Council member Sue Lombardi agreed, saying that each department in the borough was already working within the confines of a tight budget.
Budget talks will continue at the next council meeting in December.
In other business at the Nov. 16 meeting:
~ The borough is having its solicitor review the social media policy that is being put in place. The borough already has a Facebook page, and they will soon be active on Twitter.
“If you're on Twitter, look for us,” said Oxford Mayor Geoff Henry, explaining that the borough's Twitter page can be found at twitter.com/oxfordboro.
~ In a somewhat related matter, Mayor Henry talked to borough council about the possibility of video-recording the council meetings so that they can be uploaded to the borough's website and shared with the public via the Internet. The hope is that by making video of the meetings available, more residents will be informed about the borough council's activities.
“I'm just looking for ways that we can get information out to the public,” explained Henry.
~ Borough council approved a Special Events application for the Oxford Presbyterian Church to stage a live nativity scene during the First Friday event on Dec. 4. This is the same evening as Oxford's Country Christmas celebration, which takes place from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
~ Jerome Rodio was appointed to serve on the borough's Civil Service Commission.
~ The fifth annual Borough Day is slated for Monday, Dec. 7 from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Oxford Borough Hall, 401 Market St., Oxford. Borough Day offers residents, or anyone else, the opportunity to stop by to talk to Oxford Borough officials about any issues they might have. It's also a chance to review the proposed 2016 budget, or to offer suggestions of any kind. Powerpoint presentations will be made throughout the day. Light refreshments are also served.