Are taxes on rise here next month?

By on November 16, 2011

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

It now appears that the tax man’s visit will be a bit more painful in Ephrata Borough soon, as residents will face a fate similar to their counterparts across much of the area with increased taxes.

That was just part of the monthly report of the budget and finance committee to borough council’s monthly regular meeting on Monday night.

By how much taxes will increase remains uncertain until each committee is able to review its respective budget proposals in search of cuts and savings which may help to ease the pain a bit. In the past, council members have been vocal about trying to adopt a budget with little to no increase in taxes, especially considering the on-going economic unrest facing residents. However, it now appears that an increase may be inevitable.

In its report to council the committee discussed the projected shortfall in the General Fund’s 2012 proposed budget. Staff revised the proposed budget and made adjustments to revenues and expenditures where applicable. A change in the process of collecting earned income tax will result in a shortfall of approximately $100,000 in 2012 until the collection efforts are perfected.

The committee agreed to increase the real estate tax rate in the proposed budget document to meet the deficit in the General Fund.

Borough Manager Robert Thompson announced that the annual budget meeting to review the details of the proposed 2012 budget had been rescheduled from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1 at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers. Members of the public are invited to attend.

In other action:

The budget and finance committee also brought a measure before council to adopt Resolution 2011-21 approving actions taken by the Ephrata Borough Authority in connection with a financial undertaking for the benefit of the Friendship Community, a not-for-profit corporation serving the public. In committee meetings, refinancing of the 2007 promissory note for the benefit of the Friendship Community was discussed to a greater extent. Representatives of the Friendship Community presented the details of the refinancing and estimated the savings will be approximately $290,000. The measure will lead to savings without any out-of-pocket expense incurred by the borough.

Council also discussed whether or not Ephrata Borough has a problem with feral cats, or whether the borough merely have a problem with residents feeding stray cats?

Resident Carl Gregson questioned borough council on the matter at Monday night’s regular session. He questioned whether or not the borough has an ordinance which might address what he suggested could be a growing problem.

Gregson stressed that he did not want to "rock the boat" with those who might be feeding stray cats, but pointed out that he feels the population is on the rise. And, he asked that council look into the matter further.

"The problem is with 10 to 15 cats waiting around at all times looking to be fed," said Gregson, who along with his wife is a familiar face at borough council meetings. "I think it would help if there were some way to discourage people from feeding them."

Police Chief William Harvey seemed to agree, but pointed out that currently there are some limitations on what could be done.

"By law, we are only obligated to deal with dogs," said Harvey. "Now with feral cats, that could be creating a public health hazard."

Harvey added that regardless of good intentions, those feeding cats actually take on the role of guardian for the animals, creating an environment where the cats will keep coming back.

Gregson suggested that awareness could be created by including a piece in the borough newsletter.

Council member Tom Reinhold was sympathetic to Gregson’s plight.

"I have the same situation as you do (in my neighborhood)," said Reinhold. "We have one neighbor who is feeding quite a few cats and it is just growing. For those who are conscientious about it, they may stop if there were something in the newsletter about it.

Chairman of the Public Safety Committee Vic Richard requested that Thompson prepare a report of his findings to his committee for further consideration.

"I don’t want to rock the boat with my neighbors," Gregson again stressed. "We are trying to get along with all our neighbors, but I feel we may need to look at the problem community wide."

Thompson agreed to look into the matter and follow up with Gregson.

In other borough council news, the community services committee asked council to approve a proposal from Gannett Fleming of Camp Hill to perform inspection services at the Haller Dam in the Cocalico Creek in the amount of $4,500. The group will review the overall condition of the dam and make recommendations regarding the dam’s future. Council unanimously approved the measure.

That committee’s report to council also detailed progress being made on renovations at Ephrata Community Pool. Despite the late October snow, progress continues to be right on schedule for the projected Memorial Day opening. Electrical Design Engineer Michael Smolick has been in communication with the committee regarding the use of LED lighting for the project. The committee also agreed that any change order request would be e-mailed to the entire committee by Borough Manager Thompson along with staff recommendations on the matter. Committee members will then respond back to the committee chairman, Tom Reinhold, who will issue the committee’s approval or rejection of the change order to Thompson.

The committee discussed the removal of the sycamore tree within the pool site. Thompson reported that the contract documents included the removal of five trees. One tree at the circular drop off has been removed, and the remaining trees (sycamore, two cedars and one oak along King Street) are to be removed as part of the contract. The committee requested that before the sycamore tree is removed it be evaluated by a certified arborist. The results of the evaluation will be forwarded to the committee so that guidance can be provided to the staff.

In its report, the community services committee also reported that it had received a lease document prepared by the Lancaster County Adult Probation and Parole Services to lease the second floor office space in borough hall. In addition, the committee received a memorandum from the borough solicitor with his comments on the lease agreement. The committee will review both documents and discuss the lease at their Nov. 21 meeting.

For more information on Ephrata Borough, visit Gary P. Klinger welcomes questions, comments and feedback at More BOROUGH, page A6

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