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Pennsburg Finance Committee Finds Potential Savings
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            A regular member of Pennsburg's finance committee and the mayor identified potential savings of $128,500 for the borough. Last week, during a finance committee meeting at Borough Hall, member Diane Stevens and Mayor Vicki Lightcap scoured multiple line items on the borough's 2018 budget.

            According to Stevens, the adjustments could go a long way towards making up a $166,000 budget deficit. Municipal officials discovered the shortfall in March after an agreement with East Greenville to contract with Pennsburg to utilize the Upper Perk Police Department fell through, according to Lightcap.

            As a cost saving measure, council laid off two officers, agreed to loan Cprl. Jamie Lavin to the Montgomery County Detectives Unit for half of the year and offered an early retirement package to police Chief Michael Devlin.

            Devlin accepted the settlement, which included $72,000 additional severance compensation and accrued leave time totaling $119,238. A good portion of that payout will end in July, which should stop some of the bleeding, according to Lightcap, an ex-officio committee member.

            The responsibility for funding the entire police department for the final seven months of 2017 cost Pennsburg an additional $500,000 according to Greg Ede, the borough's auditor. Ede, of Styer & Associates in Souderton, appeared at the June 21 meeting to discuss the borough's 2017 audit. He said he offered a clean opinion, which included no findings of fraud.

            "It was a tough year financially for the borough," Ede said. "The borough is not in dire straits, but it is not as strong as in past years."

            After Ede left the meeting, Stevens and Lightcap examined multiple budget line items. They found myriad ways to reduce the borough's expenditures. They included transferring at least $51,000 from the liquid fuels fund to help cover road projects, projecting an additional $30,000 in real estate tax revenue, saving $11,000 from  a reduction in the activity of the zoning and code enforcement officer and saving $10,000 from a possible change in the pending police officers' contract.

            Another $9,000 will be realized through reduced engineering costs due to a decision by council to defer completing its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System requirements until 2019, a $4,000 saving involving the borough's administrative assistant, a $3,000 reduction in the cost of treescaping, a $2,500 deduction in donations and $1,000 savings from the water fund, part-time seasonal work, Community Day contributions and holiday decorations, respectively, as well as a projected $1,000 increase in local services tax.

            Those reductions would still leave a shortfall of $37,500. After the meeting, Stevens said those savings could be discovered in the borough's engineering line item. Municipal officials budgeted $65,000 for engineering, but have spent only $19,114 to date. She said an additional $38,000 could be found in that line item and in insurance savings.

            The committee could make these recommendations to the entire council at next month's council meeting, according to Stevens.

            After the meeting, she said it was far too early to know if the shortfall would lead to a tax increase in the 2019 budget. However, she said trash fees would increase for residents next year.

            According to Stevens, council absorbed a cost increase for trash removal as part of the 2018 budget.

            Vice President Fred Schutte, a member of the finance committee, did not attend the meeting.





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