Hallam Borough Council, York County, spent almost two hours Monday night trying to find ways to balance its 2021 budget without raising taxes.
With some council members gathering in person and other attendees joining via teleconference, the borough was staring down a $65,599 deficit in its draft spending plan for the coming year. And when they adjourned nearly four hours later, after going through the proposed budget line by line and applying about a dozen spending cuts, the deficit is still in excess of $50,000.
“We made some inroads. We had some council people who really stepped up with ideas for places we could make cuts,” council President William Fitzpatrick said. “It’s still way short of coming out even.”
The problem facing the borough is the budget as proposed is already lean. More than half of the township’s $930,000 projected budget is locked in, with $358,000 allocated for police and public safety. Another $180,000 will go to pay for garbage collection.
Fitzpatrick has been investigating ways to reduce the $34,000 Hallam spends annually on streetlights. But he told council his research has not been encouraging. Only about 20% of that expense is for electricity, the rest is a maintenance charge, so steps such as replacing the lamps with bulbs that use electricity would have minimal impact on costs.
The most significant cuts council proposed were $2,000 savings in legal fees to be achieved by reducing how much time the solicitor spends attending council meetings and $2,400 in savings to be realized by unsubscribing from a GIS mapping service the borough seldom uses. Council also proposes cutting $3,000 from line items for improvements and repairs to its parks.
All told, the proposed adjustments shave $10,500 in projected expenses. But when reductions in revenue projections for parking tickets and code violation fines are factored in, the net reduction was less than $10,000.
“As gloomy as it is, where else do you cut? We may have to consider increasing taxes unless somebody can come up with another way to do it. I don’t know what that would be,” Fitzpatrick said.
Council agreed to explore the sale of 8 acres of land next to Route 30 that used to be a part of the Horn Farm. Hallam leases that parcel to a farmer for $550 per year. Selling the land to a developer might bring a cash windfall as well as increased tax revenue when it is developed.
Such a move, though, is purely investigative at this point. “We don’t have a clue if it is even possible to develop that parcel,” Fitzpatrick said. And any such sale would be unlikely to be completed in time to impact this budget.
Officials said it would take about a 0.5-mill increase in the borough’s property tax rate to make up the shortfall. The owner of a home assessed at the borough average of $112,000 would see taxes increase around $56 if a 0.5-mill increase were enacted.
Council plans to continue working to reduce the budget deficit when it meets again at 6 p.m. Oct. 22, an hour earlier than usual.
“Everybody knows we probably cannot cut it down 100%, Fitzpatrick said. “But we want to make the effort.”