PLYMOUTH — Borough council passed a $1.6 million balanced budget for 2018 on Sunday.
The budget increased funding for the borough’s police department and maintained fire department staff at the same level as 2017, but those measures came at a price — a 17.9 percent tax property tax increase.
“We came to believe that perhaps the borough didn’t have enough volunteer coverage in case of a fire,” said Councilman Frank Coughlin, who said he voted for the budget reluctantly. “That was the bottom line.”
The property tax millage rate will rise from 5.7 in 2017 to 6.72 mills. A mill is a $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed property value. The budget contains funding for a 25 percent increase in the borough’s police department, continuing operation of three fire houses and retention of its current fire department staff of two full-time drivers and 11 part-time firefighters.
Bill Dixon was the only member of council to vote against the budget.
He spoke passionately about the effect he believed the tax increase will have on the borough.
“We have a shrinking population, many of whom are elderly,” he said. “And that has affected our Earned Income Tax.”
An tax increase, while keeping a full fire staff and three fire houses open, he said was simply postponing the inevitable.
“We’re just kicking the can down the road,” he said. “And in the meantime, we’re killing our real estate.”
Coughlin was also concerned about the tax hike.
“Many of our property owners are elderly people with fixed incomes who really try to keep up their homes.” he said. “Any increase is a significant increase to them.”
Dixon said he supported a previously proposed budget containing a lesser property tax increase of 7.4 percent that would mean a significant decrease in fire personnel and the closing of Goodwill Hose Company No. 2.
Dixon said, with the borough comprising only 1.1 square miles, funding three fire houses and round-the-clock, full-time fire personnel was a misuse of taxpayer money.
He also spoke of the impact his vote and the passage of the budget would mean to his political career.
“I imagine I’m going to get voted off after this,” he said. “But I’m still going to continue to serve the community.”
Resident Carin Borland suggested that next year’s budget season start earlier.
“Why don’t we have a working budget in September, and then we won’t have to have special meetings right up to the end of the year,” she said, referring to several contentious budget meetings held during the last two months.