HONESDALE, PA — Honesdale Borough released the draft of its 2023 budget last week. For the third year in a row, it does not include tax increases for residents, but it does include a …
HONESDALE, PA — Honesdale Borough released the draft of its 2023 budget last week. For the third year in a row, it does not include tax increases for residents, but it does include a warning for 2024.
Finance committee chair Jared Newbon presented the 2023 proposed budget at the borough meeting November 15. He noted that the county is currently undergoing a reassessment that could impact the value of a mill in Honesdale, and that the borough will update millage as necessary to remain revenue neutral. The borough is projecting its expenditures and revenues to balance out at about $5.12 million.
The borough does plan to increase the amount of tax revenue that goes toward parks and recreation, but proposes balancing that increase by reducing the general-purpose tax rate.
The draft budget is available in its entirety at www.bit.ly/honesdalebudget23. It will be up for review and public comment through Tuesday, December 6. This year, for the first time, it includes an executive summary that walks taxpayers through the budget’s main takeaways.
Some of the highlights of next year’s budget include dedicating roughly $179,000 to stormwater infrastructure and repairs, an increase of about $129,000 from the year prior; a four-percent raise for all non-uniform borough employees; the creation of a new borough manager position with an $80,000 salary; and a repeat line item for the salaries of two new full-time police officers.
The four-percent wage increase is an effort to make Honesdale competitive in the job market, according to the executive summary.
“Ultimately, local governments are in the service industry… our most important asset is our people. The committee strives to produce a budget that is reflective of this truth,” the summary reads. “Competition within the market along with limited funds for increased wages has complicated the borough’s efforts to stand out among other employers.”
The summary also includes a word of warning for 2024. The borough is beginning 2023 with about $1.75 million in operating funds. However, the borough expects to carry over only about $363,000 into 2024. Newbon noted that this number has been trending downward for some years and may lead to an increase in 2024 property taxes.
“We need to keep an eye on that, because that basically means if we spend everything we think we’re going to spend, we’re dipping into reserves a little bit,” Newbon said. “We were in a similar situation this year and we did hold that off a bit as far as not signing too many purchase orders and checks.”
The budget also includes just over $85,000 for two new full-time police officers. The borough’s limited police force has been an item of concern for several years—that same amount of money was in the budget last year, but never used to pay new officers.
The council has not indicated that it has any specific plans this year to hire new full-time officers.
In the last borough council meeting, Honesdale Police Chief Richard Southerton said the situation is dire. He and council members expressed interest in working together to solve the staffing issue.
While reviewing highlights in the budget, however, Newbon said—and the executive summary reiterates—that the council is “looking to department leadership to head up recruitment efforts.”
The borough has also presented a budget for expanding its capital improvement plan for the next five years. Proposed spending on capital projects in 2024 includes $37,500 for police vehicle replacement and $123,000 for building improvements, including at the borough hall and the police department building, along with other funding for things like department of public works trucks, filing cabinets and parking meters. The full capital budget improvement plan can be found at www.bit.ly/honesdalecapimprovement23.
Council president James Hamill said he thought the 2023 proposed budget was “really sound fiscal policy.” Other council members agreed.
“This budget was impressive to me because it was a foundational thing,” said Jim Jennings, noting stormwater improvement efforts, employee retention and the borough manager position. “Just the investment in some key areas while things are tight hopefully pays dividends in the long term.”
Of note: More volunteer firefighters are needed in Honesdale. For information about the Honesdale Fire Department, or to join its ranks, call 570/253-6389 or visit www.honesdalefiredepartment.com.
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