Saturday, December 15, 2018

Just in time for Christmas - Council votes to raise taxes

At Thursday's meeting, Columbia Borough Council voted to approve the 2019 budget and to raise taxes.

Just in time for Christmas, Columbia Borough Council presented taxpayers with a gift that will keep on taking: a tax hike. At Thursday's special council meeting council voted unanimously to pass the 2019 budget and to increase millage from 6.6 to 8 mills - an increase of 21.2%. Before the vote, several citizens spoke out against the increase, but council remained unmoved and presented a united front during the proceedings.


Meiskey: "I don't know why council is so hell-bent on eroding the standard of living in Columbia Borough with this unjust, immoral, and in my opinion, illegal use of an ordinance and throwing over two mills of tax in the way of $800,000 to be loaned out to certain individuals." 

Former Borough Manager Norm Meiskey, a borough resident, spoke out against the increase, as he has done several times at recent meetings. He once again cited the borough's revolving loan fund as a culprit driving the need for an increase. He told council the problem is not with revenue but with spending and urged members not to approve the increase.

"I don't know why council is so hell-bent on eroding the standard of living in Columbia Borough with this unjust, immoral, and in my opinion, illegal use of an ordinance and throwing over two mills of tax in the way of $800,000 to be loaned out to certain individuals," Meiskey said.


Meiskey: "You need to fix the problem. You have a spending problem. You need to realize it."

Noting the borough's $18.8 million in fund balances, Meiskey said "Ladies and gentlemen, you don't have a revenue problem - you have a spending problem, and you need to fix it and not put on the taxpayers to allow the allowed erosion of their standard of living because you can't fix the problem. You need to fix the problem. You have a spending problem. You need to realize it." He told council members that if they think there's not a problem with spending, he would be glad to meet with them to show them. He told them they really need to rethink the increase before proceeding.


Doutrich: "Why does the council think they have to be in the banking business? Why would you want to loan our money out? Put it in the infrastructure, into the streets."

Former councilman Frank Doutrich, a resident of Ironville Pike, questioned where the money came from for the $1.5 million revolving loan fund. Council President Kelly Murphy explained that it was from the borough's general fund. Borough Manager Rebecca Denlinger said that only $300,000 from the fund has been advanced so far. "We only advance the funds to our third-party loan administrator as the loans come through the pipeline and get ready to go to closing, so at this time, only 300,000 has been advanced," Denlinger said. "The remaining 1.2 is still sitting in fund balance essentially." Denlinger added that an additional $800,000 has been budgeted to capitalize the loan fund but might not be used if loans are not applied for.

So far, only one loan has been fully processed: $250,000 for Cimarron Investments LLC. A second loan, for Eberly Myers LLC's Locust Street apartment building project, was processed but did not go to closing.

Denlinger also mentioned the borough's CHIHL program, the Columbia Housing Improvement and Homeownership loan program which is administered through LHOP, the Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership. One part of the program is for down payment assistance, and one is for home improvement projects, according to Denlinger. Murphy said the borough's share for the fund is $150,000 and added that only one application was ever made for the fund but was not followed through on.

Doutrich asked, "Why does the council think they have to be in the banking business? Why would you want to loan our money out? Put it in the infrastructure, into the streets." Murphy replied that in regard to CHIHL, the program is to help homeowners with assistance in closing costs and to encourage people to fix up their homes at a better interest rate than what banks offer. Doutrich asked what happens if the loan is not paid back, and Denlinger replied that the property would be "liened."


Denlinger: ". . . we might not get paid back. There's a risk involved, certainly." 

Doutrich then asked what happens if the people receiving funds from the revolving loan fund don't pay back the loan. Denlinger replied, "We are typically in a junior position, so we could get paid back depending on what happens with the turnout of the loan, and we might not get paid back. There's a risk involved, certainly."  Doutrich said, "I just don't like that we put our citizens at risk."


Wilkinson: "Let's cut spending. How about that? Let's spend less so we don't need as much of an increase."

Thomas Wilkinson of North Second Street said, "I don't agree with you guys treating the town like it's a business." He said it's okay if council spends a little bit of money to brighten up the town but he is not favor of big spending. "I would say most townspeople don't agree with that kind of spending. You're coming out of our pocketbooks. It's outrageous," Wilkinson said. "Let's cut spending. How about that? Let's spend less so we don't need as much of an increase."


Lutz: "Can someone speak to this $18 million? I'd like to know what it is, because I can't find it."

Mayor Leo Lutz then questioned where the $18 million figure came from that Meiskey alluded to. "Can someone speak to this $18 million? I'd like to know what it is, because I can't find it," Lutz said. Denlinger said the general obligation bond has $5.8 million left in it to spend. In response, Meiskey got up and placed budget papers on the table in front of Lutz and pointed to them.

After some pontificating by councillors, council voted unanimously to approve Resolution No. 18-23 adopting the 2019 budget, and to approve Ordinance No. 907 increasing the 2019 real estate tax millage rate to 8 mills.

Columbia News, Views & Reviews posted a link to the budget document HERE.

21 comments:

  1. this is an outright disgrace. Yay to Norm. Not everyone liked him but you MUST admit...HE knows his stuff. Maybe this current Mgr AND every Councilperson SHOULD BE MADE to attend all sorts of training. They haven't a clue. Please Norm, keep on top of this. Thank you from frustrated, poor residents who work, pay taxes and TRY to hold onto their homes.

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  2. YOU CAN PUT LIPSTICK ON A PIG BUT IT IS STILL A PIG.

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  3. Good for Norm, I am so proud that he is thinking of the citizens in this town. I'm sure he has plans to stop all this what's going on in there. We need to rally behind him. Fill the next council meeting with standing room only.

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  4. I'm ordering 100 bumper stickers to advertise COLUMBIASPY.COM
    they'll be sale at the few business left here in town

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  5. A LOT of really good questions !! - Leo isn't looking good

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    1. That happen when you talk out of both sides of your mouth and know that they are both lies.

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    2. Borough manager said we might not get paid back, great she should pay it back, she has and is making a mess of things all ready , STATE AUDIT HOLD ALL OF THESE PEOPLE ACCOUNTIBLE, start with her the mayor and of coarse the great 7 powers that be. By election time the mayor will be running to his cottage to hide under a rock that Columbia tax payers paid for . TRY TO SELL THE MONEY PIT AND SEE WHAT YOU CAN GET, NOT NEAR WHAT THE CITIZENS HAVE IN IT IN TAX MONEY. FARTS come from the great 7 nearly every meeting.

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  6. Why hasn't there been an exploration into a regionalization of the police department And the fire department purchasing two new engines and don't hand me that crap they are needed i believe the borough should be incorporated into another municipality and an outside firm should be tasked to do a boro wide audit maybe the state should step in

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    1. Police regionalization has be explored several times over the years. it never seemed to pan out though. and, the borough is audited by an outside firm every year.

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    2. WE WANT THE STATE TO AUDIT , not someone they pay to make it look there way.

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  7. Thanks tom, its nice to see a younger columbia man step up, maybe we ( the younger columbia generation) should start stepping up.. these crooks in office need to go, i agree, a state audit needs to be done to!!!

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  8. I can't understand Mayor Lutz lets all this go through. Big time for a change.

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  9. These jerks have been screwing this for far to long take a trip to the communities wall around us vibrant down town full of businesses didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that out of the ordinary going on possibly criminal we residents are tired of getting screwed

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  10. The mayor is the captain, the crew is the STUPID 7, the manager is a deck hand (no experience) and I don't know what the assistance is but here we go Columbia SINKING SHIP , President of council keep saying Columbia hasn't raised taxes in years prepping us for the raise that COUNCIL has caused by out of control SPENDING. These people taking a oath is like a contract on toilet paper , I hope they all Rot in hell for what THEY did to the Columbia citizens , they should not show there faces in town ,, SHAME is something that a good person feels over a mistake, but these people are well past that , they don't care about the town , the farts are the history of these NUTS , way to many to go into , Slective enforcement , favoritism , a council person that is a dead beet , (pay your taxes) …. STATE AUDIT < jail time , send these people packing , they are NOT or have not been for the town, they will spend till we are bankrupt . $13;000,000 for the money pit next , these people wouldn't spend there money like they are spending ours, they are the ones that say do as we say not as we do,we are above you.. All that comes to mind is WE HAVE A-- holes running this town!!!!

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    1. You are out of line with the rant above. "should not show their faces" ... really? Your figures aren't even correct. "Jail time" - what is the crime you allude to? Seriously, do you know that these people are stealing the money? Also, their and there mean two different things.

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    2. Lending out tax money is a crime. Jail TIME is correct

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    3. Really have you not seen what they have tried to do with $650,000 of tax payers money, where have you been?

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  11. I agree that Council is RAISING our taxes because of THEIR OUTRAGEOUS SPENDING ON NONSENSE. Something has got to be done. This is a poverty town. The hard WORKING homeowners who are TRYING to hold onto thier homes, who pay their taxes. There are WAY too many deadbeats here. Too many who reap ALL the benefits imaginable but who DO NOTHING IN RETURN. Volunteer. Also agree that EVERY SINGLE COUNCIL PERSON AND MANAGER SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO ATTEND TRAINING.

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  12. Why didn't you report that Norm was not able to show lutz the 18 million? Its not 18 as he claims, is it?

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    1. Norm placed budget papers in front of Lutz and pointed to them. I reported it.

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  13. They were afraid to put Frank Doutrich on council when there was an opening. He and Norm speak the truth. I thought the boro manager would look out for us but then she's not from our area and don't pay taxes she just takes them.

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