Kutztown Borough Council expects no tax increase for proposed budget

Emily Leayman - Berks-Mont News Kutztown Borough Manager Gabriel Khalife told the council he expects no real estate tax increases from the 2016 electric budget.

In 2016, Kutztown residents may not see increases on real estate taxes for the proposed budget, although the general fund will increase, Borough Manager Gabriel Khalife said at the Nov. 17 Kutztown Borough Council meeting.

According to Khalife, the general fund will increase from this year’s approximately $4.4 million to $4.7 million. While some costs such as storm drainage and street lighting costs will go down, Khalife accounted for natural increases, capital purchases, vacant jobs being filled, software upgrades and salary increases. Healthcare was a significant portion for increased personnel costs. The unchanged 2016 real estate tax rate is a change from last year, when borough residents saw a .75 mil real estate tax increase.

The proposed budget is on display for the public beginning Nov. 18 at the Kutztown Municipal Building.

The council also recognized the Kutztown Electric Department for receiving a safety award from American Municipal Power, an Ohio company that trains the workers. Superintendent Steven Diehl, and workers Nathan Keller, Evan Muller, Kerry Eckert and Chad Gechter were at the meeting to show the award to the council.

In other business, the council unanimously approved a motion in support of the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, a state bill in the works that would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

At the October borough meeting, Albert Eisenberg of Pennsylvania Competes appealed to the council to pass a resolution in support of the bill. According to Eisenberg, Pennsylvania lawmakers, including Kutztown’s Rep. Gary Day, want to hear local council and constituent responses before deciding on their vote.

The council also moved to consider grant funding for in-town curb and sidewalk repairs in 2017 and beyond. Dan Eslinger, a member of the Borough Planning Commission, said that the borough passed a similar ordinance in the 1990s but no action came about, likely due to budgetary concerns. Since the borough has limited resources today, it will now consider a transportation grant. Eslinger said the grants recommended by the county are competitive, but the borough can try and seek other options.

The next Borough Council meeting is Nov. 17 at 7:30 in the train station.

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