Borough mayor Charlie Pierce has released his administration’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year. While projections anticipate more than $77 million in revenues, the borough is still expected to run a deficit of nearly $4.5 million.
Mayor Pierce has taken to social media lately to lay out his plans for the budget both this year and into the future. His campaign promised to close that budget gap without any new taxes and to that end, he’s cut two full time positions at the borough, combining roles in the roads department and in the emergency management department. But finding other cuts in the short term has been difficult. Pierce said in a recent facebook live broadcast that he’s ready to put the advice of AM talk radio guru Dave Ramsey to use, and sell some of the borough’s assets.
“I took the time today to call the Dave Ramsey group. He (has) a national radio program (in the) afternoon. It’s played here in the local community and I’ve listened to him for a number of years and so I asked the question and described the scenario. We have a $4 million deficit spend, we have $18 million in fund balance, and we have some assets. And the asset is a $7 million dollar fund balance. So, assets could be a building that you own, it could be a car that you own, it could be a fleet of vehicles that you own and what Mr. Ramsey will commonly tell you is that if you’re deficit spending, if you cannot raise additional revenue, you have a choice. Cut your expenditures, which we’ve tried to do, we’re working hard, diligently every day to try to do that. Or you use your assets. You sell your assets to shore up your fund balance and you pay your bills on time.”
Selling off a portion of the land trust fund is how Pierce would like to make sure the borough school district gets its full funding request. The district has had reductions to its budget the past several years, and cuts to teaching positions could be next. However, there’s no guarantee the borough assembly will approve transferring more than half of the land trust fund to the school district to make the budget pencil out for just one year. Education funding makes up two thirds of borough spending. Much of the borough’s budget problems could be solved if voters approve a borough-wide sales tax increase. The assembly will vote on whether or not to put that on the fall ballot when it meets May 1st when it will also debate Mayor Pierce’s plan for the land trust fund.