ELKLAND — Elkland borough will soon learn what it means to operate without a budget.
The borough council failed to adopt a budget for 2021 or establish a new water and sewer rates during a special Zoom meeting Dec. 29. The borough code requires the borough to adopt a budget for the following year by Dec. 31.
How this will impact the borough is unknown. Council attributes the lack of action to a question of whether the November meeting was legal.
The November meeting, where council intended to adopt the tentative budget, may have been illegally advertised. Any action taken at that meeting would therefore be null and void.
If the meeting was illegal, then the tentative budget for 2021 was never adopted nor made available to the public for review, another requirement of the borough code. Council is awaiting information from the borough solicitor Chris Lantz.
The meeting notification was placed in a paper that the borough does not normally use because, according to Borough Secretary Jill Hall, this paper could provide the notification in the time available.
Councilman Rick Collins said if the November meeting was illegal, then council would need to adopt a tentative budget at the Dec. 29 meeting. No council member made a motion, leaving the borough without a budget for 2021.
The council did take action to keep the tax rate for real property stable. There will be no tax increase for 2021.
Questions arose about the borough’s annual contribution of $10,000 to the library. The line item was reportedly left out of the budget.
Council woman Deanna Sherman, who helped develop the budget, said that she “hid” line items. The line items are there, just not visible on the final document. Another line item, $32,000 for liability insurance, was also hidden and is not budgeted for the coverage.
Council said that the funds are in the 2021 budget and the borough will make quarterly payments to the library. The library needs the commitment from the borough to apply for grant funding.
Resident and former secretary Penny Jeffers asked how council could consider increasing water and sewer rates when there is $171,000 in sewer funds and $146,000 in water funds at year’s end.
Sherman said that she did not consider funds in checking or savings accounts while developing the budget, but rather based the new budget on the prior year.
Sherman noted that the garbage contract with Northern Tier Solid Waste Authority will see an 18% increase. The 2020 contract was for $109,000. Council approved a three-year extension of the garbage contract in November with a 6% increase each year, approximately $10,000 annually.
Sherman said there is no increases in salaries except with the Department of Public Works and, with the resignation of police officer Sergeant Robert Gee on Jan. 1, the borough would save money.
The council also discussed and agreed to send a bill for $205,871.99 to local manufacturer BORAL, in connection to a water main break earlier this year. A contractor allegedly dug outside the designated area causing a water leak. While repairing the leak, the borough’s reservoir was drained, shutting down the system, causing additional damage, flooding at least one home and resulting in a boil water order.
The next meeting of the Elkland borough council is set for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 13, however an emergency meeting may be necessary to address the 2021 budget.