Little budget progress in West York since last meeting
The West York borough council did not spend much time Monday night talking about the borough's impending budget shortfall, which had been the main topic of discussion during the contentious previous meeting.
In the public comment period that preceded Monday's meeting, a borough resident voiced his displeasure with an idea that had been the subject of much of the Aug. 17 meeting's budget debate: whether the council should explore the option of turning from the borough police department to one of the regional departments in the area.
"These guys are doing a heck of a job," Dan John Sr. said of the West York police officers.
By borough council president Garrett Wampler's calculations, the borough is staring down an impending budget shortfall of about $500,000 for next year, with that number only increasing in the following years.
During the August meeting, Wampler suggested the borough look into buying out the West York Borough Police Department and turn to a regional department, such as nearby Northern York County Regional Police. After the original buyout, which Wampler calculated would be about $2.1 million, the borough would likely be spending significantly less for police than it is now. Wampler said he thinks the borough then would be able to lower taxes from 7.5 to 5.5 mills by 2017.
The borough's on track to budget next year about $1.3 million for the department plus an additional $212,000 or so for pensions. Those combine for more than half of the municipal budget, which would be more than $2.8 million.
Some of the other council members have spoken against Wampler's ideas, and during public comment, John said he'd be willing to pay more in order to keep the municipal department.
"I'd pay the extra taxes," he said.
Police union: At the previous meeting, officers addressed the council, saying that none of the council members had approached the union and asked for concessions to save money.
After Monday's meeting, Wampler said no specific plans had been made to sit down with union members, and not much had changed since the previous meeting.
Toward the end of Monday's meeting, the council held an executive meeting for about half an hour about collective-bargaining matters, according to Wampler and borough solicitor Margaret Driscoll. After the meeting, Wampler would not elaborate on what was discussed during the session.
The council plans to further examine the budget situation in its next meeting, which will be 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28, in the borough's municipal building at 1700 W. Philadelphia St. Municipalities normally pass preliminary budgets in November, and then the final budgets in December.
West York Police Chief Justin Seibel told The York Dispatch that the borough's mayor, Charles Wasko, had asked him to defer comment to the mayor on the council's discussions about police. Wasko, who was not at the meeting, did not return a call for comment later Monday night.
Wampler, who has stressed throughout the year the need to take steps to make long-term budgetary fixes, said the police department isn't the only thing on the table during budget talks. If enough smaller cuts are made in several departments — including some concessions from the police union — the council might be able to narrow the budget gap enough that the then-necessary tax hike might be "palatable," he said.
"We're going to look at all the options," he said.
— Reach Sean Cotter at email@example.com.