West York might walk back axing paid firefighters

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

A divided West York Borough Council voted to phase out the borough's paid fire service last month in an effort to balance the 2021 budget without raising taxes.

The council adopted that budget this week, but after hearing from residents who were unhappy about the decision to cut the firefighters' jobs, borough manager Shawn Mauck said he'd like to find another way to make the new budget work.

The borough council will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the borough hall to discuss options for adjusting expenses in other departments to salvage the fire company, Mauck said.

"This wouldn’t really change the budget blueprint a whole lot," he said. "It would actually just shift a little bit of expenses from one cost center to another."

West York Borough Office, 1381 W Poplar Street.

The proposal would not affect the borough's tax rate, which will remain at 11 mills in 2021.

At 11 mills, the tax bill on a property assessed at $100,000 is $1,100.

Mauck said the administrative staff has already been cut to the bone, but the borough could find some room for savings in the police department or adjustments in the fire department itself.

The majority of employees would keep their jobs, he said.

More details about the options will be available at the meeting, Mauck said, and the public is invited to participate.

West York's contract with Reliance Fire Co. expires in August of next year. Under the current cost-cutting plan, the borough would simply decline to renew the contract.

Two full-time and four part-time drivers would then lose their jobs, and the fire company would become an all-volunteer company with an annual contribution from the borough to support its services.

Mauck said it will be up to the borough council to decide how to proceed.

Another option for funding the department would be through public support, he said.

If enough borough residents want to make donations to help pay for the fire service, Mauck said, the borough could set up an escrow account to hold those funds for the department.

West York Mayor Shawn Mauck talks about his first 100 day goals including the creation of a junior policing program, Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. John A. Pavoncello

But one of the best things residents can do to help the borough is to pay their taxes, he said.

Around this time in 2019, the borough had collected about $75,000 in quarterly earned income taxes, Mauck said at a recent borough council meeting.

One year later, the quarterly earnings have shrunk to $54,000, he said.

"For folks that are holding on to the money, that can pay the taxes and haven't paid yet, we’re asking them, please, please get that paid," Mauck said.

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