West York borough lays off two employees, manager says more cuts imminent

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
West York Borough Office, 1381 W Poplar Street.

The West York Borough Council voted Monday to lay off two office employees after rejecting a proposal to increase quarterly trash bills, and the borough manager said he expects there will be more layoffs in the coming weeks.

Borough manager Shawn Mauck asked the council to increase the trash bill for property owners to $95 per quarter, up $10 from the current rate, to make up for lost revenue from people who aren't paying their bills, but the council rejected that measure in a 4-3 vote.

Mauck said the council made the wrong choice and that, without the price increase, the borough won't have the money to pay Republic Services, its contracted trash hauler.

"There’s no way to fix this mistake," he said. "And you’re going to put it on the taxpayers because if we default, they’re not getting their trash picked up — none of them, including the ones that paid."

Council President Mary Wagner and council members Mildred Tavarez, Regina Scott and Linda Heiner opposed the increase, saying it wasn't fair to keep asking for more money from the residents who are consistently paying on time.

West York Borough Manager Shawn Mauck visits the borough's fire department Wednesday Dec. 23, 2020. Mauck is appealing to residents to support the fire department. Bill Kalina photo

The council already increased the quarterly trash bill by $10 when it adopted the 2021 budget. This would have been the second $10 increase in the past two months.

"I'm to the point where I, as a resident, am tired of getting an increase because someone else isn't paying their bill," Wagner said, adding that many residents are living on fixed incomes.

Vice President Wayne Leedy and council members Alan Vandersloot and Lisa Gross backed the increase.

Leedy said it's frustrating having to pay for others who are dropping the ball on their bills, but that he doesn't want to see the trash pile up in the borough.

After the increase proposal was rejected, Mauck told the council he would need to lay off two part-time office employees, effective at the end of this week, to make up for the revenue that would have been generated by the $10 fee increase.

More:West York borough to keep paid fire service, lay off one firefighter

More:West York mayor suggests cutting trash collection; records show he owes thousands in refuse fees

The council voted 5-2 in favor of the layoffs, with Leedy and Gross dissenting.

"Just understand that next month, I will be putting more names in front of you," Mauck said, stating the borough would need to make significant cuts to be able to pay the trash bill.

Borough Mayor Bruce Vick had been one of the property owners with a significant past-due balance on trash bills, at one point owing more than $6,700 from several years of unpaid bills.

Republic Services loader Dennis Habecker hauls garbage to the truck while collecting post-Christmas recyclables in the Fireside neighborhood in York City Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017. Driver Barry Bowman said Dec. 26 is one of the busiest days of the year. Bill Kalina photo

But Mauck said Vick made a $4,500 payment Tuesday, cutting his balance down to about $2,200.

In a lengthy statement Tuesday, Vick said he acknowledges that he should have been more diligent about paying his bill but that, like many borough residents, he has dealt with personal hardships that led to his account becoming delinquent.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left West York in an increasingly precarious financial situation.

More than 35% of borough residents haven't paid their quarterly trash bills in several months, Mauck said Tuesday, and the borough only has a few options to enforce collection of past due balances.

Taking people to court and putting liens on their properties is time consuming and costly, and even with a judgment in the borough's favor, there's little the borough can do to force the property owner to pay, Mauck said.

Even before the virus took hold, the borough was operating on a tight budget without a reserve fund.

Mauck said the borough is home to many people who work in the service industry, so when they were put out of work last year because of the virus, the borough's earned income tax revenue dropped, and a lot of people stopped paying their bills.

Last year, the borough council laid off one firefighter and one police officer to avoid a tax increase while still keeping its paid fire service.

More:West York mulling new special event parking stickers, adding $5 fee

More:York County local governments drain reserves amid pandemic