By Chadwick Dolgos
As COVID-19 cases spike and uncertainty continues to linger, unemployment and other potential financial fallouts are forcing some local boards to budget conservatively.
During the Stowe Township commissioner’s meeting on Nov. 10, Commissioner Kelly Cropper Hall, who chairs the finance and pension committee, introduced a significantly lower preliminary budget for 2021 than was approved for the previous year.
“The budget is scary because it’s the lowest budget that I ever had to write being on this board,” said Cropper Hall.
Last year, the board approved a budget of $3.3 million. This year, the finance committee proposed a budget just a little over $2.9 million.
“The budget is not what we want it to be, but we have to be extremely cautious,” said Cropper Hall, who said the township expects to see less taxes collected and more financial difficulties in the upcoming year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the township is erring on the side of caution, the board was still able to allocate funds to areas they deemed necessary.
“Safety is number one in our town, and we had uncovered that the firefighters were struggling with some of the personal protection equipment they need,” said Cropper Hall. The committee allocated $22,000 to start the process.
The police will receive $20,000 for cameras, an increase in pay for their part-time employee from $15 to $18 an hour, and, if everything goes as planned, Cropper Hall said, “The very first thing we want to do for the police department is hire a second in command.”
Non-union employees were also offered a 3% raise, and all raise increases set by contract were honored.
“Demolition is a big deal for us,” said Cropper Hall. “We left $100,000 in there for us to tear down some houses.” Cropper Hall also indicated that Nick Martini, township secretary, wrote a grant for demolition projects in the area. “If we’re able to get those grants, we should be able to have a significant amount of money taken away.”
There will be no tax raise for Stowe residents. “It will remain where it has been since I’ve been on the board, which is 10.48 mills,” Cropper Hall said.
In order to balance the budget, the finance committee had to dip into the ‘rainy-day’ fund. “We are going to have to take a vote to transfer $125,101 from the rainy-day fund to the budget,” said Cropper Hall.
“It hurts to have to hit that rainy-day fund, but, unfortunately, it’s the times and it has to be done.”
Cropper Hall and the finance committee spent close to 10 weeks working on the budget because they were not satisfied with how far back they had to cut spending.
The budget is available for anyone to look at and offer any recommendations, but Cropper Hall said, “We really couldn’t cut the budget anymore than we already have,” adding, “It's like a pyramid; it starts collapsing if you pull money out a certain way.”
This budget is expected to be adopted on Dec. 8.