By Dianne Stuckman
A $40,000 increase to the police salary line item of Crafton’s 2022 preliminary budget drew debate between members of council Nov. 9.
The preliminary budget showed $820,000 earmarked for police salaries, with $40,000 of it allocated for the addition of a 10th officer. The borough has operated with nine full time officers since June of 2020 when a 10th officer’s probationary period had ended.
Members of council were concerned that the payment for a 10th officer’s partial year’s salary was added to the preliminary budget without discussion amongst council.
“This isn't transparency,” said Councilman Mike Crown. “Transparency would have been, ‘Hey council, here's what we would like to do.’ Before the numbers even enter a budget, what would you like to have?”
Councilman Brad Crouse agreed with Crown.
“It's simply not part of the democratic process to exclude some of the elected officials in the information gathering,” said Crouse.
But Councilwoman Coletta Perry, who, along with Councilman John Oliverio, make up the borough’s finance committee, said adding the numbers to the preliminary budget and then discussing the changes at the council meeting is how the process of fine tuning the preliminary budget works.
“The [finance] committee is putting this out as a recommendation and tonight is our time to discuss it,” Councilwoman Coletta Perry said.
“That's what these workshops are about.”
“I'm 100% pro police,” said Crown who questioned whether the borough's population and crime rate supports the approximate $80,000 cost of a 10th officer. Crown said the borough has other pressing issues such as public works equipment and administrative needs.
Perry said an additional officer would increase security for police, giving a better chance of having two officers on duty at once.
“I'm not dumping (the new position) on the new council,” Crown said.
Of the current council, only Oliverio and Chandler will remain on the board in January. Crown suggested the new board research and determine the police force needs. Councilmen Crouse and Colton Chandler concurred.
As council plowed through the proposed budget, the public works' preliminary numbers were another point of contention. No funds had been set aside for a public works director. The former director was let go more than one year ago.
“We have a public works department with no boss,” Crown said.
To determine the borough's operational needs, Doug Sample, interim manager, was directed to request a study be completed by the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development that focuses on the police and public works manpower needs.
According to Sample, the study will be done at no charge to the borough and findings will take six to eight months.
“We want to initiate the process so the new council doesn't have to wait,” said Sample.
Budget workshops to iron out details before the adoption of the 2022 municipal budget are ongoing. Council will meet four times to work out the spending plan.
In other news, 13 trees were planted throughout the borough earlier this month and dates for the second annual celebration of Lights events were announced.
Councilman John Oliverio said the Shade Tree Commission and public works employees planted native trees along Crafton Park and Hawthorne, Bradford, Creighton and Clearview avenues.
Trees were planted, with prior permission, in residents' yards rather than directly along the streets for more sustainable growing conditions.
Tree species planted include Sugar Maples, London Planes, Oak, Red Bud, Dogwood and Hornbeam trees. Crafton's five member Shade Tree Commission protects and preserves trees, shrubs and plants within the borough.
The Celebration of Lights event is set for Dec. 11 - 26 and includes a self-guided audio driving tour each evening showcasing several decorated homes in Crafton. Homes will be lit from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. each evening.
Jacquelyn Levasseur, chairwoman of the parks and recreation board, said the event started last year as a way to socially distance while celebrating the holiday season. Last year’s event included 13 homes along the route.
Decorated homes are needed this season.
For more information, go to craftonborough.com/parks-recreation.