By Alice Crow
Preliminary budget talk in Crafton says there will be no increase in real estate taxes, but some increase in sewer and trash fees come 2023.
Crafton Borough Council held its first budget workshop on Oct. 27, with officials concluding there will be no changes to the tax rate and there is an expectation for better collection rates now that the COVID-19 pandemic has stabilized.
The overall allocated budget decreased from $13.8 million in 2022 to $13.1 million in 2023. However, some areas of the budget will receive more funding in 2023, including some minor salary increases because of inflation, more park funding for maintenance and a larger amount of money for Crafton’s firework display, among other things.
Since council members did not identify any major changes needed for the budget, council is on track to advertise the proposed plan after next meeting and approve the budget during the first meeting of December. Residents can comment on the budget at the next budget workshop and council meeting set for Nov. 10 at 6:30 p.m.
An unofficial study by the Crafton Borough council found almost no areas in Crafton Borough would allow for consumer fireworks under a new Pennsylvania law.
Council Vice President Kirsten Compitello conducted the unofficial study by using Google Earth to determine if there were any pieces of land in Crafton that provided a 150-foot distance from any structure or vehicle.
Compitello concluded there was little to no area in the borough that would accommodate the new law’s requirements. Interim Borough Manager Doug Sample reported that the building inspector did a similar analysis and came to the same conclusion.
“The 150-foot rule essentially provides a defacto-ban, it appears, in the community,” said Borough Solicitor Stephen Korbel.
Council members are currently tasked with revising the Borough’s outdated ordinance because of the new state law. Council can either ban consumer fireworks entirely, allow them on certain holidays with a permit or always allow them with a permit.
Some council members seemed to lean toward banning consumer fireworks to limit confusion and promote safety in Crafton since there are few to no places where they could legally be set off.
“My concern is if we do want to create a permit process, I don't think it is valuable or useful for residents to create a permit process that nobody would qualify for,” Compitello said. “That would be confusing for our residents, it would be misleading and it would be an unnecessary use of our limited borough resources.”
Other council members advocated for continuing to allow fireworks and cited personal responsibility of residents to abide by the law and report those who are breaking it.
“I do feel like there should be some level of personal responsibility. If grown adults are doing something they’re not supposed to be doing and fall down and get hurt, then they fall down and get hurt,” said Council’s Erin Bollenbacher.
“I understand the safety for your neighbors, but that could also be the responsibility of the adult neighbors. If you see somebody setting off fireworks on your street that they know aren’t safe then maybe that’s your responsibility as a community member to notify the police because it is hard for the police to be everywhere,” she said.
After some discussion, council members agreed to draft an ordinance just restating the state law, which will be voted on at the next council meeting.
No matter the Borough’s ordinance, the state law has been in effect since September. Consumer fireworks can only be set off 150 feet from any structure or vehicle between the hours 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., except on July 4 when it extends to 1 a.m. First-time offenses can receive a fine of $500. All subsequent offenses can be fined $1,000.
“The 150-foot rule exists today, so same thing on New Year’s Eve. If people shoot off fireworks in your neighborhood, in Crafton, they’re probably, based on Ms. Compitello’s research, that is a violation of the state law. You can receive a citation from the borough police,” Korbel advised residents.
Promenade Street resident Cody Sheets called on “unmotivated” council members to resign their positions and complained about a lack of communication among the council during public comment.
“When this council started, there was a new life to it, there was a vigor to get things done and some sort of motivation and firepower in every single member and now there’s quite the opposite,” said Sheets.
Sheets argued that the amount of misunderstanding he saw among members was concerning and questioned whether members communicated important information outside of meetings.
“I’ve lost count how many questions that have been asked tonight that could have been solved with simply communicating with each other about what’s going on in the borough that you serve,” he said.
Sheets concluded his public comment by calling on council members to consider stepping down if they do not feel prepared for the job.
“There’s nothing wrong with being in over your head and not understanding what you signed up for. If you feel that way you should step down gracefully and with dignity and let somebody who is able to make the time commitment, and the commitment to the community, handle business,” he said.
Alice Crow is a senior at Chatham University and is the editor-in-chief emeritus of Chatham’s student newspaper, the Communiqué.