Fountain Hill Borough Council voted to adopt a 2020 borough budget which includes a modest property tax increase at their Dec. 18 meeting, which was council’s last for the year.
The 2020 budget includes a 0.5 mill increase in the municipal property tax rate, which was already the highest in Lehigh County in 2019 at 9.11 mills, and nearly doubled between 2014 and last year. The increase for 2020 translates to an additional $75 annually, or $6.25 per month, for a property valued at a median assessment of $150,000.
Council anticipates raising $110,000 with the tax increase.
Despite the tax increase, council president Leo Atkinson said he is proud of the budget, which will help to fund some improvements in the borough.
One budgetary accomplishment Atkinson cited is the creation of a Capital Projects Fund for the borough.
The Capital Projects Fund will receive an annual contribution, and will be used to help finance various large infrastructure projects throughout Fountain Hill.
One of the projects council has in mind for Capital Projects funding is maintenance and repairs to the borough’s sanitary sewer system. An engineering study conducted approximately 10 years ago estimated that more than $1 million in repairs to the current system are needed, and Atkinson said that number has only gone up in the years since the study was undertaken.
A reclamation and rebuild of Ostrum Street–on which St. Luke’s Hospital is located–is also on the radar.
The fund has been created with an initial $100,000 contribution.
Also included in the 2020 budget is a $100,000 contribution to the police department’s pension fund. The distressed pension fund is badly in need of funding, and the contribution will help the borough fulfill its obligation to its officers in their retirement, Atkinson said.
The police department received funding for a ninth full-time officer with the new budget.
The addition of an extra officer will ensure the borough’s officers can have a better work/life balance, and Atkinson said he anticipates savings in the department’s budgeted overtime and part-time officer pay with the addition of a new full-time officer to its ranks.
Lastly, the new budget brings good news for Fountain Hill businesses. A Community Development Fund was created to assist local businesses opening in the borough, as well as existing ones.
The fund has roughly $50,000 in it to begin with, with much of that likely to fund either a matching grant program for businesses or improvements, or a low-interest loan program. The specifics still need to be discussed and passed by the council, Atkinson said.
The first Fountain Hill Borough Council meeting of 2020 will be held Monday, Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. at Fountain Hill Borough Hall, 941 Long St., Fountain Hill. The meeting will include council’s annual reorganization as well as the swearing in of new council members.