Community Government

Adopting Hellertown Police Study’s Recommendations Could Be Costly, Council Told

Hellertown Borough Hall

Hellertown borough councilman Andrew Hughes said a 9 mill property tax hike would be necessary to afford adoption of the recommendations included in a recent report by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, which conducted a study of the Hellertown Police Department in the wake of theft charges being filed against its former chief last year. Hughes said that would translate to a 41.9 percent property tax increase in year one.

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Hellertown Borough Council’s finance committee met last week, following a report by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association which included recommendations for the borough police department that could cause a future burden for local taxpayers. The review was commissioned by council after the borough’s former police chief was charged with theft late last year.

The finance committee discussed the department’s current finances, the PCPA’s recommendation to add additional officers, a new police department building, and policy and procedure revisions.

Councilman Andrew Hughes of the finance committee said a 9 mill property tax hike would be necessary to afford adoption of the PCPA’s recommendations, which would translate to a 41.9 percent property tax increase in year one.

“We can only raise property taxes to pay this, because all of our other revenue streams, we don’t control, like earned income–that’s set,” Hughes said Wednesday at a council meeting. “It’s the only place we have the ability to raise revenue outside of new construction, new buildings, houses and things like that.”

Hughes said a recent study of new development in the borough indicated “we’ve been flat for five years…(and) it seems like every time we get an assessment that’s more positive, we have something else that drops off.”

Excluding equipment, vehicles and other capital investments, the borough spends roughly $1.7 million annually to staff a 10-person police department. The PCPA report recommended hiring five additional officers for a 50 percent increase in staff.

“If you equate that to 2023 dollars, that represents an annual $850,000 increase in police department budget,” Hughes said.

Hughes said considerable research regarding a new police headquarters has been conducted in recent years, and that a substantial report regarding the project was provided to council in 2018.

“Expanding the police department to address both regulatory requirements and functional needs would cost between $2.5 and $4.1 million in 2018 dollars,” he told council.

However, Hughes said since it’s a long-term capital project, a mortgage might be another option for the hypothetical expanded police facility. The presentation noted that using 2018 dollars (but today’s inflation rate), the cost amortized over 20 years would be $338,000 per year at a 5.5 percent interest rate.

Factoring in the approximate 4 percent borough growth rate, an additional $115,000 (or approximately 3 percent tax increase) per year would then be necessary to simply maintain what the borough has now based on the PCPA report’s recommendations; a revelation Hughes called “extremely problematic.”

More Hellertown Borough financial statistics:

  • According to a 2023 Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) police services study Hughes outlined Monday, the borough allocates the second-highest percentage of its resources (or general fund budget) to its police services, among Northampton County’s 38 municipalities.
  • According to the council finance committee, the borough’s police department was not over budget in 2023, but it was marginally over budget in 2022 due to officer appreciation bonuses.
  • As of February 2024, the borough had the third-highest property tax rate among Northampton County’s 19 boroughs. Hughes said that four years ago, the borough had the highest property tax rate.
  • A mill of Hellertown Borough property taxes generates approximately $132,000 of general revenue.

In other business, council discussed the upcoming summer swimming season at the Hellertown Pool. The pool will open for the season on Saturday, June 8. Hours of operation are noon to 7 p.m. daily, weather permitting. Season passes are available for purchase at Borough Hall Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The season will conclude on Saturday, Aug. 17.

This year’s season pass rates for residents and non-residents are:

  • Youth: $75 (non-resident: $121)
  • Adult: $95 (non-resident: $161)
  • Senior Citizen: $30 (non-resident: $87)
  • Family (up to 5 individuals): $200 (non-resident: $317)

More information about the pool–including season pass applications, special event dates, daily admission rates and a list of pool rules–may be found on the Hellertown borough website.


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Justin Carlucci

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