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Harrisville adopts 2024 budget with $21K deficit

5 mill increase in effect next year, not this year

HARRISVILLE — Borough council unanimously adopted the 2024 budget with a total deficit of more than $21,000 — a number that won’t shrink through the year with the implementation of a 5-mill property tax increase as anticipated.

At a special budget meeting Monday, Feb. 19, new council president Kathy Bray announced the tax increase, which would have risen from 11.5 mills to 16.5 mills, would not go into effect this year as planned, and would instead be implemented in January 2025.

Bray shared that the 5-mill property tax increase that was approved for 2024 in December 2023 was not signed by the attorney or filed with the county treasurer, making the increase null this year.

“The 5-mill increase for 2024 was not done correctly,” Bray said. “It wasn’t an ordinance … it was supposed to be (signed) by the solicitor. It didn’t get signed in December so the county tax people never saw it.”

The solicitor will sign the affidavit at the next meeting, March 4, she said, at which point it will be too late for the tax to be implemented in 2024.

At previous meetings, it was noted that property taxes had not been raised in Harrisville in over 15 years. In December, previous council member and chair of the budget committee, Will McCoy, said the budget deficit “would only grow” if a property tax increase were delayed by another year.

The increase would have equated to about $50 more per year for an average homeowner.

While the property tax had not been included in the proposed budget — a “lucky thing,” Bray noted — and does not impact the $21,000 total deficit listed on paper — the funds could have helped alleviate the operating loss.

The total expenses for the 2024 budget are $627,018, with total income amounting to $605,847.

Monday evening, Bray said she wants to slash the deficit by the end of the year by cutting attorney fees and professional accounting fees.

Fees made out to McGill, Power, Bell & Associates, a public accounting firm that collects the borough’s sewer payments, are reflected in the sewer fund but are considered moot since Jordan Tax Service has taken over the sewer payments.

According to the budget, “professional accounting fees for sewage” amount to $19,440.

There is no definite number at this time that would indicate how much money would be saved through these changes. The amount of money saved could be discussed in future meetings once she discusses the difference in costs with McGill, Power, Bell & Associates, Bray said after the meeting.

After the meeting, when asked whether Harrisville would retain its attorney, Ben Orsatti, Bray answered that “that is yet to be determined.”

“If we can eliminate a lot of those fees … (the deficit) would be cut significantly,” Bray said. “If we can cut (attorney fees) in half, we should come out ahead, but not by much. So we have to be careful of our spending. There’s nothing extra in the budget for that.”

Bray said council could consider taking suggestions and legal advice from the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs and the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development.

Bray noted that Harrisville is considered by the association of boroughs to be a “distressed community,” something she learned at a two-day workshop for new council members she attended with vice president John McFadden over the weekend.

She said council could apply for grants from the Department of Community & Economic Development.

Borough clerk Dough Cook also announced borough council is still accepting letters of interest for two vacant seats on council. Letters of interest will be accepted by Thursday, Feb. 29.

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