EAST BRADY – In addition to higher water rates for all customers, East Brady residents should expect a slight increase in property taxes as proposed in the borough’s 2018 tentative budget that was unveiled last week.

The balanced preliminary spending plan was unanimously approved by the five board members in attendance during their meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

“I am happy to report that the budget for next year is balanced,” borough secretary Susan Buechele said following the meeting. “We have been fiscally responsible in the past and continue to do so.”

According to the budget, property taxes will increase from 21 mills to 22 mills in the new year. While 17 mills will still be designated to real estate and 1 mill for the fire tax, the street light tax is projected to increase from its current 3 mills to 4 mills in 2018.

With each mill expected to bring in $6,000, Buechele said the street light increase was necessary to cover the cost of the borough’s electric bill, which is more than $2,000 per month.

“We are supposed to have our lights changed to LED, which we hope will save on electricity costs,” she explained.

In addition, the council approved the borough’s minimum water bill at $40 per quarter, plus $3.25 per one thousand gallons of water for all East Brady water customers (borough and bulk) up from $1.825 per thousand gallons in 2017.

Buechele noted on Monday that a change in the water rate was “long overdue,” with the last increase taking place in January 2013.

“For the last several years we have been losing money,” Buechele said, noting that it was costing the borough more to treat the water than what was being charged. “At this rate, we are still the very lowest in Western Pennsylvania; [and] more importantly, when you turn on your faucet, you have good tasting, clean water.”

The new water rate will take effect for all customers beginning with the January 2018 statements, Buechele said.

Sewage and improvement fund rates are anticipated to remain the same at minimum quarterly payments of $81 and $9 respectively.

The borough’s total budget for 2017 anticipates $1,202,843 in expenses and $1,266,967 in revenues.

East Brady is hoping to complete at least two large projects in 2018, Buechele said, including a storm water project on Purdum Street — which will be bid out as soon as environmental clearances are complete — as well as a sanitary sewer replacement using Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding.

If all goes according to plan, East Brady should end 2017 with $813,964.

“We worked together to come up with this budget,” Buechele said, explaining that she and the budget committee met several times over the last month to discuss plans for 2018.

The borough’s general budget shows a starting balance of $170,000 and revenues of $256,900. Expenses are listed at $277,730, leaving $149,170 at the end of the year.

The water account budget shows an estimated carryover of $354,340 to the start the year, along with $483,625 in revenue to offset the $439,570 in projected expenses. An ending balance of $398,394 is anticipated.

The sewer budget shows a starting balance of $180,000, and revenues of $438,470 in the new year. Expenses are listed at $391,692, leaving a balance of $226,778 at the end of 2018.

Finally, the borough’s building budget will start the year with $25,000 in the bank and revenues projected to total $44,020. Expenses are listed at $58,950, with an ending balance of $10,070.

The budget also states that health insurance coverage for employees will remain the same as 2017, with a 3 percent rate increase, and raises are anticipated for employees.

Council president Barb Mortimer said last week that while the 2018 budget looks a lot like 2017, one major difference between the two is the water budget.

“We have raised the [water] budget,” she said, noting that the borough anticipates putting $65,000 back for electrical repairs and placing $50,000 into a capital improvement fund for improvements to the water system. “We tried to think ahead to next year.”

The council will advertise the spending plan for public review, and expects to formally adopt the budget during a meeting on Nov. 21.

Other Business

• Council members agreed to spend $1,000 to push a new water line under the pavement along Clarion Street instead of digging up the road to repair a break in an existing line.

Councilman Joe Hillwig said that cost estimates for both procedures were similar.

“If it’s the same amount of money, I’d rather not disturb the road,” he said.

• Jace Hile was named as the contractor for East Brady water line insurance claims, beginning in 2018.

Hillwig explained that the borough has been offering its own water line insurance for the last several years, after being dropped by its previous company.

While Chris Hetrick has served as the contractor in the past, Hillwig said he believed it was stated in the original contract that the borough would switch between Hetrick and Hile every two years.

“It’s never been changed, [and] I think we should honor that,” he said, suggesting the borough use Hile as the insurance contractor for the next two years, then switching back to Hetrick if he’s still interested.

East Brady’s water line insurance is available to all customers at a cost of $9 per quarter that can be added to their bill. The insurance covers emergency repairs from the main water line in the street to the foundation of the house.

• The council approved a proposal from Kroh Roofing for additional repairs to the community center’s roof. The work was estimated to cost $22,650, and will be financed for 10 months.

“If we don’t do something now, it’s going to hurt more than that for a lot longer,” councilman Bill John said.

• Although set to end Nov. 15, leaf pick-up was extended another week to Wednesday, Nov. 22.

• Council meeting dates for 2018 were set as the first Tuesday of each month, and the third Tuesday of each month if needed. The first regular and biennial reorganization meeting of 2018 will be held on Jan. 2.

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