An initiative to reduce the sales tax from 7 percent down to 5.5 percent will go on the October 2013 ballot. Petition sponsors Ernie and Rhonda Christian gathered the required 94 signatures within the 90-day limit. Though citizens have ten more months to decide how to vote, the borough’s finance director has to start working on the budget right now.
Finance Director Jeff Jabusch said that planning for a possible cut to sales tax revenues means planning two different budgets. First the administration will go through the budget process with the assumption that their only revenue cut will be $250,000 from the state government. Representative Peggy Wilson has advised to plan on less money from state revenue sharing. Then, Jabusch will look at the normal budget and come up with a list of modifications in case the sales tax is reduced.
“So we’ll have that list and that will be presented to the assembly and then at that point we plan on having multiple public hearings about that because obviously there are going to be some cuts that will affect different things and different organizations,” he explained.
The list will include a combination of potential cuts to services and potential new sources of revenue, like increased property taxes or a fuel tax. Jabusch says they would likely eliminate Tax Free Days, too.
The budget planning process will be as open to the community as possible “so when the voters go to vote in which ever way they decide to vote, they know there was a public process to decide which things we’re going to eliminate. And when they vote they’ll have informed information about the meaning of the vote.”
The need for dual budget planning will extend beyond the city as well. Jabusch said the first likely budget cuts will be to outside organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce and KSTK. Those organizations won’t know for sure if they are getting money from the borough until after the October election and will need to plan accordingly. If services, like library or pool hours, will need to be cut, then those cuts won’t go into effect until after the election.
Jabusch plans to present the budget to the assembly a month early this year, in early March, in order to give the public time to give their input. Last year’s budget was about $5.5 million.