The Borough Council continued a section-by-section budget review Monday that started with the Nov. 17 meeting, but only scratched the surface by the time the work session ended.
The council was set to discuss five sections ranging from administration to police to regional programs, but only heard from the administration representatives by the time the session adjourned. Council representatives hoped to cover the remaining sections during Tuesday’s review.
Councilman Evan Myers questioned why percentage changes are calculated from the proposed budget numbers and not from the year-end projections, saying the projection shows what’s actually spent.
“The thing we really have to concern ourselves with is the difference between reality and what we need to concern with next year,” he said, “not the projection a year ago to now.”
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Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said that, as a basis for comparison, a budget year is always compared to a budget year. Different factors, such as vacancies needing to be filled, can affect a year-end number that won’t affect a budget number, making a budget a more accurate representation.
“Say with the police department; with a three-officer vacancy, that will have a significant effect on the year-end estimate,” he said. “But if the positions are filled in January, it goes back to the original budget.”
Manager of Financial Services Dwight Miller said the most significant item affecting his part of the 2015 budget is the cancellation of a Council of Governments’ contract to provide financial services, resulting in a $125,000 loss.
Because of the reduced workload, he said, it will allow the financial services department to maximize what it can do with Munis, a resource-planning software installed in 2012.
“A lot of functionality hasn’t been implemented yet,” he said. “We’re focusing our efforts in creating efficiencies there.”
The objective of the Munis project is to replace all current business systems and processes with a system that will help the borough better manage information resources and develop e-government initiatives, according to the 2013 budget.
Tax administrator Linda Welker said the borough received a notice from Penn State that the timing of future university payments will change with the upcoming year.
According to Welker, the Penn State payroll has become very complex over the years, with the university growing from a primary location with branch campuses to practically a global university with employees across the U.S. Penn State investigated its options and went with a third-party payroll service for 2015 and beyond.
“We’ll close out 2014 exactly as we’ve historically done,” she said, “but when they go to third party, they will be filing quarterly rather than monthly.”
Fountaine said the borough hasn’t had time to analyze the impact this new filing will have on finances and it’s important to know the facts before drawing conclusions.
“Our best estimate is it won’t have a significant impact,” he said, “but maybe it will on smaller municipalities.”