During the Borough of Bath Council meeting on Monday, October 4, Borough Manager Brad Flynn introduced council to the proposed 2022 budget. The budget includes a fire tax increase of .25 mils, the first increase since 2016, bringing the total fire tax up to .5 mils. No other tax increases are anticipated
The .5 mils would translate into a 1.7% property tax increase, which is about $5 per resident. It would net $27,565.05 for the borough’s volunteer fire department.
“Our fire company here has struggled for years,” said Flynn. 2020 and 2021 were particularly difficult because in-person fundraising operations had to be suspended.
“We are lucky that our department is volunteer,” said Mayor Fiorella Mirabito. Under the law, every municipality must provide fire services for its residents. Some municipalities without volunteers must pay for these services. “I am incredibly grateful for our volunteers here.”
This tax increase marks only the second tax increase for residents since 2012.
Also outlined in the 2022 budget are revenue and expenditure projections. Revenue is expected to increase by $321,349. However, expenditures are also expected to increase by $281,736. This increase is attributed to the hiring of more personnel, including full-time public works personnel.
Council unanimously approved the budget for advertisement.
In other news, council approved a stay on parking enforcement for several homes on Old Forge Drive. Residents of 418 to 432 Old Forge Drive will not be ticketed for vehicles blocking the sidewalk until the engineer can look at their current parking situation.
Last month, residents came to council because their driveways were too short, leading to parked cars blocking parts of the sidewalk.
The engineer will most likely not review this situation until 2022. Council stressed that this stay does not mean that people in other areas of the borough who are illegally parked will not be ticketed.
Also discussed was the possibility of moving the time and location of the Bath Farmers’ Market. Councilwoman Carol Bear-Heckman said vendors and organizers are considering moving the market to Saturday or Sunday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon. Weekends tend to be busier and will allow shoppers to explore other markets in the area.
The market will also be scaled back. There will no longer be food trucks, music, children’s activities, or cooking demonstrations. Due to this smaller scale, Bear-Heckman asked whether council would allow the market to move to Monocacy Creek Park.
This park is more central to the borough, she said, and easier for drivers to spot. Drivers on Route 329 move too fast to notice the market in Keystone Park. She added that the brick walkways will be easier for vendors and shoppers, as opposed to the uneven grounds of Keystone.
“We have struggled for 14 years to grow,” Bear-Heckman said.
While many on council agreed with moving the day, they did not agree with moving the location.
Mayor Mirabito worried about safety, with individuals walking to the market having to cross the intersection of Main Street and 512.
“I think it would be beneficial if you moved it to Ciff Cowling,” she said. “There is access from 512, you don’t have the danger you have from that intersection…there is much more parking…and maybe it will grow.”
Councilwoman Phyllis Andrews agreed, adding that there are too many liabilities.
Council failed to approve the motion to move the farmers’ market.
Finally, borough management is considering the purchase of OpenGov, web-based software that will aid the administration team with rental inspection, permitting, and code enforcement.
This software will not only run reporting and help staff keep up with permitting, but it will also allow residents to file complaints, register rental properties, submit for permits, and monitor permit statuses. Meanwhile, staff will get notifications on when inspections are due and will be able to leave comments for permit applicants.
This application will greatly improve efficiency and transparency, said Flynn. “[Citizens] know where [they] are in the [permit] process.”
The cost of the software will be $38,000 for the first year because data must be migrated and modules must be built out. Then, the application will cost $15,000 per year. However, Flynn says this will be more affordable than paying for additional personnel. The borough would use “Build Back Better” funding to pay for this application.
The goal would be to have the system up and running by January, in time for the rental inspection ordinance. A kiosk will be available in the borough office for residents to use, and staff will still be available to offer assistance.
The next Borough of Bath Council meeting will be held on Monday, November 1, at 6:30 p.m.