The Northampton Borough Council granted preliminary approval to the borough’s 2023 budget during their public workshop meeting on December 1. The $8 million budget is a 9.66% increase over 2022’s and proposes a closing balance of $456,391.
The budgeting process is a comprehensive one for Borough Manager LeRoy Brobst and the administrative staff. Brobst met with members of council and department heads throughout the last several months to hear concerns, ideas and wishes.
“I feel relatively confident that this is a very doable budget,” he told council.
Brobst added that the borough benefited “quite a bit” from the American Rescue Plan, which allowed the borough to purchase various equipment and other public needs without dipping into the general fund.
The 2023 budget does not propose any tax increase other than the new one-mill fire tax. The sewer portion of the budget is $2 million, which Brobst said revenue from the water and sewer fees covers.
Council praised Brobst and the administrative staff for their work on the budget.
Councilman Trevor Stone thanked them for their time and effort, while Councilwoman Judith Haldeman thanked them for considering all of council’s requests and keeping the taxpayers in mind.
Council will adopt the budget during the December 15 meeting.
In other news, council rejected the request for handicapped parking at 936 Lincoln Ave. The rejection came after two roll-call votes and a tie-breaking vote by Mayor Tony Pristash.
The applicant was in attendance during the meeting, noting that she requested the spot because street parking is limited and health concerns prevent her from navigating several stairs to the rear of her property, where her garage is.
Police Chief Bryan Kadingo recommended the request be rejected after a review; however, his recommendation is based on the borough’s ordinance, and council can overrule it. The current borough ordinance only allows two handicapped zones per block, one on each side of the street. There is already one parking spot in this block. Anyone with a handicapped placard can park in the spot as it is not reserved solely for the applicant.
Councilwomen Judy Kutzler, Bonnie Almond, and Judith Haldeman favored the initial motion to reject the request. However, it failed 4-3. Then, a motion was made to approve the request. Councilmen Anthony Lopsonzski, Sr., Anthony Lopsonzski, Jr., and Trevor Stone voted in favor. Councilman Kenneth Hall abstained, and Councilwomen Kutzler, Almond, and Haldeman voted no. Mayor Tony Pristash voted “no” to break the tie and officially reject the request.
Lopsonzski, Sr. spoke out following the vote, saying it is time the borough change its ordinance due to Northampton’s aging population. He recommended four handicapped spots per block, two on each side of the street. This would give more residents the opportunity to apply for spots, should they need them. Spots can also be reverted to regular parking when they are no longer needed.
“I think we would be short on our duty if we did not at least look at an expansion,” he said.
He added that additional spots would “alleviate the fear that people who are handicapped have to navigate [blocks] to get home.”
Council also discussed closing the Canal Street park restrooms. The bathrooms typically remain open for trail users; however, they have experienced significant and expensive vandalism, with three incidents over the last week.
“We are at somebody’s mercy,” said Brobst. “I only wish we could catch them.”
Brobst said it is very likely the borough will lock the bathrooms for the winter.
Finally, council celebrated Brobst’s 56th year working for the borough. December 1 marked his anniversary. Brobst started as a laborer for the borough in 1966 before working his way up into the manager’s role.
He jokingly told council that the anniversary made him feel “old.”
The next borough council meeting will be on Thursday, December 15 at 7 p.m.