The Northampton Borough Council met Thursday, December 7 to discuss the police agreement, the non-uniformed agreement, various requests, the 2024 budget and the Stone Ridge Meadow development.
First, council unanimously approved ratification of the Jan. 1, 2024 through Dec. 31, 2026 police agreement based on the police committee’s request. The agreement includes a salary increase of 4.5% for each year, a reduction of pension withheld to 3%, reimbursement of $155 for each unused sick day and incremental increases to retirees with more than 25 years of service.
Council then unanimously approved the Jan. 1, 2024 through Dec. 31, 2026 non-uniformed personnel agreement, which includes a 4% increase for each calendar year, an opportunity for employees to participate in the defined benefit pension plan or the defined contribution plan, reimbursement of $105 for each unused sick day and an educational annual reimbursement of $1,500 for training in a field that would benefit an employee’s service to the borough, as well as an adjustment of the benefit pension plan from 1.6% to 1.7%.
Next, council unanimously approved a request from the New Journey Community Church to hold their second annual Easter Egg Hunt in the Municipal Park on Saturday, March 30 with all fees waived.
Council also unanimously approved the adjustment of Mary Ellen Handlon’s retirement date from Dec. 31, 2023 to April 15, 2024 since she has offered to remain in her position full-time through mid-April in order to ensure proper training of her replacement.
In other news, council unanimously approved the request from the Wheels on the Canal committee for permission to hold their sixth annual Wheels on the Canal Extravaganza on Saturday, May 18 with a rain date of Sunday, May 19. The event is scheduled on Armed Forces Day and focuses on raising money for veterans’ charities.
Following, council unanimously approved the Civil Service Commission’s request to void their current eligibility list and authorization for the committee to prepare a new eligibility list.
During council’s consideration of the 2024 budget, it was noted that preparation for the budget was one of the most difficult that Borough Manager LeRoy E. Brobst has had to prepare in his 58 years of service to the borough due to 2023 being an “exceedingly challenging year” with unexpected expenses and shortfalls.
Brobst shared that moving forward, the budget will require a one mill tax increase. Some of the things included in the proposed 2024 budget include a new police cruiser, a new command vehicle for the fire company, a bucket truck and two additional employees for public works, ongoing expenses with the MS4 projects and exercise equipment for the Recreation Center.
Some council members requested time to review the budget and reach out to Brobst with any questions they may have.
During the bi-monthly December 21 meeting, council will need to continue the budget discussion and potentially adopt it at that time since the budget must be adopted by the end of the month. If council is unable to adopt the budget at the upcoming meeting, a special meeting will be required prior to December 31.
Councilman Anthony S. Lopsonzski pointed out that the one mill tax increase amounts to about $58 to $75 for the average household depending on the assessment of their home and added that the tax increase is necessary and not excessive, stating: “This is a very fair budget.”
Councilwoman Bonnie Almond chimed, “I see no fluff or waste in the budget to keep in line with the economy and [the borough’s] needs.”
The consensus of council was in favor of the proposed one mill tax increase, and each council member thanked Brobst for the hard work and great job he did. In other news, council unanimously approved the preliminary and final approval of the Stone Ridge Meadow Development with assurances that HOA will be responsible for maintenance upon the project’s completion.
The 40-acre development property fronts on Route 329 between Horwith Drive and Savage Road and will include 15 acres of commercial development. To the south of the development, there is an existing Stone Ridge Meadow residential development and the vacant tract to its west has 78 proposed single-family homes. Additionally, there will be a six-to-seven-acre parcel that will be used for stormwater management. The parcel lies predominantly in the borough and partly in Allen Township where there is already an existing stormwater facility, but the current pond will be made deeper and wider to conform with current regulations.
The next bi-monthly Northampton Borough Council meeting will be held on Thursday, December 21 at 7 p.m., a reorganization meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 2 at 7 p.m. and the next regular monthly meeting will be held on Thursday, January 18 at 7 p.m. in the borough’s municipal office, located at 1401 Laubach Ave.