Carlisle Borough’s proposed 2018 budget does not raise real estate taxes but it does increase water and sewer rates as well as the cost of trash removal.
It might also increase the number of police officers serving the borough.
In a budget meeting Monday, Councilwoman Robin Guido said the number of officers on the police force had been reduced from 33 to 31 several years ago.
“At the time when we did that, I wasn’t particularly comfortable with that, but it was a cost cutting recommended by the chief of police at the time,” she said.
In light of recent events, including Sunday night’s homicide of Rhyhiem Hodge and the June 2016 killing of Daniel Harris Jr., Guido said the borough should “seriously consider” returning the number of sworn officers to 33. Adding officers will not end violence in Carlisle, but it might allow for quicker resolutions to cases as well as give officers the time to do proactive police work.
“I cringe at the thought of asking everybody to open this back up and look at it, but I would ask that council at least consider thinking about adding one or two officers,” Guido said.
Chief Taro Landis said he had told the borough when he was hired that it did not have enough officers on its police force. Additional officers would increase the scope of police activity beyond answering calls.
“Do I actually guarantee that this is going to stop everything going down the pike? Absolutely not. But I can tell you the officers would be out there talking to people,” Landis said.
It costs roughly a little more than $100,000, including salary, benefits and equipment, to bring in a new officer, said Finance Director Norm Butts. He recommended that the council look to cut the money for any additional officers from other items in the budget.
“I’m 100 percent open to considering it, but what we need to do is work with the manager and chief and have real proposals,” Councilman Sean Shultz said.
Further discussion on hiring more police officers will be held at the borough council’s workshop meeting on Dec. 6.
The workshop meeting comes a week before a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. on Dec. 14, prior to the borough’s monthly meeting.
In his budget message posted as part of the preliminary plan, Borough Manager Matt Candland said that while some line items have increased slightly, others have decreased to allow the borough to “hold the line” on expenditures while maintaining services.
The budget plan includes $42,411,832 in spending with anticipated revenue of $43,642,265.
“For 2018, the theme is going to be construction,” Candland said.
Construction for Carlisle Townhomes on the former Carlisle Tire and Wheel site will continue into the new year. At the former Masland/IAC site, the automobile condominiums will be going in first, followed by a hotel and road construction within the site.
“Possibly we may be starting, near the end of the year, to do some of our work,” Candland said, referring to the Carlisle Connectivity project.
The project is a major piece of the budget, and the borough has received a number of grants to fund its critical components. The project includes the construction of connecting roads through former industrial sites between Fairground Avenue and College Street. Three roundabouts are planned: one at B and College streets, one at B Street and Fairground Avenue, and one at North Hanover and Penn streets.
About $20 million of the spending plan is dedicated to public works. Of that $20 million, $8 million is related to the project, Butts said.
The budget includes a proposed 4 percent increase to the water rate to help fund capital improvements to the water distribution system. That means the average household would pay an additional $3.41 per quarter on its water bill.
The sewer fund is in the fourth year of a series of planned increases that began in 2015 with a 6 percent increase and continued with another 6 percent increase in 2016 and a 4 percent increase in 2017.
A 3 percent increase is planned for 2018, which would add another $3.38 per quarter to the sewer bill for the average household.
The third increase for borough residents comes in a proposed increase in the price of borough trash bags from $3.50 per bag to $3.75 per bag. The increase comes as the collection fees per bag increased from $2.62 per bag in 2017 to $2.67 per bag in 2018 with an anticipated rise to $2.72 per bag in 2019. The cost of bags has also risen by 6 percent.
One surprise in the budget plan is that the borough will not face an increase in its health insurance premiums for its employees. The borough’s insurance broker did warn, however, that the borough has been informed it can expect premium increases of 5 to 10 percent in the coming years.