It’s been a tough 2020 for all of us, and Gettysburg Borough has not had it any easier. The borough has powered through the year, dealing with a huge drop in revenue, a major hit to local businesses, a series of political protests, and difficulties and criticism related to its decisions about the police department.
The seven members of the borough council, working with Borough Manager Charles Gable, Main Street Gettysburg President and CEO Deb Adamik, and the many borough staff members, have maintained an even cool and made the best of a bad situation.
At its meeting on December 14, the borough passed the 2021 budget on a divided vote. The vote was contentious because it traded a reduction of one police officer against a substantial tax increase.
In the end four of the seven members thought the option of increasing taxes by .577 mills, which means an average house assessed at $200,000 will incur an annual tax increase of about $115 was preferable to keeping all of the officers which would have led to a tax increase of about $213 on a $200,000 home.
Council members Berger, Heyser, and Moon voted against the budget.
“I can’t in good conscience vote for a reduction in the police force. I’d like to keep it at the eight we had in 2020,” said Berger.
The tax increase to keep the other officer was too severe.” I’m concerned in our ability to recruit and retain people,” said Heyser.
Although the number of officers has not changed and will remain at seven in 2021, the staffing situation was improved when the borough terminated officer Michael Carricato who was on the payroll but not on active duty as a result of a sexual harassment lawsuit. This action meant officer Kevin McDonald will not be furloughed.
The final 2021 budget came in at $4,674,541 which is $621,101 less than the 2019 budget.
The borough began last March to respond to the pandemic with cost-cutting measures. A major change was to consolidate the Office of Human Relations and the Finance Department into a new Office of the Manager.
Gable said all of the borough’s human relations functions, including enforcing policies, managing employee files, benefits, pensions, and trainings, and adjudicating with unions are still intact, but under a new consolidated department. This change saved the borough about $93,000.
Gable said the Finance Director position was cut and the department was also rolled into the Office of Manager which now has three employees: Borough Manager, Secretary, and Finance Assistant. These changes saved about $185,000.
The 2021 police budget at $1,705,114 is up from slightly from its pre-pandemic levels.
The borough also saved $216,000 through cuts to its public works, parks and recreation, parking, and shade tree budgets. The number of public works employees has decreased from 8 to 5 as one was furloughed in July and has since retired and two other retirements were accepted.
On the revenue side, the major hit to the borough’s budget comes from reduced tourism, leading to lower parking revenues, predicted to be down $473,548 from 2019, and reduced “pillow tax” receipts which are expected to decline by $111,620. Real property tax income is expected to rise slightly.
The borough dipped into its cash reserves this year by cashing in a $517,000 Certificate of Deposit in May, which helped keep the Borough solvent for the remainder of the year. The borough also received $100,000 from the Adams County FAIR program in 2020.
Berger said the Gettysburg Municipal Authority would propose a small rate increase on the water side of about 5 percent. Berger said the average increase would be in the range of about $10 per year. “It’s just fiscally sound. We want to keep up our reserves and we have some pretty aggressive capital works projects,” Berger said.