Gettysburg Borough Council plans to pass a 2024 budget that includes no property tax increase. The council expects to double the fire tax from 0.25 to 0.5 mills. The fire tax is sent directly to local volunteer fire companies.
At their Oct. 30 budget workshop, the council took a deep dive into Police Chief Robert Glenny’s proposed department budget. The workshop was the last of three budget preparation sessions. The previous two focused on other departments.
The council supported most of the chief’s proposals but nixed requests for an additional sergeant and a drone.
Case for a sergeant
Glenny told the council the additional sergeant is needed to provide necessary oversight to officers, especially younger officers who will join the force next year. Councilman Chris Berger supported Glenny’s request, adding that additional supervision would be “good for morale, retention, and young officers.”
Other council members questioned how the borough will pay for the additional sergeant, especially when American Rescue Plan Act funds expire in 2026. Councilman John Lawver warned the council that “everyone’s fat and happy right now” but difficult conversations will occur when the federal boost is gone. Lawver was previously employed by the borough as the highway manager and borough manager. During his time as borough manager, the council cut two police officers to balance the budget.
“You don’t want to see that. Trust me, that is ugly, ugly, ugly,” Lawver said.
Glenny proposed several security upgrades in his budget, most of which the council did not discuss publicly due to safety concerns. The council supported all of Glenny’s security upgrades except for the one they felt comfortable talking about in public, a police department drone.
Lawver expressed several concerns about the drone, notably ongoing training costs and the public’s right to privacy.
Glenny said the drone would be mostly used for special event management. He currently borrows drones from other police departments to monitor special events but availability is limited. He also believes the drone will be a useful investigation tool and said the Pennsylvania State Police recently helped the department map a crash scene using a drone.
Council Vice President Matt Moon expressed concerns about “warrantless surveillance” and noted several states have outlawed such a use. Glenny assured the council that was not his intent.
“Most certainly, if we go into someone’s backyard and intrude there, that will be a Fourth Amendment violation. That’s not the purpose of this,” Glenny said.
Glenny has proposed a drone in years past and this latest attempt yielded the same result.
“I am not trying to be a jerk, but I think it is incredibly short-sighted,” Glenny said when the line item was removed.
Look into the future
Council President Wes Heyser supported the zero property tax increase proposal but predicted such a move will be impossible in future years.
Heyser will leave office at the end of this year after choosing not to seek re-election. He noted the borough’s budget has grown significantly in recent years. Borough Manager Charles Gable said the 2024 proposal is $6.96 million. According to borough records, the borough budget in 2014 was $4.59 million.
Like Lawver, Heyser fears what will happen when ARPA money expires.
“As we look into (20)25 and (20)26, this will set-up the scenario when you will have to phase in the tax increases that will be necessary to adjust to a post-ARPA reality,” he said.
In addition to the fire tax, the borough plans to hike the price of residential parking permits and the 24-hour rate to use the Racehorse Alley Parking Garage. The residential permit will increase from $29 to $35 per year and the 24-hour garage rate will go from $12 to $18.
The council has not discussed plans to increase hourly parking rates for the garage, street spaces, or borough-managed lots.
The council will vote to advertise its budget during its Nov. 13 meeting. Final adoption is scheduled for Dec. 11.
Alex J. Hayes, Editor, has spent almost two decades in the Adams County news business. He is heavily involved in the community through his volunteer roles at the Rotary Club of Gettysburg, Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church, United Way of Adams County, and Healthy Adams County. Alex is also a freelance writer for several other publications in South Central Pennsylvania.
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