Budget 2024

Link to the Unofficial budget files

On November 4, November 11, and November 18, 2023, Whitehall Borough Council held budget meetings were held. The following paper budget handouts were provided to those in physical attendance. Since I was in physical attendance at all three meetings, I have scanned them and released them for all to see in interest of transparency.

None of these documents headed as “BOROUGH OF WHITEHALL, 2024 PROPOSED BUDGET,” during the 3 November budget meetings were released by Whitehall Borough officially.[0]

The 2024 Budget of Whitehall Borough must be passed by December 31, 2023 and I believe that the people need to know sooner, rather than later, about Whitehall’s revenue and expenses.

The following details that I have identified which may be of interest to the public:

  1. A property taxation hike of 1/2 mill or 1 mill is being seriously considered by a council where 3 out of the 7 are lame ducks. Raising of taxes was not discussed in the budget series until over 2.5 hours through the third budget meeting on November 18, 2023.
  2. The fire company is being de-funded, particularly for duty shift coverage of 8am to 4pm on Monday – Friday. $42000 is listed but is in danger of being denied.
  3. The pool construction is budgeted to be paid over 400k in 2024 despite already paying close to $6 million.
    • This is the $430,888.66 is under the Construction page for the “Pool Construction” under 2024.
    • This is not a pool loan payment. An additional $469,215.24 will be paid in 2024 on the 2022 bank note which financed the pool.
  4. Overlook Park, which has been closed for all of 2023, has already cost the taxpayers over $50K more than anticipated in Gateway Engineering designs alone.
  5. The $1 million dollar question: Has any of work been done for with the ALCOSAN GROW grant money on Highgrove Road area sanitary sewer?
    • No one present, including the finance manager, could speak to the status of the Alcosan GROW grant of $254,900 which was applied to in the Summer of 2022 by council but the revenues were not noted as received or as projected as received on the 2023 nor 2024 budgets.
    • No one present knew if any work was done on this project in 2023.
    • It is described on the GROW grant website as “Sanitary sewer lining (I/I) – Highgrove Road Sanitary Sewer Improvements. New sanitary sewer totaling 1,972 feet near Highgrove Road” for $254,900 yet no one else knew about this nor chose to believe that ALCOSAN would be an authoritative source.
    • When I referred to the Highgrove $1 million project that was in the 2023 budget, no one else but I had a copy of the 2023 budget but myself. Just then, the finance director left the room and the council president moved on to the next topic without answer. The finance director reappeared in the room without any reason stated several minutes later.
    • Said finance director is paid an additional $10,000 a year out of the storm sewer budget. Despite my protest, the budget proceedings to continued without her because council believed that she wasn’t required for the proceedings to continue.

Citizens Have asked budget questions in the following areas:

  1. Deer Management program in the form of archery hunting was funded for a second year for $6000. This will not allow for any money for birth control.
  2. The cost to the borough of trash has gone up nearly $500k despite going with automated totes only for general trash and recycling with monthly bulk pickup. This is before the revenues from the second tote fee for households who require it. Those revenues are not on the schedule of revenues whatsoever.
  3. The amount of $40k for streaming was discussed during the 11-18-2023 meeting but it is not clear as to where it is budgeted. This entails refurbishing the multipurpose room on the administration level to allow additional space and better camera angles. There was talk of a no-bid single source vendor to provide IT/AV engineering and equipment. I was told that I would not be permitted, as a sworn member of council, to contribute my technical opinions on this project because I was not a “professional.”
  4. “I’d like to hear how why we have to raise property taxes.” Me too. We are all owed an explanation to be done as a public audit meeting. I have read the audits from 2020-2022. We closed the books on 2022 spending $1,859,978 over revenues and $9,692,460 in debt. Additional spending decisions have been made recently that I find questionable:
    • $6 million dollars was added to the debt load for the pool when we could have received grant money. PA offered money on the condition that there would be some hours where it was open to non-Whitehall residents at a general admission or limited season pass rate but it was refused.
    • $300,000 over the granted allotment has been earmarked for Overlook Park. Both the Gateway Engineering renderings and vetted bids were much too expensive costing the borough $50K in engineering re-works alone.
    • Why do we let Gateway Engineering inflate the price of our projects by also paying them to be the only vetting of our contractors?
    • Why do we let Gateway Engineering, year after year, get the engineer’s retainer contract as single source – no bid?
  5. How much is Jordan Tax Services paid for the collection of local services tax and earned income tax? $105,340.00 I communicated that many residents are frustrated by their customer service and I was told that “this is not up for bid now.” Still, no one could answer when this was up for bid. Additional fees are paid to Jordan for the collection of sewage.

I am currently studying for any other concerns in anticipation for the next council meeting and will update as I find areas of concern.

The next budget meeting will take place during regular council meeting time of Wednesday December 6, 2023, at 7pm. I hope that you can join me in person by reading the budget and preparing questions.

As usual, I will be streaming this meeting on YouTube Live on @UnofficialWhitehallBoro and you can contact me at whitehall@eicher.us or by phone at 412-512-5761.

Thank you very much for your time and attention.

Beth Lynn Eicher, Incoming Member of Whitehall Borough Council

Please contact me any time with your questions and concerns.

Cellphone and text is 412-512-5761.

Email whitehall@eicher.us

Facebook Messenger “Beth Lynn Eicher”

[0] Even though I am an incoming council member as per the election on November 7, 2023, I am not recognized as a member of council until swearing in on January 2, 2024. When I asked the borough manager on November 27, 2023 as to why I could not find the pdf online anywhere. It was because it was not released. Not even paper copies would be available upon request without a week long waiting period with a Right To Know form. Moreover, there is no mention of the budget on the official “public display” board outside the administration window at 100 Borough Park Drive. Thus, these documents are authentic, but have not been released by the borough as “proposed” and subject to a 10 day public review as required by Pennsylvania Law Title 8 Chapter Section 1308.