Friday, October 04, 2019

NorCo Council Approves No-Tax Hike Budget for 2020

Exec Lamont McClure (L) and Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron with 2020 Budget
Northampton County property owners have been spared a tax hike next year. Executive Lamont McClure  unveiled a $445 million spending plan for 2020 during a presentation this morning at the 911 Center on Gracedale's campus. His budget keeps the tax rate at 11.8 mills, where it's been for the past five years. A home assessed at $75,000 will receive a tax bill next year for $885.

In a news release sent out moments after the vote, McClure congratulated County Council. "A no tax increase budget for a second year in a row is an accomplishment Council can be proud of," he said. "We’ve cut the budget nearly 6% without reducing vital services. We are investing $3 million to preserve farmland, environmentally sensitive land and investing in parks. In our fight against warehouse proliferation our administration has already invested $6 million. Finally, we are keeping our commitment to maintain Gracedale as a County-owned-and-operated facility and, once again, Gracedale will not require any money from the County’s general fund to operate.”

McClure is spending 5.6% less than he did last year. Part of the reason for that is because the county is no longer paying a triple net lease for its human services building, located in Bethlehem Tp. It now owns it. In addition, thanks to a refunding of county bonds, the annual debt service has dropped.

Council member John Cusick was the sole No vote, and for several reasons. He voiced displeasure at the County's inconsistent approach to hotel tax grants, warned that there now is a structural deficit at Gracedale and was strongly opposed to a 9.2% payhike for Gracedale Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King. Her wages will jump from $102,291 to $111,704 next year, while most Gracedale workers will see raises of three per cent or less. Cusick said he was unable to remember ever awarding a wage hike that high, and argued it is unfair to other Gracedale workers. He added that Gracedale's rating is unchanged and its census is in danger.

Council members Matt Dietz and Bob Werner joined Cusick in opposing the raise, although they later supported the budget.

McClure argued that, even with the raise, Stewart-King is underpaid compared to Administrators at other nursing homes like The Gardens of Easton ($147,000), Moravian Hall Square ($132,000) and a nursing home that pays $175,000.

Budget Administrator Doran J Hamann
"We don't want to lose this person," said Council member Bill McGee after being told what other Administrators make. Council member Kevin Lott added that Stewart-King "came up through the ranks." Council member Lori Vargo-Heffner noted that Stewart-King has made changes that include electronic health records and is turning morale around. Vargo-Heffner added that Gracedale's residents sometimes include the "toughest people" because "[w]e will not turn people away."

The budget as approved spends $2.6 million of the county's reserve, or rainy day, fund. This is to help pay for new voting machines mandated by Governor Tom Wolf's Department of State. The county expects to get 60% of that money back.

The budget also includes a 2.5% raise for its career service, or nonunion workers. Union workers are paid in accordance with separate contracts, and most bargaining units will see a 2% raise next year.

This is the last budget prepared by Budget Administrator Doran J Hamann. This Lehigh University MBA retired in November after 40 years of service to Northampton County. He nevertheless attended last night's meeting and the numerous budget hearings preceding it.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

This may be somewhat off topic although this blog mentions the bridge replacements. Who regularly monitors the pace of work on the bridges? The Penn Pump bridge over the Bushkill was slated to begin on September 12 and they parked some equipment there but they certainly have lost a few weeks of dry weather. The work-around roads utilize areas where left hand turns are very problematic and increase danger to people using the bike paths and making left hand turns.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Doran , You survives the county and live to tell about it ! lol

Anonymous said...

2:03 PM -- Womp Womp

Peterjcochran said...

Bernie that bridge work looks like somebody’s goofing off. It it the same company that was doing Tatamy bridge?i figure not but it appears to us that there isn’t any progress .

Peterjcochran said...

Your drinking vodka again aren’t you ,Lebanese Meatball Murray . I happen to like Judge Murray .I consider you a theat to him . Unlike most people I will step up as you know. You have Evan attracted me , you are off the reservation so attack me . But you will be fruitless again .your after a Judge,your attention is to intimidate him. You will get nowhere. Because others ,like me will defend him. Your the meatball,mow your lawn and fix you garage door and you’ll forget about it .

Bernie O'Hare said...

Peter, please do not respond to that mentally unbalanced troll.

Anonymous said...

McClure can thank John Brown for all the money in the County Coffers. If they pay the employees what they deserve they wouldn't have so much money. THANK YOU JOHN BROWN FOR THE NO TAX INCREASE BUDGET. now pay your employees adequately

Anonymous said...

Penn Pump bridge ( Northwood Ave Bridge) is PennDOT. That is a whole separate issue.

Anonymous said...

What about belter healthcare for employees and retirees?

Terry Beidelman said...

Doran,
Best wishes on your new adventures.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Healthcare for the county worker is already very good, and Exec McClure did not hesitate to spend what was needed to make it so. This includes $1.2 million for employee Health Savings Accounts. I do think there's an issue with retiree contributions to healthcare, but it's still very good.

If you want to complain about low wages and salary compression, I'm with you. Worker safety? I'm with you. McGee and Lott were assholes to nonunion probation officers, but at least got this one right. In fact, I would like to know why so many COs get injured or sick at the jail. At least that is what I hear. I still feel that issue should be discussed with the county next time they negotiate, or even now.

But you lose me with complaints about what already is a vey good healthcare plan. You are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. I am unwilling to go to war over this.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernie O'Hare said...

Your vulgarity betrays you as Tricia Mezzacappa and hence you are deleted.

Peterjcochran said...

The bridge at Stocker Mill when resurfaced was done right. . It’s holding up great. Lots of school bus traffic. The school district snuck in their depo on West end , remember without proper planning? They did what they saw fit without consideration of other issues. Busses have to wait to turn off of Tatamy Road because of road grades not being corrected. No planning. Now at bottom of College Ave,Easton ,North 3rd Street another issue I’m predicteding . The grade and curve are not “radiially proper” in my opinion.When snow starts , the ice congestion at sidewalls of new construction will cause Tractor Trailers to walk their side of the new planteran. The planned traffic restriction will cause backups on that grade and accidents as result.

Peterjcochran said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernie O'Hare said...

Peter, Not too long ago, you contacted me with some pretty outrageous claims about a county official, and you were completely full of shit. After I wasted several hours to determine it was nonsense, I contacted you and you said you were glad. So your credibility with me is pretty low. Now you are spouting complete nonsense about Biden. I will not tolerate it. In addition to being completely off topic, you are full of shit ... again. I have made very clear that I will not help Trump pass along unsubstantiated smears, so knock it off.

Anonymous said...

Why are you so opposed to the healthcare needs of Northampton County retirees?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'm not, and was at the retiree board meetings where this issue was discussed. And as I said above, I do think there is an issue. But retirees are getting it, even if some pay more than they should. It might be necessary to litigate. But in stark contrast to Brown, McClure has made vast improvements in the healthcare fir both employees and retirees. The proof is in the increased cost and his $1.2 million contribution to health savings accounts. People are using it.

I am critical of low wages and salary compression, but McClure's heart is clearly in the right place and he is slowly addressing the problem. Slower than I would like, but he is addressing it.

Peterjcochran said...

Bernie ,I told you something that I had been told and asked you if you knew anything about it. I didn’t ask you to waist your time . I offered no opinion. I apologize for off topic . I the future I won’t bother.

Peterjcochran said...

Bernie , I’ll check into claims issue starting tomorrow. Nobody ever ,ever challenged my credibly ,ever or my credit. Your the first one so I ll do my check as result of your insults. I was trying to flag this so you were not blindsided,if true , but that’s not how your broadcasting it an use it against me?Your in the information business in effect on this blog . I only asked if you had knowledge and I was not rendering an opinion. But you publish,I loose faith, and face ? I m not a lawyer,I’m an old former Infantry Officer,most all lawyers could not ever servive the Infantry. I’ll call you if somebody “credible “ tells me details.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Peter, These are your exact words, with the names of INNOCENT people redacted.

"How abut the [county official] with bankruptcy?"

"I don't think County Executive knows."

"But [redacted] ran off with his employee to an island, bought a BMW and a Rolex and decided to declare bankruptcy. It's public!"


This is complete and utter horseshit. There was no bankruptcy, no running away, no BMW or Rolex, and no island.

I wasted several hours running thus down, and after I told you it was nonsense, only then did you say you like the guy and that he is a gentleman.

It was extremely irresponsible for you to present as FACT something you did not know.

That is why your credibility with me is low, and I refuse to permit you to tout conspiracy theories on a subject here about which you know even less.

OK?

Anonymous said...

Peter is in Aruba with drink in hand and wearing a banana hammock.