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Discussion of proposed budget with tax increase delayed by borough manager's illness

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Nov 15 2012 11:06:50 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 16 2012 05:33:34 AM CST
NORTHAMPTON, Pa. -

A proposed 2013 budget that includes a one-mill tax hike was introduced but not discussed Thursday night because the official who put it together became ill about five hours before Northampton borough council's meeting.

Borough manager Gene Zarayko was taken to the hospital by ambulance around 2:30 p.m. after being stricken at work, said LeRoy E. Brobst, who is assistant to the manager, after Thursday night's council meeting. Brobst could not say what was wrong with Zarayko, but noted that by early evening Zarayko appeared to be doing better.

A discussion on the proposed $5,758,666 budget -- about $8,500 more than this year's -- will be held at council's Dec. 6 meeting.

Brobst said rising costs for labor, insurance and medical benefits are the main reasons that the current property tax rate of 8.1 mills needs to be increased to 9.1 mills. One mill raises about $190,000, he added.

If the tax hike is approved, a property owner with a home assessed at
$50,000 would pay an extra $50 in 2012, Brobst said.

Northampton last raised property taxes three years ago, when a half- mill was added to the rate, according to Brobst.

In other business, council unanimously approved a new three-year contract that will give the borough's 22 non-uniformed employees a $1,200 raise each year. The contract takes effect Jan. 1.

Salaries for non-uniformed employees range from $42,000 to $82,000, with the borough manager being paid the most.

For the first time ever, employees will pay for part their health-care coverage -- 5 percent. Full-time workers who opt out of medical coverage will receive a $2,000 incentive.

New hires will no longer be eligible for the borough's defined benefit pension plan, and will instead be part of a new defined contribution plan. Workers will be required to put a minimum of 3 percent of their wages into the plan, which will be matched by the borough.

Council announced the borough Christmas tree will be erected at Main Street and Laubach Avenue on Friday, and the annual tree lighting ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 25 (rain date will be 7 p.m. Nov. 26).