Mayor Donchez: “For 2020, I am proposing a no tax increase budget” (but . . .)

logo 2nd in a series of posts on the 2020 Budget logo

MAYOR DONCHEZ’S 2020 BUDGET ADDRESS

2020 Proposed Budget

Budget hearings will take place 6PM, Town Hall, November 12, November 13, November 21, and December 9. These hearings will be televised. First reading of the budget will be November 19, the second December 17.

Key points in the Mayor’s address:

  • On October 21st, S&P affirmed Bethlehem’s A+ stable bond rating.
  • For 2020, I am proposing a no tax increase budget.

Highlights of the Mayor’s address:

  • Martin Tower
  • Sands > Wind Creek
  • 9-1-1 > Bethlehem Service Center
  • Memorial Pool
  • Bethlehem Golf Club
  • New City web site
  • Balanced budget
  • Capital projects without increased debt
  • Public safety improvements
  • Roads
  • Rodgers St. facility
  • Climate Action Plan
  • Census

Two new programs:

  • Enhancements to our Housing Inspections Program
  • Stormwater Pollution and Flood Prevention Program***

“Bethlehem is undergoing transitions all over the City. Whether it be facilities, equipment, technology, or programming, we are planning, adapting, and investing to meet the needs of our growing population. We are a city with a rich and proud history, and our future is very bright. Bethlehem will continue to be the jewel of the Lehigh Valley.”

—–

*** The news stories indicate a new storm water fee of approx $50-$60/homeowner.

Nicole Radzievich, “Bethlehem budget: No tax hike, but property owners may still pay more.” Morning Call, November 8, 2019.

But what is proposed to be added is a new storm water fee that would be assessed on every property based on impervious coverage like driveways, parking lots and building foundations. That fee would be imposed not only on homeowners and businesses, but also on nonprofits like colleges, churches and hospitals — which often don’t pay real estate tax bill but own quite a bit of land.

Officials are still working on the amount of the fee. For residential properties, the city is looking at instituting a flat fee based on the average impervious coverage of a residential property. Officials estimate it will be in the neighborhood of $50 annually for residential owners. The fee be implemented July 1, meaning only half would need to be paid next year.

Sara Satullo, “Bethlehem pitching another no tax increase budget, but a new fee is coming.” lehighvalleylive.com, November 8, 2019.

While the budget includes no new tax increase, on July 1 the city will start charging a new stormwater fee to comply with a federal mandate to cut pollution in stormwater to protect Bethlehem’s waterways. Easton and Allentown already have enacted fees.

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