“Your Council has decided that New Hope Borough will not implement the tax increase that was authorized by the referendum to fund the expanded service for 2018,” Borough Council said in a statement issued in response to questions by the Free Press.
“Being ever mindful of our responsibility to spend the taxpayers’ money wisely, throughout 2017, your Borough Council has (and continues to) work diligently to collect revenue owed, reduce our administrative costs and create operational efficiencies,” continued the statement.
Borough officials say they will continue to seek operating efficiencies into 2018, including “new technology and hardware throughout the Borough offices, complete our forensic audit, hire a new treasurer and auditing firm.”
An overhaul of Borough Hall operating procedures and capabilities is sorely needed, as a scandal there that began last spring revealed mismanagement which council has yet to fully explain or address. New Hope officials first announced the existence of a “scam” and their investigation into it on April 29. And although leaders said on May 22 that “there hasn’t been any loss sustained…nor was any information breached or accessed,” Borough Hall on June 30 confirmed that the perpetrator made off with $30,000, which was “re-deposited” days later, apparently by the banking institution involved.
New Hope Borough Council also declared on Sunday that it will start talking to Solebury Township officials again starting in January to resolve a spat over funding of shared services between the communities.
“Borough Council President Alison Kingsley indicated in October during the discussion with Solebury Supervisors Chairperson Kevin Morrissey that due to the intensity and number of undertakings that our Borough was engaged in and the time frame for completion by the end of the year, it was highly unlikely that members of Borough Council and/or staff would have the time needed to fairly investigate our own data, review the data Solebury provided and come up with a fair analysis,” reads the statement from council.
“We indicated on several occasions that this was the case, and committed that a thoughtful and thorough investigation of all of the shared services could occur in January. We are still committed to that process and hope that Solebury representatives will agree to discuss how we can work together in the best interests of our constituents and theirs.”
Solebury Township and New Hope share the cost of several services, including Parks & Recreation, fire, ambulance/emergency services, and the public library. But Solebury says its citizens currently pay $16 per capita for Parks & Recreation, while New Hope residents pay 59 cents.
“A fair agreement would be for residents of both communities to pay $12.50 per capita,” say Solebury supervisors. “This would mean that New Hope would contribute $32,000 annually vs. the current $1,500. [But] since New Hope Borough Council is unwilling to discuss the topic, we are once again left with the question of whether to charge non-resident fees to compensate for the loss in revenue.”
“I am loathe to take this step because it puts a very large burden on the New Hope families,” said Tai. “In order to compensate for New Hope’s refusal to pay their fair share, each New Hope participant would have to pay an average of $130 more.”
Solebury officials have said they’re offering New Hope a new agreement that increases the borough’s contribution from $1,500 to $32,000, with a deadline of Jan. 31.