Reading budget proposal does not include tax increase

READING, Pa. - Reading Mayor Wally Scott’s initial 2018 proposed annual budget does not include a tax increase for city residents.

Scott gave council members an informal introduction of the 2018 proposed budget at a special meeting Monday evening. 

Scott said goals of "the people's administration" for 2018 include the following:

  • The creation of a grant fund for nonprofit organizations for improvements to their properties, limited to $10,000 each, with a total of $50,000 the first year.
  • An investment of $250,000 to repair curbs and sidewalks in parks and the creation of a grant/loan fund of $300,000 to provide grants to low income property owners and low interest loans (1%) to others — currently the city has an estimated $25 million in needed sidewalk improvements.
  • Road improvements of $3.5 million, including North Eighth Street, North 13th Street (north of the high school), 100 block of Cedar Street, 100 block of Poplar Street, and portions of the roads surrounding City Park.
  • Outsourcing the care of the city's urban forest to prune and plant new trees and to deal with the emerald ash borer spotted lantern fly infestation.
  • Funding to match a grant from the Department of Justice that the police department applied for to add three additional officers. This is a required match.
  • The construction of two new fire stations -- one in the 900 block of Penn Street and one to replace the station at North Ninth and Marion streets.
  • Construction of wastewater facilities to support the new wastewater treatment plant that is under construction in the city in order to continue to comply with the consent decree. 
  • A 5-percent increase to healthcare costs as a safety measure for a possible increase.
  • A $2.4 million increase in pension payments to cover an anticipated increase in minimum municipal obligation.
  • A reduction of the city's recycling fee to $68.19, with a four-year plan to replace existing recycling containers.
  • An investment of $2.2 million in several parks and playgrounds, including the Schuylkill River Trail, City Park, and 11th and Pike.

"Every project I proposed to you will make our city a better place to live. Our residents will find hope as we continue to grow and strengthen. We need to continue to work together to address the issues that are of the greatest concern to our residents," Scott concluded.

"It's budget season, and this is a good starting point," said Council President Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr.

He said the committee members will begin to review the proposed budget.

In other business, Scott said that he will raise the Puerto Rican flag in front of City Hall on Tuesday at 5 p.m. and will leave it up until Puerto Rico is well on its way to recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which is estimated to be about six months.

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