The mayor offered different numbers, saying there were 854 accounts. He said 94 percent of them were at or below budget, adding 748 of the 854 were under budget.

Said Pfenning: “I don’t care about the numbers of it, I care that it’s happening at all. In my opinion, it’s a violation of state law.” Yet he insisted he was not knocking the administration. “I clearly said this is not an overall problem.”

Noting budgeting involves some guesswork, Recchiuti said: “The administration is doing pretty good if they’re hitting 94 percent.”

Also during the meeting, resident Dana Grubb complained to council about city administrators e-mailing, texting or tweeting during City Council meetings.

He said they should be giving their full attention to what’s going on at the meeting. “It’s rude and it should stop,” said Grubb.

Resident Roger Hudak stood to tell council of his concern about a proposal to transfer the city’s dispatch services for fire, police and EMS to the Northampton County dispatch center. He said it seems unwise to abandon the city’s dispatch center “that is working so well for us.” He said city residents will not save that much in taxes if that transfer happens, but will lose instant communication with city emergency personnel. He also said the county staff will not be able to monitor surveillance cameras that now “keep watch over the city’s streets.”

Hudak said he wants Bethlehem to remain the safest city in the Lehigh Valley and one of the safest in Pennsylvania.

After the meeting, Callahan said certain members of City Council want to roll the city’s 911 system into the county system. He said that this is not his administration’s plan.

"This is going to require a great deal of investigation,” said the mayor. “As of right now, I am not convinced that this makes economic sense or sense from a public safety standpoint.”

But Callahan said he is willing to begin the process of looking into the possibility of a potential consolidation just to understand more about it – including costs.

The mayor said he does not want to see any decrease in the level of emergency service city residents now receive. “I’m not going to rush it,” said Callahan. “There are very few things we do on a day-in-day-out basis that you say, without hyperbole, it‘s life or death. But 911 is one of those things that is life or death.”