PHOENIXVILLE -- Borough finance director Steve Nease circulated a revised schedule of end-of-year budget discussions at the council's finance committee meeting Monday evening. The bottom line: 2008 budget recommendations could be delayed in getting to Council for review by as much as a month. Nease attributed the delay to software problems. "Last year's budget sheets are corrupt," he said. "We're in the process of reconstructing all of it. It has been kind of a nightmare." By the new schedule, Borough administration budget recommendations would not be submitted for final review by finance committee chair Rich Kirkner (D-North) and Council president John Messina (D-North) until November 5. All Council members would not see the results until November 13. The proposed schedule anticipates a motion for adoption of the 2008 budget by Council on November 26, and a vote on final adoption on December 11. "Last year," began Kendrick Buckwalter (R-West), "we started [on the budget] with Council actively engaged as early as September. This year, we're not seeing anything until November 13. Why? Why aren't we seeing it at least when John and Rich see it, on October 15?" "Last year, if you remember," Borough manager Anthony DiGirolomo said, "we had to reconstruct the whole budget, start from scratch. We don't have to do that this year. This process is just an addition," he said, to the results of last year's budget round. He said further that Council "will have a 'Chinese menu'" of policy and budget alternatives before them at the November 13 meeting. Besides, he said, he expected that Kirkner and Messina would "be working with you guys behind the scenes" well before that meeting. "In talking with the finance [committee] chair," DiGirolomo continued, "this budget will be driven by him. And borough budgets are owned by the council president." "You're telling me something I hadn't known," Buckwalter said. "I've always felt that Council is responsible." Tish Jones (D-East) -- who chaired the meeting in Messina's absence -- and Henry Wagner (D-Middle), Tim Daly (D-Middle), Dave Gill (D-West) and Mayor Leo Scoda each added items for consideration under the 2008 budget. Scoda was especially exercised over what he felt was "a lack of attention" to Morris Street Park. "Give me all of your ideas," DiGirolomo said. "We're not mind readers. If you have something specific, we'll price it out." "I don't want to get to the meetings on the budget feeling like I don't know what's going on," Jones said. "I'll be honest with you, last year I didn't feel as if I did know." She pointed to a date scheduled for budget review with departmental directors, and asked if it would be appropriate for Council members to join the meeting. "That October 8th date? October 8 has nothing to do with Council," DiGirolomo responded. "To have it put in our laps November 13," Buckwalter interjected, "the budget's never been a three-week process."DiGirolomo retorted, "That doesn't mean it can't be done."
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