Mount Carmel referendum talk gets heated
MOUNT CARMEL - Interaction among borough councilmembers was heated Thursday, when they discussed a proposed ordinance to allow borough voters to justify increasing taxes or debt by referendum.
Here's more from Thursday night's discussion in addition to what was published Friday.
The ordinance never came to a vote due to lack of support.
Vice President Leroy "Chico" Moser said he didn't like the timing of the ordinance because Councilmembers Clem Plisiewicz and Robert Shirmer are running for re-election.
"If you vote for this, it looks like you are looking out for the people. If you don't vote for this, it looks like you don't care about the people. We care about the people," he said.
He said he wouldn't be "coerced or blackmailed" into voting for it.
Moser also criticized Matulewicz for dropping the issue in front of council with little notice.
"I feel like I've been betrayed," Moser said.
But, Matulewicz said, "Who would not like to vote on federal income tax levels, or state, or local? Is there anybody in this room or on the planet who wouldn't?"
Furthermore, he said, the ordinance was discussed at the Monday workshop meeting, which aligns with borough policy to not allow anything on the regular meeting agenda without previous discussion.
He said Moser was being "idiotic."
"I'm idiotic, and you're always right," Moser fired back sarcastically.
Moser, Plisiewicz, Shirmer and Councilmembers Joseph Lapotsky and Robert Barrett agreed, saying the ordinance would not allow council to raise taxes in case of an emergency and that members of the public would likely never vote in favor of raising taxes. Councilman Gary Hixson was not present.
"What if Oak Street catches fire and we have to tear all the buildings down? We'd have to raise taxes to pay for it," Moser said.
Council members are elected by the general public because they have enough faith in those individuals to make decisions for the good of the borough, Lapotsky said.
"I can't agree with this, but I understand and respect where you're coming from," he said.
Matulewicz said he recognized everyone's concerns, but thought it would be something the public would support.
Each councilman said Matulewicz has gone above and beyond in his duties as council president and said they didn't think there was any intent on his part to make them look bad.
Later, resident David S. Fantini, of East Seventh Street, told Moser that he shouldn't have yelled at Matulewicz because it didn't put the borough in a good light. Moser then apologized to Matulewicz
If the ordinance ever passed, voters would see a question on the ballot asking if they support an increase in the number of mills for property taxes and the reason it's needed.
There are currently 32 1/4 mills in total for borough taxpayers, which consists of 27 mills reserved for the general fund, 2 1/2 mills for street improvements, 2 1/2 mills reserved for street lights and 1/4-mill for the library.
At 27 mills, the borough is only three mills below the maximum millage amount allowed by state law.
The vote Thursday night would have only advertised the ordinance until the next meeting, at which time council members could have voted in favor or against it.
Matulewicz urged council to vote in favor of advertising in hopes that members of the public would come to the Nov. 21 meeting to voice their opinion, but no council members made a motion to advertise it.