LEHIGH COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
Lehigh County Commissioners moved the proposed 2020 budget closer to the finish line Oct. 10 when two Republican commissioners voted with the Democrat minority to pass County Executive Phillips Armstrong’s budget.
The 5 to 3 vote brought praise from Armstrong who praised commissioners Nathan Brown and Marc Grammes, the Republicans who voted with the Democrat minority, as being “statesmen” not “partisan politicians.”
Commissioner Percy Dougherty was not present for the vote because he was taken from the meeting room by an ambulance team to a hospital. Commissioners thought Dougherty was in need of medical attention and called 911. Dougherty said in a later interview he was suffering from an unspecified infection, but seemed in good spirits.
The rest of the meeting was spent hammering out amendments to the budget which will be up for its final vote at the next regular meeting Oct. 23.
One amendment passed 5 to 3 reduced the originally proposed millage rate from 3.84 mills to 3.78 mills, reduces tax revenue by $1,795,094 and reduces the stabilization fund by the same amount. This reduction represented the compromise that brought two of the GOP commissioners to vote with their Democrat colleagues in support of the 2020 budget.
Republican commissioners Marty Nothstein and Brad Osborne’s amendment to reduce the millage rate further failed 5 to 3.
Other budget amendments included adding a full-time forensic analyst to the RIIC staff; another added funds for a full-time deputy to the sheriff’s security staff and yet another added a full-time deputy to the sheriff’s warrant staff.
Dougherty’s absence torpedoed a $11,000 grant to the Allentown Art Museum and a $8,800 grant to the Allentown Symphony. The amendment, which had been sponsored by Dougherty, failed in a tie vote 4 to 4.
Lehigh County Republican Party Chairman Giovani Landi argued “no tax increase; cut expenditures.”
Resident John Donchez argued for “no tax increase.”
Commissioner Marc Grammes, who voted for the tax increase, used nautical metaphors to justify voting with Democrats and the administration.
“In the Coast Guard we had to trust the pilot” to take the ship into the harbor.
Grammes urged his colleagues to “trust the experts,” such as Lehigh County Fiscal Officer Tim Reeves, to make the right recommendations on the budget.
In other business, the commissioners approved the general obligation bond sale. The 30-year term bond is valued at $70,960,000, according to Daryl Peck of Colonial Public Finance who handled the bond sale.
Peck also said Lehigh County retains its AA-1 bond rating by Moody’s.