“Doing more with less” continues to be Easton Mayor Sal Panto's mantra, as he gave the annual “State of the City” address at city council's workshop meeting Tuesday evening.
First thanking the various city administrators and department heads, Panto listed a number of improvements and achievements that have occurred in the last year.
Consolidating city offices allowed the rental of the fifth floor, netting the city $70,000 rent per year. City council's new offices and chambers, formerly on the fifth floor, will be completed in the next couple of months on the sixth and construction has already begun, he said.
Easton's crime rate continues to decrease, Panto noted.
“There continues to be a , and it's the lowest it's been in 30 years,” Panto said.
Over the last three years, 11 police officers have been added to the Easton Police Department, bringing the total number of officers on the force from 52 in 2008 to 63 today, Panto said.
The force was also recently reaccredited and is one of about 70 Pennsylvania departments to hold that designation out of more than 1,100 police departments in the state.
The city goal of being “clean and safe” is key to Easton's future and that goal is being met in multiple ways, Panto said.
More closed-circuit cameras are planned for the city riverside parks, in addition to those already installed and are in keeping with the city's goal of being “safe.”
“Clean” is being achieved better than ever before, said Panto, by the city's public works department, with expanded street sweeping. Panto said the department is half the size of the department in 1984 but is “doing more that they did then.”
“We are indeed doing more with less,” Panto said.
The city's code office is also instrumental in recent city successes, Panto said, quoting statistics of the department having conducted more than 5,000 inspections, responding to more than 100 resident complaints and issuing more than 500 citations for building code violations in 2010.
“We will not stop until derelict property owners clean their properties and make them clean and safe,” Panto said.
New development and revitalization projects are key to the city's future, Panto said and this coming year will see several construction projects, he said.
In particular, the Simon Silk Mill project will likely commence later this year and “it could be the most important development project (in Easton ) in 100 years,” he said.
To build the city's property tax base and eliminate vacant properties, the mayor's office plans to start the program “Let's Build Easton.” A $500,000 grant has been applied for to fund the program, he said, which would strive to build new residences on vacant properties in the city.
For the future, Panto says it's his goal to not only hold taxes at their current rates, but to lower them in the future.
“I'm happy to report the city's finances are the best they've been in years,” Panto said. “Make no mistake, my administration is all about the numbers.”
Despite penny pinching, this year's still showed a $2.4 million shortfall, which was made up through further cuts, he said.
“Balancing these budgets wasn't easy,” Panto said, adding his goal is to actually reduce city taxes in coming years.
“We can no longer be the highest taxed and have the highest fees if we want to attract business in the Lehigh Valley,” he said.
“We are not afraid to take risks,” Panto said of his administration. “We're no afraid to try new things, but only after the analysis has been done.”
“People are genuinely happy with our city. Perhaps our most important goal is to bring back respect to our city,” he said.