In what has become the rule rather than the exception, there will be no tax increase in Lower Towamensing Township next year.
By a unanimous vote, the township's board of supervisors on Tuesday agreed to adopt the 2013 budget, which will leave the property tax rate in check at 1.6 mills.
That means a person whose home is valued at $100,000, which will be assessed at $50,000, will again pay $80 to the township in property taxes next year.
Next year's spending plan calls for a 2-percent increase for the township's full and part-time employees, as well as a five-cent increase in the light tax, which will raise the fee from 35 to 40 cents per front foot.
Supervisors Chairman Ron Walbert said the township will end the year with a $1,462,384 surplus, and added "once again, we're in a very good position financially."
Walbert said that because the township has collected close to $20,000 in delinquent garbage bills, the township "has an outstanding balance in our garbage fund."
At that, Walbert suggested the board grant a $30 reduction in the garbage rates for senior citizens ages 65-and-older who are on Medicare and have their current garbage bill paid up to date. That will lower their amount from $230 to $200 per year, he said.
"It's not a lot of money," Walbert said. "But, in today's economy, I think it's a good idea."
Walbert estimated the move will cost the township about $9,000 next year.
"It's a small step," he said. "But, I think it's important we do something for them."
One senior citizen in attendance said "I appreciate it very much. Thank you."
The new garbage rate for those who meet that criteria will go into effect April 1, 2013, according to township secretary/treasurer Christine Wentz.
In another budgetary move, supervisors agreed to transfer $5,000 from the township's general fund to its recreation center fund.
Also on Tuesday, a member of the township road crew questioned why part-timers half-hour lunch break was being taken away from them.
Employee Robert Balch told supervisors that decision "just kind of felt like a slap in the face."
Walbert said he understood Balch's frustration.
"I think you guys do a fantastic job," Walbert said. "Some people were in favor of it, some people weren't."
The decision to eliminate the half-hour lunch for part-time employees came at a workshop session last month, when supervisors, on a 2-1 vote, agreed to the move. Supervisors Jesse Mendez and Brent Green voted to eliminate the lunch, with Walbert opposed.
Green assured Balch the decision "wasn't about productivity."
Resident Gerry Madden said he didn't agree with the decision to eliminate their lunch break.
Balch then suggested that since their lunch break was taken away, that they should receive a pension.
However, township solicitor Jim Nanovic noted such a move would result in an increase to the township.
Green added "I think we should discuss it more when we get some figures."
As part of this year's budget, the township's five employees received a 3-percent increase, while the township's contribution rate of the local services tax to the Aquashicola Fire Department was increased from 28 to 30 percent. Also this year, the township raised its light fund rate 10 cents, from 25 to 35 cents per front foot, due to a then-$473 deficit, which meant the average person with a 50-foot frontage saw a $5 increase, while a person with a 30-foot frontage saw about a $3 increase.
In 2011, supervisors approved a 2 percent raise in salary for township employees, as well as a $1 an hour raise for road foreman Charles Shupp, and a 50 cent an hour raise for road administrator Kathy Wallace.
In an unrelated matter, Mendez thanked the road crew for the cleanup they did during the recent storm, and added that the township building is available to residents during an emergency situation.
Mendez also noted both he and Green attended the Carbon County Veterans Day Parade in Palmerton on Sunday.
He then complimented the Palmerton Veterans Memorial, which was dedicated earlier that day.
"It was a beautiful event," Mendez said. "It's one of the best I've ever seen in my life; for a small community like Palmerton ..."
Resident Herman Bollinger expressed his opinion on the situation.
"All of the celebration is not bringing the boys back," Bollinger said. "On Monday, they didn't even think of the boys."
In other business, supervisors:
- Agreed to give a $3,000 donation to the Palmerton Area Library for this year.
- Adopted a resolution to have Wentz serve as the liaison to Berkheimer & Associates on the township's behalf, and to adopt Berkheimer's fee collection for collecting delinquent taxes.
- Agreed to purchase five spotlights for the road crew at an amount not to exceed $200.
- Granted a three-month extension to Caron Associates for their subdivision plan.
- Granted an extension to Harry & Elaine Eckhart for their minor subdivision until Jan. 31, 2013.
- Granted a garbage exemption to Charles Dunbar.