Though the Walnutport Borough Council had last week discussed the possibility of only a .5-mill tax increase for 2014, it instead adopted a preliminary budget last night that includes a 1-mill increase.
President Matthew Newhard had said at last week's council workshop meeting that he hoped a .5-mill tax increase would be sufficient for the upcoming year. However, after council intently scrutinized the preliminary budget set before them at last night's borough council meeting, it was decided a .5-mill increase simply would not lead to a balanced budget.
A .5-mill increase would leave the borough about $8,300 in the red, even with some changes the council made to the budget last night, they determined. Meanwhile, a 1-mill increase should leave the borough a surplus of about $12,000.
"At .5-mill, we obviously aren't balanced," Newhard said. "By law, we have to have a balanced budget."
"(And) $12,000 isn't the biggest cushion because everything does go up in price," treasurer Michael Gaston added.
Various council members noted, among other things, such reasons as possible health insurance increases and federally mandated costs, such as a 15 percent increase in workers' compensation, as playing a significant role in why they felt a need to up the tax rate by a full mill.
"Is there anything else we can cut?" Newhard asked one last time.
When no one answered, Gaston said in regard to adopting the 1-mill increase, "I guess we really don't have any other choice."
With that, council unanimously approved the preliminary budget with a 1-mill increase plus moved to advertise it in the newspaper and also make it available for viewing at borough hall. The final budget, which will likely be adopted at the council's Dec. 5 meeting, said Newhard, increases the millage rate from 17 to 18.
For the individual taxpayer, a 1-mill tax increase means an additional $1 per $1,000 of assessed home/property value. In other words, said engineer Jason Newhard later, if one's home is assessed at $50,000, that means an additional $50 per year from that taxpayer.
Also at last night's meeting, the council unanimously approved the lease-purchase of a new 2014 Ford police SUV. The council had already added the outright purchase price of the vehicle to the 2014 budget but, after discussing at length with Police Chief Pete Wayda the possibility of a lease-purchase instead, it was decided to go with that option, in part for its potential for immediate savings.