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Lower Towamensing holds the line on property taxes

Published November 19. 2010 05:00PM

If consistency breeds success, then Lower Towamensing Township should be the template for other municipalities to emulate.

In what has been a trend in recent memory, the township's board of supervisors agreed at a budget workshop on Thursday to once again hold the line on property taxes.

Supervisors agreed to advertise for tentative adoption of the 2011 budget, which will leave the property tax rate unchanged at 1.6 mills.

For taxpayers that own a home valued at $100,000, which would be assessed at $50,000, they will again pay $80 to the township in property taxes.

Next year's budget will dole out 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 the road administrator Kathy Wallace. With the raise, Shupp will make $16.05 an hour, and Wallace $15.55 an hour.

"I think in these economic times, 2-percent is very conservative," said supervisors Chairman Ron Walbert. "I'm a conservative guy, but you have to get with the times."

Resident Gerry Madden said he believes Shupp's responsibilities warrant a pay raise.

Supervisor Todd Solt said that while Shupp deserves a raise, so too does Wallace.

"There needs to be a definite parting between a normal worker and your road foreman," Solt said. "From what I'm seeing, it looks like they're both sharing the duties of the [township's] workforce."

Also as part of next year's budget, senior citizens will receive a $10 discount on their garbage fees.

"We did do something for the people with abandoned properties, but why can't we do something for the seniors," Walbert said. "It's a small step, a small start."

Walbert said that while no increase in the light fund will occur next year, chances are the rates will reflect an increase in 2012.

"The rates keep going up," Walbert said. "At some point, this has to be revenue neutral."

Solt said the township at some point may want to consider an increase to the Aquashicola Fire Department.

"Maybe we should consider giving them additional funds," Solt said. "My concern is that if there's something the fire department needs, we can accommodate them."

Walbert said the department would have to make a request, at which time the township would consider it.

One big ticket item Walbert said the township will need money for is the repair of the Hunters Creek Bridge, structurally deficient.

"DEP (state Department of Environmental Protection) approved the plan, now we got to put it out to bid," Walbert said. "I have no idea what the cost will be; $50,000, $100,000."

Walbert said the township has $240,000 budgeted in next year's liquid fuels account to address the bridge, as well as a five-year plans to repair township roads before they're eventually replaced.

"We have to be very prudent in what we do," Walbert said. "The big thing has to be that bridge, which has to be done."

That the township has opted to budget that amount in liquid fuels is a wise move, Walbert said.

"It puts us in a good position to repair our roads, do the bridge, and not have to dip into the general fund

Walbert said he believes the township "is in good shape."

"This is how many years without a tax increase," he said. "I think we're one of, if not the, lowest taxing body in Carbon County."

Supervisors plan to grant the budget final adoption when it meets at 7 p.m. Dec. 14.

Last year, supervisors approved a budget that left the property tax rate unchanged, and also called for a 2-percent raise in salary for township employees.

In 2009, supervisors passed a budget that kept taxes in check, and included a 5 percent raise in the light tax, which raised the rate from 25 cents to 30 cents per front foot for Aquashicola residents who lived within 250 feet of street light.

Also as part of that budget, supervisors increased the township's contribution rate of the local services tax to the Aquashicola Fire Department, from 25 percent to 28 percent.

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