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Hydrant fees increased by $10

Published January 11. 2011 05:00PM

Mahoning Township residents who live near fire hydrants can expect to see a $10 increase in the annual levy making the new tax $30 instead of $20 which it has been in recent years. Concluding a long discussion, supervisors realized that if the increase was not made by next year the fund would be depleted and the levy would not cover the amount charged for the township's hydrants by the Lehighton Water Authority.

"The way I see it if we do not increase our tax rate, we will have to use $3,000 from the General Fund to cover the levy imposed by the water authority in 2012," said Supervisor George Stawnyczyj while reviewing the figures.

Solicitor Tom Nanovic explained the township has different options for imposing the levy on residents which includes charging the tax to everyone within a radius of each hydrant or depending on the frontage dimensions of a lot. Currently the township is charging residents who have hydrants on their properties.

"There are 164 residents who pay the tax and the bill is expected to be $7,142 this year," said Secretary Natalie Haggerty. The current hydrant fund has a bit over $4,000 in it at this point. If the rates are not adjusted the fund will be depleted in 2012.

Haggerty explained from what she saw in past records the tax at one time was $60 or $65 but was decreased as the fund developed a surplus over the years. In recent years the annual levy was reduced to $20, but as charges have increased the $20 tax no longer covers the bill.

Supervisor Travis Steigerwalt said that it sounded like if the supervisors didn't raise the rates, they would end up having to use additional money from the General fund to cover the shortcoming.

Stawnyczyj said, "From my calculations, we need to raise the rate from $20 to $43 or $44 to cover what we are being charged from the authority. If we don't there will be a shortfall."

Steigerwalt agreed although he was not enthusiastic to raise the rates so much at one time. Stawnyczyj pointed out that the authority could raise its rates making the deficit even larger if initial steps to close the gap aren't taken.

There was discussion about waiting until the budget to figure out what the increased rate should be, but Haggerty told the board she will be billed months before then. Chairperson John Wieczorek moved to amend the original increase for 2011 to $30 per hydrant, a $10 increase from the original $20 tax.

The motion carried unanimously.

In other business, the supervisors agreed to have Police Chief Kenneth Barnes evaluate two police cars being sold at a discounted price in Falls Township with the possibility of purchasing them. Both vehicles are 2007 Crown Victorias with mileage in the upper 60,000 to low 70,000 range. Barnes said he would evaluate them along with assembling figures on a Ford Escape and Ford Explorer as an additional four wheel drive vehicle for the department.

"These newer vehicles should end our automotive issues," said Barnes. The current police vehicles are old and in need of more repairs in recent years. Some of the funding for the three prospective purchases is coming from the donation given by Wal-Mart at its grand opening.

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