The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

Exeter supervisors vote to advertise budget with no tax increase


By Donna Rovins, News Editordrovins@berksmontnews.com

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

To raise taxes or not to raise taxes given continued decreased tax revenues and increase expenses? That is the question facing the Exeter Township Board of Supervisors.
After several months of discussion about the township’s 2013 budget, the board was split in its vote on how to advertise the budget.
At the board’s Nov. 26 meeting, the board voted 3-2 to advertise the township’s $9.395 million budget with no tax increase, and using reserves to address the deficit of nearly $240,000.
The board was presented with three options by Township Manager Troy Bingaman: had three options on the table: use general fund reserves, institute a 0.1-mill increase in taxes and use the reserves for the rest of the deficit or institute a 0.2-mill increase in taxes.
“The 0.2-millincrease balances the budget and would get us through 2014 without an increase as well, based on our five year projection,” Bingaman told the board. “If we do a 0.2 increase, we have a surplus of $15,000 in 2013 and a deficit of $50,000 in 2014.” He added that if the township then begins to see an increase in earned income tax, it would not be necessary to use reserves.
Supervisor Gary Lloyd moved to advertise the budget with a tax increase of 0.1-mill and using the reserves to make up the rest of the deficit. The motion failed to receive a second.
“I’d rather see that surplus used to avoid a tax increase. I would just assume use the spare before we ask the residents to pay more for the coming year,” said Supervisor Jeff Bukowsky.
If passed as advertised, the budget would be the fourth budget passed with no tax increase for township residents.
“If you do nothing, next year you’ll be looking for double the amount,” Bingaman said. The proposed deficit for 2014 is $312,000, projected to increase to $879,000 by 2017.
A 0.1-mill tax increase would have meant a property owner would spend $10 per year for every $100,000 of assessed valuation; a 0.2-mill increase equates to $20 more per year for every $100,000 of assessed valuation.
If approved as advertised, the township property tax rate would remain at 2.695-mills, or $260.50 for every $100,000 of assessed valuation. That figure includes the general rate of 1.64-mills, 0.505-mills for the fire services tax and 0.55-mills for the debt service tax.
Using the fund reserves to make up the deficit will leave the township with $2.35 million in reserves – about three-months of operating expenses.
Supervisors Lloyd and Don Wilson voted against using the reserves, saying that a tax increase was warranted this year given increased expenses and decreased revenues.
The board will vote on the final budget later this month.
In other business:
The board had discussion about the proposed sidewalk and crosswalk at Lorane Road and Apple Drive. The project engineer was on hand to address safety concerns raised during the township engineer’s review of the project. Additional information will be provided to the board later this month.
Also on the agenda was the proposal for a central fire station, and general discussion about the project. At a Nov. budget meeting, the idea was raised as to whether the fire department would be willing to view the building as an emergency services building, with police or township administrations located in the building. Deputy Chief Christopher Jordan said that idea is certainly acceptable. Data continues to be developed on the feasibility of moving forward.