Amity Township considers tax increase

Despite improved 2014 budget numbers, a tax increase may still be needed to fund Amity Township’s Fire Fund.

Township Manager Charles E. Lyon said at the Amity Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Oct. 2 that new money is needed to reimburse the township for purchasing new emergency responder radios mandated by the county.

Berks County municipalities and boroughs with fire and police departments, as well as ambulance companies, were required this year to buy into the county’s new $42 million Motorola radio system.

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County officials said the new radios were needed to improve emergency communication coverage.

Lyon said the new system resulted in a new $30,000 expense for each of its two fire departments -- Amity and Monarch.

Revenue from the fire fund tax of .5 mills was insufficient to pay the two $30,000 bills, so the township picked up the tab, temporarily.

He said increasing the fire fund millage from .5 to .65 mills would yield the $60,000 township reimbursement and also provide $30,000 revenue.

The annual radio payments are $37,196 for the next six years.

A .00015 tax increase would amount to $10 for every $100,000 of assessed value.

“The budget news is better than I‘d hoped,” said Lyon, adding, “I see an uptick with an estimated $200,000 more revenue than anticipated. Earned income remains strong, which means more people are working. That looks good for next year. The general fund with a $48,000 planned deficit. I think we’ll end up with a $100,000 surplus.”

Lyon said every budget within the $3,894,858 million budget has been reduced except for police ($11,071), debt service, insurance, and a $20,322 radio allocation to Southern Berks EMS.

By the close of the Oct. 2 meeting, that anticipated $100,000 surplus was decreased by $15,000 when board members agreed to include (for discussion purposes) 2014 funding for the Boone Area Library, Birdsboro.

While the township and fire departments have revenue sources, library board member James Arms said the library must ask for donations, hold fundraisers, and is accountable to a 1962 unfunded mandate requiring its head librarian to have a master’s degree in library science (for a high salary).

Previous library director Michelle Kehoe resigned Sept. 30.

The library is also still seeking an Amity Township resident to serve on the board.

Supervisor Robert R. Yanos said appeals to community and civic groups, as well as to the two Douglassville MOMS groups, have gone unanswered.

“There is not enough interest to serve on the library board,” said Yanos. “Our minds are, how important is the library to forcibly take money from people?”

Arms said the library is dependent upon $1.19 per capita money from Amity in order to receive $13,200 in matching funds from the county.

He said the Borough of Birdsboro has committed to $2 per resident and Union Township to $2.48 per resident.

Amity Township had allocated $15,000 the last five years to match the annual contributions made by J. P. Mascaro & Sons, Birdsboro.

Arms said Mascaro also provided $15,000 for library roof repairs.

“What is the township’s position?” asked Arms, adding, “Is it worthwhile to support or do you want to close the doors? To cut to the chase, it’s on you guys.”

Supervisor Terry L. Jones said he has no plans to withdraw the library’s funding.

“It’s something that is needed,” said Jones, with Supervisor Paul R. Weller agreeing that libraries are even more important now with people seeking jobs; people are using the library’s computers and printers.