Amity board approves fire tax increase

The Amity Township Board of Supervisors approved 4-1 on Nov. 6 a .00015 fire tax millage increase for 2014 as well as to advertise and post its preliminary 2014 budget of $3.9 million.

Supervisor Robert R. Yanos opposed the motion.

He said the township has sufficient income for its two fire departments and budgets should be adjusted.

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The township’s millage rate will remain at 1.3 mills and the fire tax will increase from .5 mills to .65 mills for a total millage rate of 1.95.

Anticipated revenue from the rate increase is $90,000 annually.

Owners of properties assessed at $100,000 would pay $190 annually, an increase of $10.

Township Manager Charles E. Lyon said that money will reimburse the township $60,000 for the departments’ purchase of the new emergency responder Motorola radios mandated by the county.

The tax will also provide an annual revenue of $30,000.

Board Chairperson Kimberly J. McGrath said the fire departments currently receive annual allocations of $93,000 for full time drivers and expenses.

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

“They (Amity and Monarch fire departments) understand the severity of the problem -- and within two years would be stable, and in three years would have a $30,000 surplus,” said Supervisor Terry L. Jones, who has met with both departments and reviewed their 2014 budgets.

Jones said the fire departments are prepared to eliminate the tax for 2016.

Lyon said without the tax increase the township’s 2014 budget deficit would be $132,000 versus the current $72,000.

The township’s last Earned Income Tax check for 2013 will not be the anticipated $200,000 but $98,000, said Lyon.

The budget is balanced with a transfer from the township’s approximate $2 million fund balance.

It does still include a $15,000 allocation to the Boone Area Library, Birdsboro.

“We have two options, we know we have to maintain public safety,” said Supervisor Richard L. Gokey, “but now that fire tax isn’t keeping up, do we continually take money from the general fund or increase the fire tax?”

“The cost of doing business is more everyday,” said Supervisor Paul R. Weller, adding “We’ve cut everything to the bone the last three years.”

“Can we afford to not pay for this level of service?” asked Jones.

He said the township needs to ensure that fire/emergency services are provided without sacrificing any township money or services such as road maintenance.

“Unfunded mandates are not our fault and we cannot be held liable,” said Jones. “This board has done an excellent job of maintaining taxes -- we have not raised taxes. We have cut, cut, cut, and we understand no one wants a tax increase, but if we want this level of service, we need to raise taxes. It’s not good business to keep taking it from our reserves.”

The board approved 4-1 for Lyon to send a letter to the Zoning Board regarding the Hess Express, 1028 Benjamin Franklin Highway, Douglassville.

Board members said they don’t anticipate any safety issues and permit officials of the Hess Express to install a 40-foot-long fence and landscaping on Hess property.

Yanos opposed the motion citing the possibility of future safety issues.

Hess’s estimated $5,000 construction would prevent traffic lights from disturbing an adjacent neighbor, following the future relocation of fueling stations at the Hess Express.

Jones said the board cannot allow Hess to pay the resident the more than $25,000 they are seeking from Hess in order to remove their current fence and landscaping and install a new fence and landscaping.

“This is bull crap to the fullest extent,” said Jones, adding, “They already have a fence, they bought a house on a major road, built a deck. This is just extortion. Send a letter to the Zoning Board strongly objecting to the conditions placed on Hess.”

The board unanimously approved the temporary and part-time appointment of Sgt. John Dzurek to the Amity Township Police Department at a rate of $28 an hour.

He temporarily replaces Cpl. Glenn A. Oesterling, who was recently released from service following two incidents of receiving stolen property at the Giant Food Store, Upland Square, Pottsgrove Township.

Dzurek is a full time officer with the Douglass Township Police Department, Berks County.