The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 28, 2012

Monroe Township reserve fund exceeds the annual budget

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— SELINSGROVE — Monroe Township supervisors approved a $1.24 million budget for 2013 with no tax increase while carrying $1.59 million in a reserve fund for capital improvements and unexpected expenses.

Township auditor Matt Pryor said he’s noticed the reserve fund has been climbing in the past four years, but never asked for what reason the funds were being set aside.

“It’s a good question and I’m going to ask,” he said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development said there is no cap on how much a township may set aside.

The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors doesn’t keep track of reserve funds or recommend an amount that should be set aside, said Holly Fishel, director of research.

However, planning for major projects like infrastructure upgrades is one of the responsibilities of townships across the commonwealth, she said.

“Recently it’s been exceedingly difficult for townships who are just struggling to hold the line and not raise taxes,” said Fishel, crediting Monroe Township’s “forward thinking” on building its savings.

Penn Township has also been socking money away for years, building up a reserve fund of a little more than $1 million, significantly more than the $761,490 budget for 2013 approved by the supervisors.

“They have it for any projects that may come up,” township secretary Robin Bieber said.

Penn Township has tapped into the reserve fund only once in recent years to pay for road repairs, specifically to rebuild Sunset Drive about four years ago, Bieber said.

Unlike Monroe Township, which levies 2 mills of taxes, or about $45 per average homeowner, Penn Township doesn’t collect any taxes from its residents.

A formal request for comment was made Thursday to Monroe Township Supervisors Timothy Wolfe, Dean Davis and Steve Paige about their reserve fund and whether any of it will be used to eliminate township taxes. None had replied as of Thursday night.

“I envy anybody who can carry $1 million in reserves,” said Point Township Chairman Randy Yoxheimer, who said he’s content with a financial cushion of $250,000 while overseeing a $1.71 million spending plan for 2013 that carries no tax increase. “Different townships have different needs and different philosophies.”

Point Township is starting out 2013 with about $475,000 in reserve and intends to spend about half of it on stormwater improvements, truck purchases and other capital expenses.

Selinsgrove Borough Council adopted a $4.52 million budget for 2013 that carries a 1 mill increase, raising taxes to a total of 16 mills.

A majority of the $2.12 million the borough has set aside in reserves is designated for sewer and water facility upgrades, treasurer Sheri Badman said. The borough has also used the funds to rebuild a salt storage shed and Water Street, manager Paul Williams said.