The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 2, 2013

Long-term plan needed in Lewisburg


The Daily Item

— It was dismaying to read the article in The Daily Item concerning Lewisburg Borough’s budgetary situation.

But this is not simply because taxes will have to be raised. I am not opposed to tax increases. I recognize that, as with the price of so many things, the cost of public services — and in the case of the borough, services with which I am very happy — invariably rises and that usually means increased taxes (or reduced services).

No, what’s disturbing is that the borough council in its desire to not raise taxes depleted the borough’s depreciation funds and have, with interest on the loan to cover beginning-of-the-year expenses, actually increased the taxpayers’ financial burden.

How can the borough get back on a firm fiscal basis without seriously reducing services and/or imposing more significant tax increases than otherwise would have been necessary? Does the borough council have a plan?

In addition to this budgeting misstep, there is another way Lewisburg taxpayers are not being well served. In the same edition of The Daily Item, there was an article about the Buffalo Valley Regional Police wanting Bucknell University to contribute financially.

The article notes that East Buffalo Township pays 52 percent and Lewisburg Borough 48 percent of the cost of the regional force. It does not report that in order for the borough to pay its share, Lewisburg property owners end up paying almost two and a half times more than their East Buffalo counterparts for the same police protection.

This is because a mil of taxes brings in $426,709 in East Buffalo as opposed to $178,052 in the borough. Therefore to make up for this disparity for police service, the owner of a property in the borough assessed at $100,000, for example, pays approximately 2.4 times the amount the owner of a property assessed at $100,000 in East Buffalo pays. By comparison, for the school district, another public entity serving the larger Lewisburg community, taxpayers no matter which municipality they live in are assessed according to the same tax schedule.

In short, Lewisburg Borough taxpayers have been shortchanged in two ways. On the one hand, they are facing higher tax increases because of short-term thinking that has resulted in the squandering of necessary reserves and in greater costs. On the other, they pay a disproportionate amount for the regional police.

What is needed is a plan for the long term. And an important part of that would be for municipal leaders to begin to think of Lewisburg and East Buffalo as a single community and, indeed, to consider a merger of the municipalities rather than just sharing services in an uneasy partnership.

Stacy Hinck,

Lewisburg