The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 5, 2012

East Buffalo Township to drop two tax levies

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

— LEWISBURG — Taxes will not go up in East Buffalo Township next year under the first version of the township’s 2013 budget, and two service-related taxes — for street lights and fire hydrants — will go away, the supervisors decided at their bimonthly meeting Monday.

However, with no new taxes and the municipal complex construction under way, the township is thinning out its savings and will need to walk a tighter financial line, Supervisor James Buck said.

Projected 2013 revenue is $4,944,561, including $2 million borrowed for the building project. Added to the $1,464,469 already in the general fund, it gives the township $6,409,030 of revenue plus cash on hand for 2013.

On the expense side, the budget projects $6,248,285 in spending, leaving an estimated $160,746 in cash at the end of the year. The latter amount, however, is not a savings, Buck said, because the township’s expenses “will far exceed our income.”

“The $160,746 will be all that is left of the $1,464,469 in cash, which represents nearly all of the reserves that the township has saved up over many years in order to complete the building project,” Buck said.

Supervisor Thomas Zorn said an open issue of what road repairs the township needs and how much they may cost could reduce the reserve even further to between $60,000 and $80,000.

Depending on an engineer’s findings about the township’s roads, Zorn said he may be in favor of a slight tax increase, likely around 2/10ths or 3/10ths of a mill so there would be more funds in the reserve.

East Buffalo’s municipal complex will cost about $3.5 million to construct. The proposed budget contains about $225,000 in surplus to cover incidental costs, such as change orders.

All three supervisors voted in favor of the budget. Zorn introduced the measure to eliminate the street light and hydrant taxes because, he said, the reserves simply had too high of a balance.

“There is enough reserved to cover the electric and water up to six years,” Zorn said. “It makes no sense to keep collecting that money.”

Not all township residents pay service-related taxes. Those whose homes are within 760 feet of a fire hydrant pay about 8/100th of a mill, about $8 per year on a $100,000 home. Those whose homes have 50 feet of frontage and live near a street light pay $25 to a street light fund.

Supervisor Henry Baylor Jr. could not be reached for comment by deadline Tuesday.

Buck has been a vocal opponent of the building project because it exceeds a recommended $3.1 million price tag and he feels it’s more space than the township needs. However, he said his philosophy about the township’s finances “has changed a bit” as a result of the project and he feels having less money to spend will make for more frugal decisions.

“I just remained dismayed by what happened, and the building, to me, is excessive,” he said. But with the township likely not raising taxes, he said people will have to be tighter in their funding decisions.

Zorn said he agrees “it will really be a challenge” to the township’s funding. “It would be a different ball game,” he said. “You look at things more closely when you don’t have savings. You start pinching pennies.”

Buck said this budget not only accounts for the money that is there, it shows “that money is spent,” he said. “We won’t be backstopping other organizations the way we have in the past.”

The township’s cash reserves have come in handy several times, including helping out the Lewisburg Area Recreation Authority over the past few years and the township’s contribution to forming the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department.

The proposed 2013 budget is available for public examination and comment at the municipal offices at 57 Reitz Blvd. By law, the budget must be on display for 20 days before final approval. A special meeting to adopt a budget is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 27.