There could be a reduction in taxes and sewer fees in Washington Township in 2014.
At Monday night’s budget workshop meeting, the board of supervisors discussed reducing real estate taxes by 1.62 mills. The tax rate was increased by 2 mills in 2012 to fund the former Washington Township Municipality Authority’s (WTMA) $12 million sewer debt.
Additionally, the supervisors considered reducing annual sewer fees from the current $1,324 to $1,153. Township sewer fees are some of the highest in the state. The fee is a flat rate assessed on sewer customers and is not based on usage. Last year, taxes were increased to fund the refinancing of the sewer authority debt.
Taxes and high sewer fees are a big issue in the township. A large crowd of hard-pressed tax and sewer rate payers, who were at times raucous, attended the budget workshop meeting to voice their concerns. Residents pleaded with the supervisors to reduce sewer fees.
Residents and township officials hoped that, as more sewer connections were sold, sewer fees would be reduced.
One unidentified resident said, “You can’t encourage people to buy houses here with high taxes and sewer rates.”
A senior citizen told the supervisors that some people in the township might lose their homes because they cannot afford the sewer fees and taxes.
A woman shouted from the back of the meeting room: “Lower the taxes so we can eat.”
Township Supervisor Ernest Gehman indicated he would prefer to reduce both the township real estate tax and the fee charged to residents connected to sewer.
In other matters related to the budget, the supervisors discussed replacing the municipal building roof because it is 30 years old and has already been repaired several times.
It was also recommended that the budget for the township engineer, special counsel and township solicitor be increased by $50,000 each in the event that there is a legal challenge from the developer of Butter Valley Meadows. Recently, the Butter Valley Meadows development application was denied by the Washington Township Board of Supervisors after a lengthy Planned Residential Development (PRD) hearing. If there is no challenge, the money will remain in the general fund.
In 2012 the township budget was $2,268,801, and the budget in 2013 was $2,363,387. The proposed 2014 budget is $2,133,506, reflecting a slight reduction from the previous two years. In 2013 the total taxes collected by the township was $1,367,380. The proposed 2014 budget for taxes is $1,187,302.
The supervisors held an executive session after the meeting to discuss personnel issues concerning employee wages and contributions to health care plans. Currently, the township pays employee health plans in full.
An unidentified woman in the crowd shouted, “You are insulting all the taxpayers in the township if you don’t make the employees pay into their hospitalization plans.”
The Washington Township Board of Supervisors will continue to discuss the 2014 budget at its regular township meeting on Thursday night.