Taxes in Washington Township will be markedly reduced in 2014.
At a reconvened board of supervisors’ budget meeting on Tuesday night, the board voted unanimously to decrease real estate taxes from the current 4.32 mills to 2.7 mills next year.
The tax reduction represents a decrease of 1.62 mills for taxpayers. Township Manager Jason Ganster could not be reached Wednesday to translate how that decrease would benefit the average property owner.
The supervisors declined to reduce sewer fees from $1,324 per year to the proposed $1,153. Two years ago the board of supervisors increased taxes by 2 mills and raised sewer fees to among the highest in the state to fund the refinancing of its now defunct sewer authority’s $12 million dollar debt.
The supervisors’ decision to reduce taxes but not sewer fees met with shouts of dismay and boos from members of the audience who wanted their sewer fees lowered and a tax reduction.
Some members of the audience alleged there is a surplus in the township budget of approximately $570,000.
Joe McCormack asked the board of supervisors to reduce taxes and lower sewer fees. McCormack said more development would be attracted to the township if sewer rates and taxes were lowered.
Township resident Dan Stauffer alleged that there is possible legal action by Spring Valley Village, a senior community located in Washington Township, to reduce real estate taxes in the development by 60 percent.
Stauffer noted it is possible that Washington Township taxpayers might be obliged to pay to defend the township and Berks County should the lawsuit progress.
Stauffer said many Washington Township residents are not connected to the sewer system but must pay higher taxes because of the sewer authority debt refinancing. Although he is not connected to the sewer, Stauffer said he must maintain his septic system, pay the electric it uses and have it pumped regularly.
Board Chair Tonya Bauer explained to the very vocal township residents who were in attendance at the meeting that she believed it was fair to reduce taxes for everyone. Bauer noted if sewer rates were decreased, the expenses of the township sewer business would not be met.
She said, “We are responsible for paying the bills. We want all residents to benefit. We are one large community. We have to be concerned for the entire Washington Township.”
The total approximate 2014 budget for Washington Township, including its general and sewer funds, is $4,339,557.