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Tax Increase in Douglass Township to Fund Emergency Services
Written by Bradley Schlegel Correspondent

                A tax increase included in Douglass Township's 2015 budget was needed to cover a projected shortfall in the cost of emergency services, according to one member of the township's board of supervisors.

                On Dec. 15, the supervisors voted to approve the budget along with a separate measure that set the township's real estate tax at 1.8 mills. 

                "We didn't want to do it," said Anthony Kuklinski, the board's vice chairman. "It was something we needed to do. We had no other option."

                The one-tenth of a mill increase would generate approximately $58,000 in added revenue in the general fund, according to township Manager Pete Hiryak.

                He wrote in a Dec. 16 email message that the money would go directly to the Gilbertsville Fire and Rescue and Gilbertsville Ambulance Services.

                Taxes in the township had not been raised since 2005, according to Hiryak.

                The extra money would allow the organizations to maintain their current level of service, Kuklinski said.

                According to the manager, the tax bill for each $100,000 of property appraised would increase by $10.

                Kuklinski said the new tax bill approximates to an additional $1 per month per property owner in the township.  "That's less than the cost of a cup of coffee at Wawa," the supervisor said.

                The initial budget proposal called for holding the line on taxes. In November, the supervisors granted preliminary approval with a tax rate remaining at 1.7 mills.

                However, municipal officials learned of the shortfall the week before their most recent public meeting, according to Kuklinski.  "We didn't have a viable figure until after the Dec. 1 meeting and before the (most recent) meeting," the supervisor said.

                According to Kuklinski, audience members at the township meeting were "largely OK" with the decision.  "Only one guy questioned it," the supervisor said. "And he asked about the timing."

                The 2015 budget holds the line on taxes while showing a net surplus of $50,568.55.

An additional $217,861 proposed for the township's police department accounts for the largest increase over 2014 in the budget.

                Municipal officials expect to spend $1.863 million on the department in 2015, according to information provided by Hiryak.

                The additional money will be used to help pay the salary of two new officers hired this year and purchase two new police vehicles, according to Kuklinski.

                The police department accounts for 54 percent of the township's budgeted expenses, according to supervisors Chairman John Stasik, Jr.

                He called that rate standard for most communities, adding that Douglass Township is spending less on public safety than most neighboring municipalities.

                Overall, the budget shows a projected income of $3.4 million with projected expenses of $3.409. However, a $59,500 transfer from the township's capital reserve budget would eliminate the $8,931 deficit, according to Cynthia O'Donnell, the township's treasurer.

                The capital reserve transfer includes money for projects budgeted as far back in 2012, according to Stasik.

                In November, O'Donnell said one of those projects includes a proposal to spend $30,000 on a gas powered emergency generator for the township building.

                The budget projects $619,658, an increase of $39,504 over 2014, in the township's administrative department.  It also includes a $41,352 increase in the highway department, with projected total expenses of $445,406.  The planning and zoning department projects a $29,227 decrease in expenses to $109,672.

                Hiryak has said he expects the construction of at least 15 new homes in the township in 2015.

                According to O'Donnell, that development increases revenue to the township by impacting the EITC, transfer taxes and the increased assessment real estate tax line items in its budget.





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