Tax bills and sewer rates for Washington Township residents will definitively climb next year, officials said.
Last Thursday night, in a long-awaited joint public meeting between the Washington Township board of supervisors and the township municipal authority, the board of supervisors expressed the majority opinion that a tax hike of approximately 2 mills for all taxpayers was a fair manner to handle the $12 million debt of the municipal authority.
And sewer rates will also jump. Although officials didn’t hold a formal vote on the matter, the discussion between the board and the authority resulted in a consensus that the municipal authority must raise its sewer rates too.
Currently, the sewer rates for Washington Township residents who are connected to sewer are $925 per year and are some of the highest in the state.
The combination of the two hikes should result in enough revenue to satisfy the municipal authority’s debt, of which the township is jointly responsible.
Washington Township resident John Wynn proposed a plan that would have the sewer authority collect its bill on the first day the bill is due instead of the last day. It would provide the authority with a one-time influx of approximately $170,000.
Washington Township Solicitor Mike Setley questioned that Wynn’s proposal might cause two additional sewer bills in a 365-day billing cycle. Setley also cautioned the large crowd of residents that if the municipal authority defaults on its loans, the authority would be replaced by a receivership. If that would happen, the receiver, according to Setley, “would increase the sewer rates because it cannot raise taxes.” Setley noted, “A raise in township taxes is not the same as a raise in school taxes.”
Many residents who are connected to sewer wanted only a tax raise. Someone shouted from the crowd, “At least a tax raise can be taken off your income tax.”
Joe Knoll expressed his opinion that if sewer rates increased much more it would inhibit sewer hook-ups in the township. Knoll said, “We need more hook-ups or a tax increase.”
Some residents who attended the meeting reminded the board of supervisors that they are senior citizens and are not hooked to sewer. Those residents are forced to pay higher taxes for a sewer system they cannot use, but must still maintain their own private septic systems.
Bev Mechler, a lifelong resident of Washington Township, said, “Please consider other seniors who are not hooked up to sewer who might have to sell off if taxes are raised 2 mills.”
To date, the municipal authority has not determined how much more it must charge for its sewer services.