Property owners prompted to sell because of financial woes
The Board of Supervisors of Washington Township and the Washington Township Municipal Authority (WTMA) have a dilemma of epic proportions on their hands. How do the supervisors and the sewer authority reconcile two groups of citizens in their township with two separate sets of circumstances?
On Sept. 25 at the board of supervisors’ meeting, which was quite raucous at times, the supervisors heard the concerns of township residents who are on opposite sides of the sewer issue. Although the WTMA has a debt of $12 million guaranteed by the township, the sewer authority is a separate legal entity from the township.
Some citizens are concerned that their sewer rates of $925 per year are the highest in the state. To service the debt of the authority, it is expected the board of supervisors will raise township taxes in 2012 on all property owners by 2 mills. Because a tax increase that affects all property owners is not enough to cover the debt of the WMTA, the sewer authority must also increase its rates.
Officials estimated that under a “blended” proposal of higher sewer rates and a 2 mills tax increase, it would take 22 years to pay the WMTA debt.
Residents of Spring Valley Village, a senior community, noted that “for sale” signs are going up in their community. They argued if people were not able to pay their mortgages because of the higher fees, they would lose their homes and not be able to pay tax or sewer bills.
Developer Eric Williams remarked that if sewer rates were raised much higher it would be difficult to sell new homes that potentially could connect to sewer.
On the opposite side of the issue, Washington Township resident Pam Becker said she is on a fixed income like many seniors, but she has a septic system and well on her property. Becker provided figures to the board of supervisors that if her taxes were raised 2 mills just to service the debt of the sewer authority, she would be forced to pay $12,550 over 22 years and yet have no sewer service.
Becker said, “The cost of a new sand mound is $20,000 and to pump it out every year as the township requires costs $285. I am willing to do my part, but who will help me if my sewer or well goes bad? The current price of a new well is $10,000. These people get the benefit that I cannot have, but I must pay for it.”
Members of the unsympathetic crowd heckled Becker by shouting at her that every property owner must pay taxes.
During the course of the meeting, personal insults frequently were hurled at the board of supervisors who ignored the comments. One resident accused the board of supervisors and the sewer authority of not knowing or caring what the other board was doing.
Township Solicitor Dan Becker disagreed and explained the supervisors have been trying to have a joint meeting with the WTMA to resolve the issue for quite some time. The joint meeting occurred on Sept. 15, but no formal action was taken.
In reference to the WTMA’s separate legal status from the township, the crowd shouted, “Why should we pay, you did it on purpose.”
Becker responded, “The authority was created before sewer was put in, not to spin off a problem.”
No action was taken on the issue.
The WTMA requested and received from the board of supervisors the remainder of the 2009 tax note in the amount of $190,000.
The board of supervisors voted to appoint Supervisor Tonya Bauer to the WTMA. Supervisor Ernest Gehman serves on the sewer authority as well.
In other business, the Washington Township annual Fall Festival will be held on Oct. 1. Volunteers are needed.