Sewer rates likely to rise as well
Washington Township supervisors on Tuesday voted 2-1 to approve a 2 millage increase on real estate taxes next year, effectively ending a months-long debate about how best to pay down the Washington Township Municipal Authority’s debt. The vote brings the township property tax rate to 4.32 mills, meaning that taxes will increase to about $430 for every assessed $100,000 of property value.
The money is needed to pay down an expected $625,000 shortfall on WTMA’s debt service next year. According to Township Manager Jason Ganster, the increase will generate about $440,000 for WTMA’s June payment, but additional sewer rate increases will be needed to meet the debt obligation. Current sewer rates are among the highest in the state at $926 per year. WTMA is responsible for setting those rates.
While Tuesday’s meeting was considerably calmer that past meetings to discuss the issue, several residents called on supervisors to include specific language in the 2012 budget that would require all funds generated by the increase to be used only for WTMA. The board rejected the request and approved a $2,776,284 budget for next year.
Supervisor Ernest Gehman was the sole board member to vote against the millage increase, saying he would have liked to have seen the language changed.
“I want to see that money go strictly to the sewer and no where else,” he said.
Spring Valley Village resident John Wynn was the most vocal supporter of specifically earmarking the money for WTMA. “If you collect money and you don’t need it for the sewer it should go toward reducing the millage in future years,” he said.
While, Supervisor Chair Tonya Bauer said she has “no problem saying that,” she expressed concern that such language would require the township to pay WTMA even if for some reason it did not need the money.
Township Solicitor Daniel Becker assured supervisors that that would not be the case. However, Bauer and Supervisor James Roma agreed that keeping the tax increase as a line item on the general fund budget would be sufficient because all three supervisors will continue their terms next year. “It’s the three of us up here that would be spending that money anyway,” she said.
Several community members opposed the decision.
WTMA customer Duane Clemmer said, “You’ve given your word, and I’m not going to say that I can’t trust that, but this tax is here forever and the nature of government is: As long as there’s taxes, it’s going to get spent. And that’s what people are having an issue with.”
After the meeting, Ganster said that next year the board will be willing to reduce the millage rate once they know how much money they will need to meet WTMA’s debt obligation. Bauer said she agreed.
Also at the meeting, Resident George Lewis clarified statements he made at last week’s public hearing about sewer hookups, saying that the township needs to conduct an audit of businesses in the area that have multiple sewer hookups, as well as of individual residences that are within 150 feet of a sewer line but not connected to the system.
Lewis said that there are discrepancies about the number of actual sewer hookups in the township. He asked, “How do you know every month that the billing that’s going out is correct if you don’t know or you can’t come up with a list of who the multiple hook ups are?”
Bauer said that the issue is “something we need to look into,” but added that it is the responsibility of WTMA to maintain the list of hookups.
The Board of Supervisors will meet next on Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. for their biennial reorganization meeting.