East Cocalico takes LERTA vote, explains budget woes

By on October 24, 2018

The proposed ordinance approving five years of tax relief for new businesses in zones designated general commercial, planned commercial, light and heavy industrial passed its final municipal vote at supervisors Oct. 18 meeting.

Cocalico School Board will vote on this Nov. 19 and the county commissioners need to vote.

Five days after the commissioner’s vote the ordinance becomes effective.

Manager Scott Russell said that Ingham’s Powder Coating, with buildings on N. Reading Road and Industrial Way, will likely be the first business to take advantage of no tax the first two years and then a phase in of 25-5 0-75 percent tax in years three through five. Land taxes continue to be paid.

“Ingham’s is ready to proceed with expansion plans which were shelved in 2011,” said Russell.

The morning after the supervisors met, LCSWMA announced purchase of a tract of land in East Cocalico next to the turnpike interchange for development into a satellite transfer station.

Supervisors want to run the numbers again before presenting a first draft of the budget at their Nov. 1 meeting.

Supervisor Romao Carrasco explained that the fiscal situation is tight due to many occurrences over the years, one reason being the township having only seven tax increases since 2000. The average of the tax increases was 1.69 percent, which doesn’t come close to the average inflation rate of 2.14 percent.

Other reasons include a low rate of growth is the loss of neighboring communities (Adamstown and West Cocalico Township) who formerly contracted police coverage, and the large amount of money necessary for stormwater management projects mandated by federal MS4 legislation.

Carrasco said these problems are opportunities for the township to secure better financial stability by implementing cost containment, right-sizing the organization and operations, taxes and growth.

Supervisors indicated a property tax increase is coming, although no numbers are firm. They discussed a 7.5 percent increase at their Oct. 15 budget meeting.

Also likely is a stormwater management fee, which has been called a stormwater management tax, or MS4 tax in other municipalities where it’s been implemented.

This fee assists with projects needed due to unfunded mandates in the MS4 legislation. The projects limit stormwater run-off which ends up polluting the Chesapeake Bay and killing water life.

How might the MS4 fee be assessed? Supervisors said there are various ways and they haven’t determined what might be used. Some municipalities assess a percentage of the property value, some use a property’s frontage feet and others use impervious surface area.

Russell said the proposed budget will show reductions across the board. When asked after the meeting whether supervisors will retain their family health benefits plus vision, dental and life insurance, which together totals over $100,000, Russell said there would probably be some changes.

By law, supervisors in class two townships may have health benefits. In nearby townships, such as West Cocalico, Ephrata Township, and Adamstown’s neighbor, Spring Township in Berks County, supervisors don’t claim these benefits.

Alice Hummer is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review.

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