Tax hike in East Cocalico possible

By on December 5, 2012

By: ALICE HUMMER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Even after a tedious line by line budget review with all three East Cocalico Supervisors, the Township Manager and Bookkeeper, cutting of needed repairs and zero raises for non-uniformed municipal employees, a deficit of $227,510 in revenues remains. This equals approximately 0.325 mills of real estate tax, which equals $32.50 from a $100,000 property.

"Our municipal building was built in 1988 and quite frankly, it needs some repairs," said Supervisor Chairman, Doug Mackley. "The HVAC system needs replaced and pretty soon we won’t be able to purchase the old fluorescent tube lights that we have."

Supervisors deleted anything but necessary maintenance because they don’t have the money.

A total of $230,000 for projects was removed from the draft budget. Removed was the HVAC replacement and lighting replacement for the municipal building, highway department shed repairs, a traffic signal battery back-up system, security cameras, front door access controls, resurfacing park play courts and trails, certain engineering services, a laptop computer, and scanning of large documents into the computer system.

In addition, the proposed $225,000 Stoney Point Park, phase one improvements will not begin in 2013.

"There’s so much we cannot touch," said Mackley. "I’ve asked Supervisors Noelle Fortna and Alan Fry to take a fresh look again at the budget to see if they can find anything else we can possibly cut."

While it appears probable that taxes will increase, it is not possible for supervisors to predict at this time what that increase could be.

Current millage is 1.7 mills, which generates $170 for a $100,000 property.

There are no changes proposed in allocations to the three fire companies, library and ambulance association for 2013. No money is proposed to be placed in a capital account for fire companies for major equipment purchases.

The $3,308,244 police budget, a seven percent increase, is 64 percent of East Cocalico Township’s budget. This is the shared cost for East Cocalico. The police department also serves West Cocalico, Adamstown and Denver. Municipalities are billed using a formula consisting of population and number of calls to service in a municipality.

Revenue from the state for police pensions is expected to decrease by 66 percent, which is $220,000 less than previously received, and will need made up with local contributions since investments are not returning their expected income. Police officers contribute five percent of their income towards the pension plan.

Township Manager, Mark Hiester reports that other areas seeing budget increases include: 1. Health insurance at $50,000 more (10 percent increase); 2. $10,000 more for a street sign inventory and replacement plan required by federal law; 3. $10,000 more for street line painting (40 percent increase); and 4. $22,000 more for storm water management planning and improvements (275 percent increase).

Hiester noted that the current language in the police officer’s contract with the township limits the township’s ability to competitively select a health care plan which could provide good benefits at a lesser cost to the township. The township is limited to a small group of health insurers.

"We cannot unilaterally move to other plans which might provide lower cost," noted Hiester in an email. "We are seeking to have the association agree to allow the township to move to a more competitive plan in a quicker fashion because it is in everyone’s interest that the township be permitted to do so."

The East Cocalico Water and Sewer Authority continued to work on their budget at their Dec. 5 meeting. The Water and Sewer budget is slated for adoption at the Authority’s Dec. 13th meeting.

The date for the proposed 2013 East Cocalico Township budget adoption by supervisors is December 19.

The proposed 2013 budget can be viewed on East Cocalico Twp.’s website at: http://www.eastcocalicotownship.com.

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