Merry Christmas…no tax increase in the borough

By on December 23, 2015

ephrata-xmas-tree2Other than the long debate over library funding, there was little fanfare this year over the annual fiscal budget in Ephrata Borough.

The best news for residents is that real estate taxes will remain the same in 2016, at 2.07 mills.

With total projected revenue of $39,841,825 set against total projected expenditures of $41,295,088, borough leaders were able to address the shortfall and a tax increase is not needed.

According to Gail Bare, the borough’s director of Administration and Finance, the shortfall is due to the one-time projects included in the budget and will be paid from electric and capital reserve fund balances.

“Just to be clear, the general fund budget is balanced and the general fund balance will not be reduced,” clarified Bare.

In terms of revenue, Bare outlined several major sources of revenue. Those included various taxes (real estate, earned income, local services tax); user fees for electric and sewer provided; charges for refuse and recycling; police services provided to Ephrata Township, West Cocalico Township and Adamstown Borough; water services provided to Ephrata Area Joint Authority; and sewer services provided to Akron and Denver boroughs, and Ephrata and East Cocalico townships.

On the expenditure side, the borough expects the major expenditures to include employee wages and benefits, purchased power to serve borough electric customers, and capital projects, including storm water, street repair, public works complex improvements and continuation of the rail trail.

When asked how hard it was for the borough to balance the budget without a tax increase and what measures were necessary to make that happen, Bare said it is always a struggle to balance the budget but is something that they strive for each year.

“The borough works very hard in looking at ways to increase revenue, reduce expenses and maintain the same level of service,” said Bare. “The borough has managed to meet the needs of our customers while maintaining competitive real estate and utility rates.”

Bare explained that the total taxable assessed value for 2016 is $674,409,500 which includes all residential, commercial and industrial properties.

“Assuming an average home cost of $125,000, a home owner in the borough would pay $258.75 in real estate taxes,” added Bare. “The borough has the lowest real estate tax rate of any borough in Lancaster County.”

The borough has several large capital projects included in the 2016 budget document. They include:

  • A security system at the electric substation, $200,000
  • A distribution line from the projected solar farm to the substation, $300,000
  • Street repairs, $660,000
  • Storm water abatement, $240,000
  • Public Works Complex building improvements, $301,600
  • Railroad right of way trail, $385,000
  • Improvements to the Fulton Maintenance Garage, $200,000

Bare said these projects are one-time expenses, not recurring annual costs, and explained why the expenses in 2016 are greater than the revenue stream.

“Overall, the borough is pleased to provide a balanced budget in the general fund and the electric and sewer funds,” said Bare.”

For additional information on Ephrata Borough, visit ephrataboro.org.

Gary P. Klinger is a Review correspondent and appreciates your questions and feedback via email at klingerglobal@gmail.com.

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