Water, millage rate increase proposed in AkronFEMA may pay for new generator
By: MILAN VRACARICH JR. Review Correspondent, Staff Writer
"Where we got hurt this year — and where all municipalities are being hurt this year — is in our earned income tax," said Terry Reber, the vice president and finance committee chairperson, at the Akron Borough Council meeting on Nov. 14.
The borough recently received calculations for its 2012 earned income tax. Akron has been told to only expect $317,000 in 2012, a decrease of nearly $30,000. Real estate transfer taxes were budgeted at $45,000 in 2011. In 2012, the budget is only $30,000 because homes are not selling in the present economy.
"When you put all of that together, it’s just a little more than the borough can absorb without any kind of rate increase or millage increase," explained Reber.
The general fund has a proposed increase of a half mill. Akron borough has a current tax rate of two mills, making it one of the lowest taxed borough in Lancaster County. According to Reber, the average borough rate in Lancaster County is nearly 6.4 mills. The new proposed rate of 2.5 mills is still significantly lower than the rest of the county and will help the borough generate enough income to cover all of its expenses.
The last millage rate increase for Akron was in January 2006.
The borough has not received the income it expected from water usage. According to Reber, Akron has "struggled with (its) water fund almost all the time." The council acknowledges that with usage seemingly going down, it means more residents are conserving and fixing leaks in their systems. The council acknowledged that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just means the borough does not get the revenue it expects or needs.
The water fund will see a rate increase of 75 cents per 1,000 gallons, which will take effect in the second quarter of 2012. The cost of lab testing and the electricity use at the borough’s wells has increased, necessitating the bump in residents’ water rate. The new rate will be $5.95 for the final three quarters of 2012; the first quarter will be billed at the current rate of $5.20.
The Akron council was initially going to increase the water, sewer and millage rates. After much deliberation the finance committee members concluded that the sewer increase could wait one more year before needing to be adjusted. The last sewer rate increase was in February 2006.
"We took (the budget) back to committee and worked the numbers and did what we could," said Reber. "It was finally decided that the reserves in our sewer fund were strong enough that we could absorb the extra expense in the sewer for one year, so we took the sewer increase off the table."
Reber also stated that the borough has done pretty well since the last rate increases. However, Akron is at the point where it needs some money left over to go into the reserve funds. This will eliminate the need to use loans for initial payments in the event of an emergency.
"(This was) one of the hardest budgets I’ve (ever) had to put together for the borough," said Reber. "But I think we’ve done the best that we can do for our citizens."
The 2012 Akron budget will officially be voted on at the December council meeting.
Akron recently received the new School Resource Officer (SRO) contract. The question proposed by Solicitor Kenelm Shirk regarding the contract renewal was whether or not the SRO was a program Akron wanted to keep.
The overall sentiment from residents in attendance and the members of the council was that the SRO is a good program for the borough to continue.
"As a parent knowing I have students there at that high school, I just feel really comfortable knowing that there is an officer in that school," said Police Chief Thomas Zell.
While most of the area is finished cleaning up from the epic floods from Tropical Storm Lee, the borough of Akron still has one large project remaining.
The broken generator at the borough’s main sewage station needs to be replaced or repaired. At the Nov. 14 meeting, it was decided to purchase a brand new generator on the recommendation of the borough manager and borough engineer.
There were three options proposed to the council: rebuild the existing generator, purchase a reconditioned generator or purchase a brand new generator. All options would cost the borough approximately $26,000.
The new generator includes a two-year warranty and will replace a nine-year-old system. The actual cost of the generator is just under $19,000 but the cost of installation and the removal of the old, broken generator raises the cost. Under any option the tank of the generator will need to be flushed and the fuel-water mixture must be removed as hazardous waste.
It will take a little more time for the borough to receive the new generator over a rebuilt one. Borough Manager Dan Guers worked out a deal to use a local citizen’s generator at no cost to Akron borough until the new generator arrives. With an eight to 12-week delivery time, this deal will save the borough on some costs associated with purchasing the new generator.
"If we take the worst case scenario of 12 weeks it would have been an additional $5,600 in rental fees for that generator," said Guers.
There is a possibility a portion or the whole cost of the new generator will be covered by FEMA. The generator must be replaced and Guers is confident after speaking with the borough’s insurance company and FEMA that "most of it will be covered."
The cost of the generator could be approximately $2,500 less if the old generator does not have to be disassembled to remove it from its building. Because the ground behind the building is so soft, it is not possible to drive a vehicle close enough to remove it or to place the new generator inside. However, if the ground is frozen when the new generator finally arrives in January, it should be hard enough to allow a vehicle behind the building. More AKRON, page A3