Boro proposes no tax hike; possible cut to electric rate

By on November 12, 2014

If a draft budget presented to Ephrata Borough Council makes its way through its seven committees unscathed, it will mean no tax increase for borough residents.
It could also mean a reduction in electric rates for borough electric customers.
The current budget used expenditures from 2014 as a baseline. For a zero tax increase budget to survive all the way to the Dec. 8 vote, it would require committees to either offset expenditure increases with matching savings or it could still come down to either a decrease in services or an increase in revenues through property taxes. While such a scenario is not seen as likely, it remains a possibility.
Ephrata’s tax rates are currently set at 2.07 mills, the lowest for a borough in Lancaster County.
Ephrata Borough Manager Robert Thompson added that he was reluctant to state a percentage for the rate decrease for electrical power, stressing that the reduction would be very much an average across all different customer classes. On that average, the rate would be seven percent. However, he urged customers to consider what the reduction would be for their current rate classification.
Another item being discussed related to the 2015 budget is Christmas lights. Mayor Ralph Mowen has issued a Christmas challenge of sorts due to the condition of the Christmas lights used to decorate the downtown business district.
According to Thompson, the lights do not belong to the borough but are owned by the Ephrata Merchants Association. In 2011, the borough was approached by the Merchants to help replace all of the lights. The borough reimbursed them at a cost of just under $10,000.
But as Thompson explained, an inherent characteristic of the new LED Christmas light technology is they do not shine as brightly over time. He said the borough had received several comments last year already, that the new lights did not seem as bright as they had once been.
This year, in an effort to make the best of the situation, those trees with lights will have more in order to help make them appear fuller and perhaps a bit brighter. However, that will mean less trees will have lights in them.
Thompson confirmed that while no funds were included in the 2014 budget, a request from the Merchants for $5,000 for the 2015 Christmas lights is currently part of the draft being worked through committees.
While nothing much can be done to correct the situation this year, Mowen told council he was putting up $1,000 of his own money toward new lights next year. And, he has challenged the rest of the borough, including council, to match or exceed his donation in order to rectify the situation.
“There will be lights on less trees this year because of the deterioration of the strings,” Mowen told council members. “Many are not as bright as they once were. So, I’m going to pledge $1,000 to get new lights and would challenge the borough to match my pledge in 2015 budget to keep the lights up.”
Mowen is hopeful that the combined efforts of the community will help correct the issue.
“When you come down through town and see the holiday lights it is very nice and I’d just hate to see them go away for a few thousand dollars,” added Mowen.
As it stands, this year’s Christmas Tree lighting planned for Friday, Nov. 28 will be a first of its kind. This year the borough has secured PennDOT approval to close Main Street from State Street to Lake Street to improve both visibility and safety as the “main man” to children of all ages, Santa Claus, comes to take up residence in Ephrata for a few weeks.
Not only will the street be closed, but council approved a request from Jim Brown of Ephrata National Bank to allow several food vendors to set up for the event. Brown has been an active part of organizing the annual downtown Christmas event.
For more information on Ephrata Borough, visit ephrataboro.org.
Gary P. Klinger is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review and welcomes your comments via email at klingerglobal@gmail.com or via twitter at www.twitter.com/gpklinger.

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