Salisbury Press

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

SALISBURY TOWNSHIP BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Local News

Tax hike in 2018 budget increases to 11.4 percent

The tax hike in the proposed 2018 Salisbury Township budget has been increased to 11.4 percent to provide for the hiring of an additional township police officer.

By consensus at the Nov. 21 township meeting, commissioners agreed for Township Director of Finance Paul Ziegenfus to revise the 2018 budget to include the new police officer, estimated to add $75,000, including salary and benefits, to the budget.

Under the latest proposed budget, township millage for property owners would increase 0.22485 from 1.97515 mills to 2.20 mills.

Based on the township median residential property assessment of $234,093, the annual increase would be $53 from $462 to $515. Increases will vary, depending on property assessment.

The 2018 township proposed general fund budget is $8.9 million, an increase of about $500,000.

The overall 2018 proposed township budget is $16 million. The water fund is $2.4 million. The sewer fund is $2.2 million.

The garbage-hauling fee is to increase $2 per quarter, from $65 to $67 per quarter.

The water is to increase 4.5 percent, from 6.05 cents to 6.30 cents per thousand gallons.

The township Earned Income Tax is expected to continue at 1 percent.

The township Local Service Tax is expected to continue at $52, with $42 allocated to the township, and $10 to Salisbury Township School District.

Commissioners voted 5-0 at the Nov. 21 meeting to approve a motion to advertise the public inspection period for the proposed 2018 budget.

As of Nov. 22, the budget was available for the required minimum 20-day public inspection at the township municipal building, 2900 S. Pike Ave., which is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and on the township website, salisburytownshippa.org.

Ziegenfus said the proposed budget at the municipal building and on the website would not immediately reflect the updated tax hike.

The 11.4 percent increase is up from a 7 percent increase, or 0.144850 mills, from 1.97515 mills to 2.12 mills, which had been approved by consensus of four commissioners at the Oct. 26 township workshop.

Final adoption of the 2018 township and approval of the tax ordinance to enact it and proposed tax increases is expected at the 7 p.m. Dec. 28 township meeting. There’s also a township meeting 7 p.m. Dec. 14.

“We will continue budget discussions up until it is approved Dec. 28,” Salisbury Township Manager Cathy Bonaskiewich said.

During the Nov. 21 workshop, topics of discussion concentrated on the township police department, public works department and the township’s information technology system. There were no township residents at the approximate one-hour workshop budget discussion.

Police request

“I am in favor of adding another officer,” Board of Commissioners President James A. Brown said.

“The complaints that I hear are about speeding,” Board of Commissioners Vice President James Martucci Jr. said.

It was the consensus of the board to add the police officer. The new police officer is in addition to the hiring of an officer to fill a vacancy.

After the Nov. 21 meeting, Salisbury Township Police Chief Allen W. Stiles told a reporter for The Press the township board of commissioners would need to request the Civil Service Commission convene to start a new list of eligible police officer candidates.

With the new hire, there will be 20 full-time township police officers, including Stiles.

Stiles said a police car, a Dodger Charger, is being purchased to replace a township police car demolished in September when it was hit by a car operated by a driver who allegedly ran a red light at Fourth and Susquehanna streets, Allentown. The township police car was transporting a driver charged with DUI to the Lehigh County DUI Processing Center.

Two additional police vehicles, a Dodge Charger and a Ford Explorer, are to be purchased.

Public works

Commissioner Joanne Ackerman raised concerns about the condition of township streets. “Are we going to have enough money to fix some of these streets? It seems to be the biggest complaint,” Ackerman said.

“It was a very difficult year,” Department of Public Works Director John Andreas said. “July and August, we had about eight and one-half inches of rain each month. It seemed to rain every other day.”

The 2018 budget includes $160,000 for street-repair material, up from $125,000 in 2017.

“We wanted to make sure you have enough,” Commissioner Debra Brinton said.

Regarding public works staffing, Andreas noted, “We’re still down three guys.”

The 2018 budget includes funds for hiring a public works employee to fill a vacancy.

Information technology

Bonaskiewich reviewed the township technology system. “There’s a lot that needs to be maintained. We have had server problems and it’s just about crashed our services system,” Bonaskiewich said.

The technology problems extend to the township police department.

“If we have a problem with our data, we can’t answer calls,” Salisbury Township Police Sgt. Kevin Soberick said.

“It takes a lot of time,” Salisbury Township Police Sgt. Donald Sabo Jr. said of having to resolve the problems.

“I want someone in there who fixes it before we know it,” said Bonaskiewich, who favors system-wide technology management by a firm, adding, “They’re not going to be reactive. They’re going to be proactive.”

Bonaskiewich said she also would prefer a tech expert onsite one day per week.

Capital Fund

A portion of the revenue expected to be generated by the tax increase would be placed in a “rainy day” fund, or a capital fund, an account for unforeseen expenses and/or township improvements.

“We are going to start to develop a Rainy Day Fund in the township. I think we need that,” Brinton said.

Concluded Ackerman, “I think we cut back in the past.”

Added Martucci, “We did that because times were tough.”

Salisbury Township raised taxes in 2013, held the same tax rate in 2014 and 2015, raised taxes in 2016 and held the same tax rate in 2017.

The 2.20 mills rate in Salisbury compares to 2.8 mills in Whitehall Township, 7.09 mills in Bethlehem Township and 1.369 mills in Upper Saucon Township.