Washington Twp. budget spurs spat

| Friday, April 27, 2012, 3:58 a.m.

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP - Supervisors Charles Yusko and Jamie Miller approved a 2010 township budget that will require no tax increase.

However, they came under fire for not having financial figures available at Wednesday's meeting.

Supervisor Joanne Latkanich chastised Yusko and Miller when they moved to approve the $1,273,437 budget.

Before a vote, Latkanich asked if either supervisor had a printout of the budget.

Miller said she did not.

Yusko cut off Latkanich when she began to complain about not having the figures on the table.

"What have you contributed to this?" Yusko asked Latkanich.

"I could be comatose for three years and know more than you would know about the budget in 10 years," Latkanich responded. "We're going to see what your revenue is in two to three years.

"How could you adopt a budget that you don't have before you, and you don't even know what's in there, and you want to pass it• That's appalling. The residents of the township deserve more than, 'Well, gee, I don't have it with me.' ... You're going to pass a million dollar budget and not go over it• You're just going to ram it down the taxpayers' throats• Go for it. My vote's no."

"It was here last time," Miller said of the move to post the tentative budget last month. "It's been on view for the public for the last 20-some days. There's no change. One person came in to look at it."

"But that was a tentative budget," Latkanich said.

Resident John Nussar complained about not having the final budget on hand.

Resident Richard Ritson asked how much was budgeted for property taxes.

"Mr. Ritson, I don't have all that in front of me right now," Miller said.

Yusko pulled a copy of the tentative budget from his meeting folder after Miller asked him to look there.

The budget shows that each mill of real estate taxes collected generates $120,000 in revenue.

Ritson said that figure, based on property assessments, should have been listed at $124,000.

"Why wouldn't you change your budget to reflect accurate figures?" Ritson asked.

Solicitor Don McCue said the amount in the budget is based on the collection rate, which is about 90 percent.

"It would be more accurate in reflecting something closer to $124,000 per mill," Ritson said. "You're using old figures at $120,000 per mill. I looked at the budget. Frankly, I didn't see many changes from one year to the next."

At the board's Nov. 11 meeting, Ritson asked the supervisors to decrease the real estate tax rate by using $60,000 from the township fund balance.

He again made the request Wednesday while pointing out that the 2010 budget projects a $147,000 surplus.

Ritson said that amount, combined with the existing $472,000 fund balance, "might be an indication of good cost control. It also might be an indication that you're setting the tax rates too high on the people that have to pay them."

"I just personally feel that you're budget could be more realistic than it is right now," Ritson said. "It's not updated to current information. That's what bothers me."

Yusko said the fund balance should be maintained because roadwork might be required after a planned $21.5 million sewer project is completed.

Contractors are obligated to restore the roads.

Yusko said he expects most of the roads to be patched and need additional work.

"We want to try to pay down some of the debt we have, too," he said. "We can't take everything out then be stuck."

Resident Susan Lape supported keeping the reserve intact.

"I would rather see that surplus held in case it's needed than for the township to have to come back to the taxpayers and say, 'We don't have enough money to do this for you and that for you,'" she said. "If in a year or so after this sewage is completed, we are still in such a good situation and there's an ability to reduce the taxes at that time, all well and good."

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