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Hempfield to hold line on taxes

| Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

The last time Hempfield supervisors raised taxes, the township's budget was $7 million and Greengate Mall on Route 30 was the place to shop.

The population was 25,509, and the Amos K. Hutchinson Bypass would not open for another six years.

A quarter-century later, the proposed 2013 budget is $12.3 million. The population is 43,241, and Greengate Mall is history, replaced by Greengate Centre.

The 3-mill tax rate, set in 1987, remains the same.

During the past two decades, Hempfield has grown from a largely rural community to an expansive municipality where housing and commercial development have boomed. It's the largest suburb in the metropolitan Pittsburgh area, according to 2010 census data.

Board President Doug Weimer said controlled spending is a major reason why Hempfield has not needed to raise taxes.

“We pay all our bills, we paid off some loans. We strive every year to become more efficient,” said Supervisor Tom Logan, who oversees the budget.

Hempfield expects to end 2012 with a $1.4 million surplus.

Total tax revenue is $7.5 million, according to the preliminary budget.

Hempfield's major source of revenue comes from earned income and real estate taxes. Earned income revenue is pegged at $2.5 million next year. Real estate taxes are expected to generate $1.5 million. Business privilege taxes will produce more than $238,000, and local services will raise $590,000.

Hempfield has an advantage over other sizable municipalities: Its taxpayers don't fund a police force. The township relies on protection from the state police.

A task force recommended in 2009 that Hempfield continue to rely on state police, instead of establishing its own police department. Two state legislative measures that would have levied fees on municipalities without police departments were never adopted. The proposed bills could have cost Hempfield $4.2 million to $6 million.

Among Hempfield's major expenses for 2013 are more than $833,000 to run township government. That figure includes salaries, wages, benefits and insurance.

Public works will cost taxpayers more than $3.5 million; recreation, $315,000; emergency services, $587,000; legal services, $100,000; and engineering fees, $200,000.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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