Tax hike would help Penn Township fire companies
Penn Township commissioners are considering two 2013 budgets — one with no tax increase and a second with a 1-mill tax increase that would provide a dedicated stream of funding for township fire departments.
Each of the township's five departments would receive $47,000 if a tax increase is approved, said Township Manager Bruce Light. In 2012, the departments each received $40,600.
The commissioners are expected to have a first reading of both plans during Monday's meeting. Both documents will be open for public inspection for 20 days afterwards, Light said.
A final vote will be taken in December. The current township real estate tax rate is 13.7 mills.
During a September meeting, the board asked the township finance director to prepare two draft budgets, one with a tax increase for the fire departments and one without. A few commissioners discussed during that meeting the possibility of instituting the tax based on departments' increasing difficulty raising money, while others noted that a tax increase could create a hardship for residents or small businesses.
Light said the current allocations are commonly used for fire truck or equipment payments, he said.
“They submit us invoices,” he said. “We do that to know that it's going to legitimate fire expenses.”
If the fire tax is instituted, the current funding to the departments — $203,000 — would be available in the general fund.
The township's $8.1 million spending plan is up about $242,000 from the 2012 budget, Light said.
“We were very pleased that we were able to keep the status quo,” he said.
If Penn Township decides to increase the millage rate to dedicate funding to the fire departments, it would join 11 other county municipalities with similar taxes or fees.
In those 11 municipalities — including Murrysville, Salem, North Huntingdon and South Greensburg — the fee ranges from about half a mill up to 2 mills.
Mt. Pleasant Township supervisors are mulling over whether to charge an annual fee of $30 per household to fund fire stations. That township also has five fire departments. Supervisors there presented a proposal to the public earlier this week.
Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Rossilynne Skena contributed.