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Penn Twp. commissioners continue to debate fire tax

| Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, 1:51 p.m.

Commissioners are advertising their $7.6 million budget both with and without a new fire tax, which would generate a dedicated $242,548 for the township's five volunteer companies to split.

Commissioners set aside $203,000 in the 2012 budget for the departments and intend to increase that to $208,000 if they opt against the new tax. If commissioners pass the tax, that $208,000 will remain in the general fund.

Commissioner Ed Sullivan said officials are sharing both versions of the budget with the public while they deliberate on how to vote Dec. 17.

“It is more to keep citizens aware and give them an opportunity to comment to the fullest extent,” he said.

Sullivan credited the township's department heads for keeping costs low in the proposed budget. The real-estate tax rate has been 13.7 mills since 2006.

“I think we've done a very good job at looking at areas to cut,” Sullivan said.

If commissioners pass the additional tax, they anticipate ending 2013 with about $508,000 to carry over into the 2014 budget. Without the tax, they would carry over $300,000.

Manager Bruce Light said officials haven't determined how they would use the extra money if they pass the fire tax. Using it for road paving is one option board members have mentioned, he said.

Township officials also are planning for the possibility of bridge-replacement projects on Saunders Station and Kings roads. Traffic on both bridges is restricted to one lane, Light said.

An estimate for the Saunders Station bridge is on hold until 2013 because officials decided not to incur any more engineering expenses for it this year.

“We can't even hazard a guess what that (cost) would be yet,” Light said.

The cost for a Kings Road project would be shared with Hempfield Township because the bridge spans both municipalities.

Officials are budgeting $325,000 for their capital-reserve fund.

Most of the line items in the budget are the same as this year, although the township will save about $95,000 in health-insurance costs for police officers, who — for the first time — will contribute toward their premiums.

Salaries for each officer will increase by $2,500. Pay for Light and finance director Linda Iams would rise by 3 percent. Light would receive $80,517, and Iams would receive $63,444.

Solicitor Les Mlakar's pay would increase by 3 percent to $74,263 as the township cuts its budget for outside legal counsel by $15,000.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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