Penn Twp. to hold line on taxes

| Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Property-tax rates in Penn Township likely won't increase in 2014 because commissioners plan to rely on an estimated $1.8-million surplus to plug a nearly $400,000 gap between expenses and revenues.

Commissioners are expected to vote on Dec. 18 to approve the new spending plan, which would keep the property-tax rate at 13.7 mills.

Property owners also will have to pay a 1-mill fire tax, which commissioners created last year to help fund the five volunteer fire companies.

Though officials anticipate Penn Township will spend $396,700 more than it collects in taxes and other revenues next year, Commissioner Jeff Shula said the board will try to forestall increases in the property-tax rate in the coming years.

“Hopefully, we can keep things as they are as long as we can,” he said of the tax rate.

Expenses for the public-works department are projected to increase by about 11 percent, compared to the 2013 budget. Expenses for the police and planning and zoning departments are expected to rise by about 5 percent each.

In the $2.15-million budget for public works, pension costs are projected to increase by nearly $33,000 to $123,957, fuel costs are to rise by $20,000 to $100,000 and overtime costs are to increase by $6,000 to $70,000.

Meanwhile, the police budget's increase to $3.43 million includes a $16,000 rise for pensions. The overtime budget of $125,000 is $15,000 higher than what commissioners approved for 2013.

Commissioner Chuck Horvat said the overtime costs for public works and police concern him but that he recognizes that the police run an around-the-clock department and road workers' schedules can be affected by weather conditions.

“I can see that overtime is a value that is big but can be managed very well,” Horvat said.

Some other notable budget increases include a $35,500 increase to $135,500 for the township's liability insurance, a $9,000 increase to $14,000 for outside legal consulting and a $4,000 increase to $161,500 to the Penn Area Library.

The cost of the township manager's salary and benefits also is increasing from $105,352 to $126,000.

The increase stems from the anticipated overlap in time when a new manager will be training with Bruce Light, who is planning to retire in the spring.

Commissioners decided to give their seven nonunion employees a 2.5-percent raise next year. Larry Harrison said he preferred a 2-percent increase, which he said was closer to the Consumer Price Index for the Pittsburgh region and the increase awarded to recipients of Social Security payments.

Meanwhile, officials project that the fire tax will generate $253,481 next year. That would be an increase of $11,127, giving each department almost $50,700 from the fund in 2014.

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

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