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Real estate tax hike to help fund Brentwood projects

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The median homeowner in Brentwood could be asked to pay $17 more a month in real-estate taxes in 2014 to help fund capital-improvement projects.

An early draft of next year's spending plan includes a proposed 2.5-mill tax increase — from 7.5 to 10 mills — in the $7 million general fund budget to help finance road improvement projects, storm system management, police and public works vehicle replacements and architect services for a municipal building overhaul project, borough manager George Zboyovsky said.

“It's about planning for the future,” he said. “This council, they are willing to make the hard decisions and plan for the future.”

Council members are set to vote on the preliminary budget on Nov. 26, with the final budget passage set for Dec. 10.

One mill in Brentwood brings in about $400,000. A 2.5-mill tax increase, then, would bring in an additional $900,000 to the borough in 2014. The median home in Brentwood is assessed at $80,000.

The money would be placed into the borough's capital improvement plan that was created in 2008 and launched in 2009, Zboyovsky said. The separate fund is used for ongoing projects or purchases required annually, such as road improvements and purchasing of vehicles.

During strategic planning meetings held to formulate plans for Brentwood's future, lists were drafted for what officials “must do,” “should do,” and “could do,” Zboyovsky said.

Officials determined they “should do” a road-improvement program, in which they would plan to spend $700,000 annually starting next year on paving borough streets, the manager said. This year, more than $800,000 was spent to pave a portion of Brownsville Road and Hillson Avenue.

In 2008, borough officials used the remainder of a $4 million bond that was taken out for capital improvements, Zboyovsky said. Since then, until this year, the only way that borough streets were paved was if the town received a grant to finance the project, he said.

The capital improvement plan includes a $400,000 annual debt payment for the bond.

“We're still playing catch up,” Zboyovsky said.

A rotation also was created for the purchase of new police vehicles, Zboyovsky said. Starting this year, one will be purchased a year at a roughly $40,000 expenditure.

The $2.5 million capital improvement plan also includes funding for a storm water maintenance program to be started in 2014.

The program would include the televising and mapping of the borough's storm water system, similar to what already has been done for the sanitary sewer systems due to mandated consent decrees. Then, a maintenance program would be created in an effort to fix the damaged pipping before collapses occur, Zboyovsky said.

A storm-water pipe collapse on Route 51 in 2010 cost the borough an unanticipated $80,000 in repairs, the borough manager said.

Officials have budgeted $132,000 for the storm water system program for 2014.

The plan also includes $225,000 for architectural services for the renovation of the borough building or construction of a new one, Zboyovsky said.

Changes in the general fund could include between a 10 and 30 percent increase in health insurance rates next year, he said. Zboyovsky said he budgeted a jump from $300,000 to $404,000 between 2013 and 2014.

Brentwood ended 2012 with a $2 million fund balance, Zboyovsky said. That money allowed the borough to not take out a tax anticipation note in 2013.

Officials plan to continue that trend in 2014, Zboyovsky said. An earlier due date for real estate taxes also will help officials to avoid the needed loan, he said.

Having the needed infrastructure to keep the borough moving forward is important, Zboyovsky said.

“Brentwood takes pride in its identity,” he said.

The 1.4-square-mile borough with about 9,600 residents has its own school district, police department, public works crew, a “state-of-the-art park” and a stadium owned by the municipality, Zboyovsky said. Also, the borough contributes half a mill — or about $200,000 a year — to the Brentwood Public Library, he said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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