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Penn Township OKs 1-mill tax hike

| Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

The five fire departments in Penn Township will have a dedicated source of funding now that township commissioners Monday approved a 1-mill tax increase.

The additional revenue — about $242,548 — will be divided evenly between the departments and serve as a consistent source of income for years.

“Any funding that we get from the township is a big help,” Harrison City Volunteer Fire Department Chief Gene Good said after the meeting. “The more time we don't have to fundraise, the more time we have to train.

“Now we know from year to year we're going to get at least this amount.”

Township commissioners had been considering two 2013 budgets — one with the millage increase to provide a dedicated funding stream to the fire departments and a second with no tax increase. The board voted unanimously Monday to approve the $8.1 million 2013 budget with a millage increase, raising the real estate tax rate from 13.7 mills to 14.7 mills.

Each department will receive $48,509.60 from the fire tax, about $8,000 more than in 2012.

An audience full of firefighters applauded the decision, and many of them shook the hands of the commissioners after the meeting.

Township resident and state constable Paul Robinson asked the commissioners during the meeting to establish the fire tax.

“Our first responders have to have the best equipment, the best training, the best backing they can,” Robinson said. “Emergency preparedness is so important.”

Police Chief John Otto commended the board's decision but warned the public that the tax doesn't come close to completely funding the five departments — Claridge, Grandview, Harrison City, Level Green and Paintertown.

Commissioner Paul Wersing said that while the tax doesn't solve the long-term problem, it provides a partial solution to immediate needs of the departments. Wersing is the liaison between township emergency services and the board.

The increase in funding is “not a very big jump,” he said after the meeting, but the supplement could lessen the amount of fundraising needed and increase membership and training opportunities.

In instituting the fire tax, Penn Township joined at least 11 other county municipalities with similar taxes or fees, which range from about half a mill up to 2 mills.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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