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Balancing act No tax increase for borough residents in 2013 Also, council baffled by lack of public support for volunteer fire company
By: GARY P. KLINGER Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer
While things remain uncertain with the U.S. economy, one thing remains certainly clear — tax rates for Lititz residents.
The good news was announced at Tuesday evening’s meeting of Lititz Borough Council as it voted to set the 2013 real estate tax millage rate at 2.1 mills, unchanged from the 2012 budget. This would equate to $210 per $100,000 of assessed real estate value.
The move was made in concert with a resolution to advertise the 2013 municipal budget. With that motion approved, the budget will now be available for the public to review in advance of the December council meeting, when the final budget will be approved.
Council also adopted four other resolutions setting other tax rates for the community.
The Earned Income Tax rate is set at half of a percent. The Per Capita Tax for all residents 18 and older is set at $10, while the Occupation Tax will be $10. The realty transfer tax has been set at half of one percent.
According to chairman of the subcommittee on finances, Kevin Zartman, each of the rates adopted were exactly the same rates for fiscal year 2012.
"We cut everywhere we could in order to hold tax rates down," he said. "It was not easy, but we did it."
The main challenge to a balanced budget was in meeting the ever-increasing challenges over health care costs and pensions.
"By far the greatest portion of the budget goes to personnel costs, from pensions and health care costs," added council member Shane Weaver. "The real estate taxes are $210 per $100,000 in property value. We are still the second lowest rate in Lancaster County, and only second by a fraction of a fraction."
Last year, taxes went up for the first time since 2006. This week, council members breathed a collective sigh of relief knowing the hike wouldn’t become a trend.
In other Tuesday night business, council discussed the disappointing reports regarding the fire company’s fundraising results this year. Council member Doug Bomberger said he had personally looked into complaints that checks sent to the Lititz Fire Company were not clearing the bank fast enough, and that in some cases residents were receiving a second request. He reported that he personally saw the system for processing donations made by check and is convinced they were being processed as quickly as possible.
Nonetheless, there is concern that in addition to the countless hours of training local volunteer firefighters must complete in order to serve the community, members are also expected to be expert fundraisers.
Bomberger added the occasional mention of imposing a fire tax in the community to support local fire fighting efforts.
"Personally, I’m opposed to it," said Bomberger. "And it is not that this year’s effort was a complete failure; however, our firemen are not to be professional fundraisers, either."
One idea Bomberger discussed was the possibility of looking to some of the residents that may have supported the fire company in the past, and ask them to serve as block captains. Under this plan, those block captains could then be asked to help corral the donations of their neighborhood.
"If these block captains could then take that one extra step to reach out to their neighbors for contributions it may help," Bomberger said. "We are just missing so many people. I realize people don’t have the money, but if everyone could contribute something it would make a huge difference. I can understand that the fire company is very frustrated."
Council president Karen Weibel pointed out that this is the first year for a dedicated fundraising person. She added that to assume it would be a success the first year would be an error.
"It takes consistent building and consistent connections with people," she explained.
"That’s key; the connection with the people," he said. "You can’t simply send out a mailer."
Another idea suggested by Bomberger involves soliciting support for the fire company within the quarterly borough water bills.
"My concern is, why not then also do the same for the library or ambulance," council member Scott Hain said.
Bomberger responded by reminding council that the borough has a responsibility to provide fire service, but not so with the library and other organizations.
Council was in agreement that with WESA (Warwick Emergency Services Alliance) looking to hire its first full-time coordinator, local emergency groups might benefit from a changed approach to raising critical support. One key responsibility of the new coordinator would be to work with all WESA member organizations to coordinate fundraising activities, with a goal being to increase donations without having to raise funds through a fire tax.
Discussion will continue. More BOROUGH COUNCIL, page A17