Elizabeth Township proposes real estate tax

By on November 14, 2018

Elizabeth is one of only four municipalities in the county without a real estate tax

Elizabeth Township could be removed from the final four list of Lancaster County municipalities without a local real estate tax.

The board of supervisors on Monday proposed a 2019 budget which includes a 0.5 mil real estate tax that amounts to a $100 tax on a property assessed at $200,000.

It is the first time in about 30 years that the township proposed a real estate tax, said Brian Wiker, board chair.

“We’re stagnant in population growth,” Wiker said at Monday’s monthly board meeting.

He said the local cut of a 1 percent earned income tax — split evenly by the township and Warwick School District — has also not kept up with costs.

“We’ve seen very small increases over the past ten years. The earned income tax is not increasing enough to keep up with increasing expenses.”

Projected revenue for 2019 is $738,850, while expenses fall in the $1.1 million range. That is a gap of more than $360,000.

Though Elizabeth Township currently has investment revenues of nearly $1 million, the deficits are a problem going forward, Wiker said.

“The past five years have been draining our account,” he said, referring to the need to dip into savings to balance the budget.

“The inevitability of a tax is with us,” said Township Manager Loren Miller who estimated that a half- to one-mill tax is needed to stay afloat.

After almost an hour of discussion, supervisors agreed to propose a 0.5 mil real estate tax and to advertise the proposed 2019 budget, without any changes from the version developed in October and presented at the November 12 meeting.

The board will vote on final approval at the Dec. 10 supervisors meeting. The tax would be collected by Lancaster County, along with the county tax, at a cost to the township of $0.75 per property. Miller said that he could not administer the collection for that price; “They’re very efficient.”

Elizabeth Township, a Second-Class township, relies on Pennsylvania State Police for coverage and does not budget or pay a fee for services.

A few residents, including Brickerville Fire Chief Dennis Strauss and Nevin May, are in favor of a designated tax, such as a fire tax or police tax.

“You can’t steal from it to put it somewhere else,” Strauss said.

Supervisors reminded those in attendance that recently reelected Gov. Wolfe is in favor of charging municipalities without local police coverage for State Police coverage. Elizabeth Township supervisors believe that residents would be charged for police coverage without receiving an increase in services.

Resident Dave Snavely asked if municipalities can enact a police tax.

Miller said that the Second Class Township Code does not regulate the millage for a police tax because the cost of police coverage is very wide-ranging. Elizabeth Township is

Supervisor Jeff Burkholder, who is in favor of a 1.5 mil tax, said the board “don’t want to have a natural disaster that destroys our roads and be caught unprepared.”

He alluded to the storm this summer that significantly damaged Route 322 in the township. Because 322 is a state-owned road, PennDOT was responsible for those repairs.

Although supervisors discussed other methods of increasing revenue, including instituting an Emergency Services Tax or a stormwater management tax, in the end they agreed to advertise the budget with the proposed 0.5 real estate tax.

Most neighboring municipalities charge those who work in their townships and boroughs the maximum allowed, $52 per year, for emergency services. Supervisor Rodney May noted that many municipalities in Lebanon County have instituted a “rain tax” or a “roof tax” based on the number of square feet of impermeable surface area on a property that might contribute to storm water runoff problems.

Resident Andrew Provosnik encouraged supervisors to consider cutting costs rather than raising taxes to produce revenues.

He revisited a discussion mentioned last month’s meeting about a proposed $4,500 expense for security cameras “to avoid the inconvenience of having to go to the door to see who’s coming in.”

Wiker explained that the cameras were not just a matter of convenience but rather a matter of safety. “You want more than three seconds to know whether the person coming in the back door is someone who’s happy to see you, or not.”

Other expenses discussed included $215,000 for a truck wash bay. Road Superintendent Glenn Martin said that, after spreading salt on the roads, the Department of Environmental Protection is requiring that the runoff from washing the salty vehicles be collected, and that dissolved solids and oils be separated and treated before being discharged. Wash water cannot just run down the driveway.

Wiker sees the benefit of not allowing the salty, greasy, oily water to run into areas where residents get their drinking water. Most of Elizabeth Township homes are served by private, on-lot water wells.

The township is currently the only municipality in northern Lancaster County that is under a five-year waiver of the requirement to contain all storm water runoff from its property. The supervisors doubt that another waiver, deferring the deadline to implement storm water controls, will be granted.

Discussion included the benefits and liabilities of waiting to implement storm water controls because costs increase as time goes by.

Anther big budget expense discussed for possible deferral was $100,000 for a backhoe. The 2004 backhoe is the main workhorse of the township. As the equipment ages, more maintenance is required and sometimes parts become difficult to find. This purchase, too, was kept in the proposed budget.

One more major expense, a four-door F-150 pickup truck, was also discussed for possible cutting from the 2019 spending plan. Wiker noted that a truck purchase was in the 2018 budget, but that purchase was not made.

“We do nothing here fast,” Martin said. He said repairs to the garage were needed five years ago, but only made this year. Plans for the truck wash bay were started two years ago, but have not been completed.

Martin also mentioned that the Township’s smaller dump truck was “in the shop for two weeks” recently, causing the road crew to have to drive a large dump truck to the hardware store and to Lancaster for business.

“You keep kickin’ (a pickup truck purchase) down the road and (the list of needed purchases) just keeps snowballing,” Martin said.

The pickup purchase was left in the 2019 proposed budget.

Another big budget item discussed as possibilities for deferral or even elimination from the 2019 spending plan included $37,000 for updated computer software. The supervisors could not see the benefit in deferring this purchase from the third quarter of 2019 until the first quarter of 2020, so the line item was not changed.

In Other Business, Road Superintendent Glenn Martin reported recent repairs to Loop Road, Fox Road, Laurel Drive, Seglock Road, Long Lane and Yummerdall Road.

Preliminary grading for the new Tot Lot playground at the municipal building is complete and equipment is being set. The restrooms at Elizabeth Township Park have been closed for the winter, and a porta-potty is in place. Martin and Miller recently attended an MS4 workshop and found the steps other municipalities are taking to control storm water “very eye-opening”.

  • The Brickerville Fire Company responded to 9 incidents in October. Northwest Regional Ambulance answered 18 calls in September and 25 in October.
  • The next meeting of the Elizabeth Township Supervisors will be on Monday, December 10, at 7:00 p.m. at the municipal building.

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