Elizabeth Twp. residents react to tax hike

By on December 12, 2018

Elizabeth Township’s imposition of a 0.5 mil real estate tax brought out about a dozen residents to the Dec.10 Board of Supervisors meeting.

The township has not had a real estate tax since the early 1980s. One-half mil works out to $100 on a house assessed at $200,000. Resident Barry Lieberman said that the half-mill tax is “very detrimental to grandma trying to stay in her house.”

He mentioned the township’s large cash reserve. “At the end of October, there was 1.2 million in the savings accounts.”

Supervisor Chairman Brian Wiker explained. “For the last five or six years, we’ve spent more than we brought in. Our revenue is not increasing; we’re a stagnant township with no growth. I’d rather start (generating income) now than wait until we need a large tax. I do agree that we need to look at options to increase revenue without burdening residents. Lieberman said that he thinks a flat tax would be fairer.

Lieberman also questioned some proposed budget expenses, including $37,000 for computer upgrades. Township Manager Loren Miller and assistant secretary Rita Snavely explained that the township has been using the same software service for about 30 years. It is coming to the point that support may no longer be available.

The new program is specific to municipal government, and will allow “everything to be tied together,” Miller said. Additionally, the program will have many new features that will allow the township to discontinue some current auxiliary services, saving a number of monthly fees.

Resident Anita Barr said, “We don’t want streetlights, sidewalks and parks. If I wanted those things, I’d move to a town.” She suggested that a head tax, perhaps $25 for each person over age 18, would be fairer than the proposed real estate tax. Both Lieberman and Barr questioned the need for a proposed $210,000 truck wash bay. Barr said that there are commercial businesses in the county that do not have truck wash facilities on their properties because the facilities are too expensive. Their trucks are washed at commercial facilities.

Supervisor Jeff Burkholder called the wash bay project an “unfunded mandate” from the state. The Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System requires that water runoff be contained.
Miller explained that rain water as well as recycled wash water will be used to wash the trucks, and that grease, oils and salt will be contained and treated properly. Road Superintendent Glenn Martin said that it didn’t make sense to take the township’s trucks “into Lititz to wash.” Workers would have to remove and possibly re-install chains, drive to the truck wash facility and back getting “the trucks slopped up again”, and not be able to raise the dump bed to wash it out completely.

Residents Ray Kilgore and Candi Dirian also voiced the sentiment that they would rather pay a little more in taxes to keep the rural nature of the township. Kilgore would “rather pay a little more tax than have development.”

Dirian asked the supervisors to “keep us below the (population) line where we need public water and sewer.” Miller explained that there are about 1,500 households in the township. “Any expense gets divided by 1,500. If the numbers don’t change, each share gets larger” as expenses go up but population does not.

Tom Moyer, chairman of the Elizabeth Township Park Board, noted that there are a number of large, one-time expenses in the proposed 2019 budget, and that there will only be $700,000 in reserve after his year (2018). He understands that the proposed tax will be a burden to some. Martin said, “We are lucky that the rain this year only took out Penn DOT bridges. Three bridges gone, at a quarter-million (dollars) a bridge, would wipe out our savings.”

As the discussion wrapped up, Supervisor Rodney May said, “I don’t like a real estate tax. It’s a burden on low-income people.” May prefers an earned income tax, but state laws need to be changed to allow municipalities to impose that tax. He suggested that residents contact their state representatives “to change that.” The Elizabeth Township Supervisors unanimously passed a motion to adopt the final 2019 general, state, and park and recreation account budgets as advertised.

In other business, Matt Knepper of the Susquehanna Area Mountain Bike Association is concerned that access to the only mountain bike trail in Lancaster County might become restricted. The trail is owned by the Boy Scouts of America and is located in Camp Mack in Elizabeth Township. Knepper told the supervisors that he has been riding bikes on the trail for thirty years and is afraid that a rumored sale of the land might cause bikers to be disallowed there. Knepper believes that the PA Game Commission is a possible buyer for the property. Bikes are not allowed on Game Commission property.

Another audience member who said she is acquainted with the situation, said that the scouts are not planning to sell the property to the Game Commission, but might be negotiating management of the property with the Nature Conservancy. Either way, Knepper requested a letter from the supervisors to all concerned parties asking that all users of the property be considered before any final decisions are made.

Also, Linford Youndt told the supervisors that rainwater runoff from Acorn Lane, a private road, runs across the front of his property and leaves stones and mud at the end of his driveway. “The catch basin at the end of Acorn fills up with mud and stones. Then the water goes across the front of my property along Long Lane, and then across to the farm field.” Youndt has lived in his house for twelve years, and says he has been shoveling mud and stones for that amount of time.

“Why can’t you put a pipe under the road and let the water run into the field in the grassy area? I’m looking for an explanation why the simple solution I’m offering can’t be adopted,” Youndt said.
Road Superintendent Glenn Martin said the township “can’t put water onto someone’s property.” He talked to the farmer previously, and he would want permanent stone, like rip-rap, where the water would enter his property. The township is concerned that the maintenance of the water control system will become a liability in the future.

Wiker asked Martin if Long Lane is on the list of roads to be paved in the near future. Martin thinks it is on the list for 2021. Martin suggested that a macadam curb along the side of the road might keep the water on the road rather than cutting a gully along the shoulder, which is where the mud and stones are coming from. Youndt agreed that the curb might help.

In other business, supervisors approved a motion to grant a waiver of land development for New Haven Mennonite School on Crest Road. The school proposes to remove a modular classroom and make a traditional addition to the building.

The school has moved from serving students in grades K-12 to only educating students in grades K-8. The proposed addition will allow more space for the students; the school is not anticipating an increase in enrollment.

As school representatives stood to leave the meeting, Martin made a plea. “Please request your parents to slow down! We’ve had a number of complaints about people driving erratically during school traffic hours.”

The school representatives said they would pass on the advice.

In other business:
• Road Superintendent Glenn Martin reported that the extra snow plow was sold to a township in Mifflin County. Work on the Tot-Lot playground beside the municipal building continues.
• Timothy Diehm was reappointed to the Vacancy Board for 2019.
• Kenneth L. Weaver was reappointed to a three-year term on the Zoning Hearing Board.
• Michael Miller was reappointed as alternate member of the Zoning Hearing Board for 2019.
• Todd Miller was reappointed to a four-year term on the planning commission.
• The Brickerville Fire Company responded to nine incidents and the Fire Police responded to six calls in November. Northwest Regional Ambulance answered 22 calls in November.
• The Elizabeth Township Planning Commission will meet on Jan. 2, 2019, at 7:00 p.m. at the municipal building.
• The Elizabeth Township Park Board will meet on Jan. 3, 2019, at 7 p.m. at the municipal building.
• The Elizabeth Township Supervisors will meet on Jan. 7, 2019, at 7 p.m. at the municipal building.
• The Elizabeth Township Board of Auditors will meet for reorganization on Jan. 8, 2019, at 7 p.m. at the municipal building.
More information is available at elizabethtownship.net and on the Elizabeth Township, Lancaster County, PA Facebook page.

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