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Commissioners hold tax line for sixth consecutive year

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Dec 16 2013 10:20:42 PM CST
BETHLEHEM TWP., Pa. -

For the sixth consecutive year, property owners in one Northampton County township will be paying the same in taxes. 

Bethlehem Township commissioners unanimously adopted a 2014 budget of $14.7 million Monday night, keeping in place the property tax rate of 5.99 mills, which was set in 2009.

All township fees also will remain the same in 2014.

The spending plan includes money for two new positions:a planning director, who will earn about $85,000 a year and a finance clerk who will make about $35,000 a year, according to acting township manager Doug Bruce.

The planning director's duties were handled by recently-departed township manager Howard Kutzler, said Bruce, adding, "It's going to take two people to replace him."

The township is still looking for a manager to succeed Kutzler, who became director of administration for South Whitehall Township, Lehigh Co., on Nov. 1.

Kutzler served three years as Bethlehem Township manager and a decade as its director of planning, commissioners' chairman, Paul Weiss said. 

On Monday night, the commissioners approved a deferred pension benefit for Kutzler, who will be eligible for a lifetime monthly benefit of $2,232.45, beginning in February 2027.

The commissioners also signed off on a lifetime monthly deferred pension benefit of $642.78 for former township fire marshal Stephen Gallagher, who served the township for 10 years, before becoming fire commissioner in neighboring Palmer Township in November. Gallagher can start collecting in August 2038.

The commissioners were informed Monday night they have a new vacancy to fill, the volunteer position of emergency management coordinator.

Township solicitor, James Broughal, said long-time coordinator Tim Brady, has submitted a letter of resignation.

Broughal also said that the commissioners need to recommend a replacement to the governor, who will make the appointment on his own, if no recommendation is forthcoming.

Commissioners' chairman Weiss could not say how long Brady had served in the unpaid position. But one township resident estimated Brady's been in the job since the late 1970s.

The commissioners agreed to accept $85,743 from the Housenick Memorial Foundation earmarked for design and survey work on the restoration of the mansion at Housenick Park.

The money will be deposited in an escrow account, Broughal said.