The Forks Township Board of Supervisors Thursday night adopted a 2014 budget that calls for a residential property tax increase of 3/4 mills or 13 percent next year.
The adoption came after a 3-1 vote by the board. This is the first increase to taxpayers since 2009.
Prior to 2009, the yearly Forks property tax increase was two percent, according to township Finance Manager Jim Farley.
The tax hike means for a home with an assessed value of $100,000, the increase for next year would amount to approximately $75.
The budget also calls for two police officer positions not to be refilled due to retirements in addition to the same for a public works job, said Farley.
Farley also commented that the reduction of three township employees is an effort to reduce costs.
The supervisors justified the tax hike in order to recoup for falling behind on capital expenses and improvements.
Farley said the township needs to replace vehicles and equipment and added, “We haven’t replaced anything last year and vehicle costs are astronomical.”
Supervisor Robert Egolf added, “We need new vehicles and equipment to keep things moving. Our managers have trimmed budgets in each of their respective departments.”
Farley and Supervisor Chairman, Erik Chuss, said another tax increase is likely for 2015 since their intent is to reach the township’s seven-year forecasted goal of having the capital budget at $900,000 in order to pay for new vehicles, fire equipment, and road improvements.
Chuss said the township will still be in a deficit despite next year’s tax hike, however, even the township’s five-year financial forecast was “a real eye-opener” for him to support a tax increase in order to bolster the capital fund
Supervisor, Ed Moore, remarked how every township job was thoroughly analyzed for cost effectiveness and he believes the tax increase “puts the township in a better financial position.”
The lone dissenter to the 3/4 mills tax increase was Supervisor Dan Martyak who stated, “I think we gave up and took the easy way out." Martyak feels that the supervisors should be in complete agreement as to the amount of the tax increase.
Martyak said he would have supported a lesser 1/4 mills tax increase and referred to $300.000 currently available in a non-capital fund and another $100, 000 collected in offsite fees from housing developers, both of which could have been added to the capital expenditures fund.
“We’re passing the buck by adding an increase.” he said.