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First Glance At Lower Pottsgrove's Budget

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – No real estate tax rate increase. Income almost 22 percent lower than last year. Costs almost 17 percent lower than last year. Balanced by an infusion of cash from earlier surpluses equal to about 6 percent of expenses.

That’s the quick take on Lower Pottsgrove’s tentative 2009 township general fund budget totaling $5,390,850. Barring last-minute changes, the township Board of Commissioners seems to have delivered on its promise earlier this month to avoid raising township taxes. To do so, however, they are taking $320,234 from unreserved funds – essentially the township piggy bank – in an amount $34,811 or 12 percent higher than budgeted this year.

The 2009 township real estate tax rate will remain unchanged from this year at 1.958 mills, or about $1.96 on every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. New this year, however, is the tax cost of money dedicated to the township’s two fire companies, at .34 mills, or 34 cents per $1,000 assessed. On a home in Lower Pottsgrove assessed at $200,000, its owner would pay about $460 in township property taxes under the new budget.

Commissioners also cut deep into some social programs and services they previously felt willing to fund. Township contributions are being halved to the Pottstown Public Library, from $60,000 this year to $30,000 in 2009; to the Sanatoga-based Visiting Nurses Association of Pottstown and Vicinity, from $2,500 to $1,250; to the township Historical Society, from $2,000 to $1,000; and to the Pottstown Area Seniors Center, from $1,750 to $875.

The township’s seemingly finished with open space acquisition too. It budgeted $451,500 for land purchases in 2008, and not a penny next year.

Expenses are down in almost every category except for police protection. Next year Lower Pottsgrove expects to spend $2.173 million, slightly more than 40 percent of all township costs, in its police department. The amount equals $171 per year for every resident, based on township population estimates.

Police department expenses are expected to rise $157,641 next year, or almost 8 percent, due in part to negotiated pay increases for the police chief and patrolmen (estimated at 4.25 percent) and related benefit costs. The department has money to buy one new patrol car next year, not the two requested by Chief Michael Shade, and $10,000 budgeted this year and in 2007 for department improvements is gone in 2009.

On the revenue side, Lower Pottsgrove expects to bring in $1.5 million in earned income tax, up $50,000 from the current year, and $1.18 million in real estate taxes, up $32,000. Previously approved increases in real estate taxes for fire protection will bring in $36,825 more next year than this, and trash collection fees approved in 2007 will reach $290,000 in 2009, almost double this year’s amount.

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