SANATOGA PA – Lower Pottsgrove Township‘s $5.38 million general fund budget for 2013 was approved by only a one-vote margin Thursday night (Dec. 20, 2012), as the five-member Board of Commissioners split 3-2 in polite but nonetheless strong disagreement over funding for fire companies and the Pottstown Regional Public Library, and a labor contract still in negotiation with uniformed officers of its police force.
The divided vote marked the first time during several years in which a township budget did not pass unanimously. Commissioners Jonathan Spadt, James Kaiser and Michael McGroarty favored the spending plan; Bruce Foltz and Stephen Klotz opposed it. Both also had voted against the tentative budget last month.
Property tax rates under next year’s budget remain unchanged, at 2.208 mills or about $2.21 per $1000 of assessed property value. However, the cost of fire protection is rising by 11.5 percent to .58 mills, or about 58 cents per $1,000 of value. On a home assessed at $125,000, considered the township’s average, the combined tax rate of 2.788 mills will cost its owners about $349. It compares to a $341 tax bill for the same house this year.
The fire tax rate supports the capital equipment budgets of the Sanatoga and Ringing Hills volunteer fire companies by providing $343,000 in shared revenue. Original budget drafts included an additional $30,000 in township funding that ultimately was cut from the final plan, irking Klotz and Foltz.
“I didn’t agree with the money being taken from the fire companies,” Klotz explained once the board meeting ended. “I feel we need to support them all we can.” Foltz agreed, but noted the companies’ leadership seemed satisfied with the outcome. “I mean, nobody came and beat down our doors, like we thought they might,” Foltz said. “I just think we could have given them more.”
The pair was unhappy, too, with financial support the township volunteered for the library and the Pottstown Area Seniors Center. As in past years, Lower Pottsgrove will donate $60,000, or about $5 per township resident, to the library, which Foltz and Klotz considered excessive; and $1,750, or about $1.22 for each of its roughly 1,435 residents age 65 and older, which they said was too little.
“I’m all in favor of the library, but I can’t see giving so much less to our seniors,” Foltz said, particularly in light of the center’s recently launched fund-raising efforts to renovate a facility on Moser Road, Pottstown.
Commissioners have tried in previous years to reduce their library support by half. That was met by overwhelming taxpayer opposition, primarily among families whose children use the library for research and study.
The lack of a signed police contract also concerned Klotz. “We don’t know yet how much that’s really going to cost,” he contended. Although the budget includes estimates for police raises and health care costs, money for expenses that exceed those sums would likely come from township savings. Balancing the budget already relies on $424,907 to be pulled from Lower Pottsgrove’s unreserved funds.
Spadt announced the board had conducted an executive session by telephone last Wednesday (Dec. 12) to discuss items related to the contract. No decisions were made or actions taken following it, he added.
Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ Dec. 20 meeting):
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