Lower Pottsgrove OKs 2021 No-Tax-Hike Budget, Bond Sale

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – Property owners in Lower Pottsgrove will see no change in their township tax bill for 2021, as the Board of Commissioners on Thursday night (Dec. 17, 2021) approved next year’s general fund budget of $6.72 million with no tax increase. Separately, they also authorized the sale of general obligation bonds to borrow $9 million to build the township’s proposed municipal campus.

To balance its books and cover an anticipated budget deficit, the township will take $203,893 from its savings to avoid raising taxes.

Commissioner Robert Mohollen, of the board budget committee, earlier noted the sum taken from reserves is the smallest amount relied on in recent years. During the four-year period since 2017, the board has tapped reserves for between a low of $288,235 and high of $337,443. The smaller 2021 amount represented “significant” cost-cutting and continued financial management, he said.

As a result, township taxes in 2021 for owners of an “average” residence valued at $125,000 will amount to $338.50, unchanged from the current year. The total assessed value of real estate in the township is reported to be more than $619 million.

The tax rate also remains unchanged at 3.86 mils, of which 2.7 mils are dedicated to the general fund, .66 mil for fire company support, and .5 mil for the township capital fund. Each mil generates about $600,000 in township tax revenue, Manager Ed Wagner explained.

In addition to real estate taxes, budget documents show property owners will be responsible for a local services tax of $52 per person; an annual trash fee of $160, to be billed separately only once a year; and a quarterly sewer rate rent charge of $136, or an annual total of $544.

One item some property owners will no longer pay taxes for is the township Light Fund. Those who had a street light on their property previously were charged a tax to maintain it. That’s been eliminated, Wagner said, thanks to savings the township began earning when it switched out its old street lights for modern, brighter-burning LED models.

Capital projects’ bond sale

A sale of general obligation municipal bonds intended to bring in $9 million for township capital projects – chief among them, the proposed $8.2 million construction of a joint administration and police building at the corner of East High Street and South Pleasant View Road – was approved in a 4-1 board vote. Commissioner Michael McGroarty dissented.

McGroarty explained, as he has in the past, that he was uncomfortable with and opposed the building’s cost. He added he had no objection to using the bond offering as a means to finance the project.

The bond sale also is expected to cover the township’s 20-percent portion of expenses, representing $221,800, to replace the obsolete Pruss Hill Road bridge. Montgomery County will pay for the remaining 80 percent. Equipment purchases for the Public Works and Police departments also will be covered, according to an earlier township legal advertisement.

The bridge replacement has travel-related implications that affect populations beyond the township borders. Pruss Hill Road is one leg of a journey between municipalities farther west and the Sanatoga interchange of U.S. Route 422. Improving traffic flow there by replacing the bridge, and eliminating the current vehicular-stop-and-go now required by bridge weight limitations, will speed movement along the road.

Township financial consultant Jamie Schlesinger advised the bonds probably would be offered for purchase during the second week of January. In the interim, he and others at PFM Financial Advisors LLC will be working with underwriting firm Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia to identify possible buyers in the market and to update an interest rate analysis.

The bonds are anticipated to carry a “very strong” interest rate of between 2 and 2-1/2 percent, Schlesinger said. Within five years, he added, Lower Pottsgrove might consider refinancing at an even lower rate.

Graphic by The Post