Bethlehem Township-No tax increase, but sewer increase
There’s good news and bad news from Bethlehem Township. The good news is it’s increasingly likely that there will be no tax hike in Bethlehem Township next year. At their Nov. 21 meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to advertise a 2017 budget that will keep the same 7.09 millage rate that was imposed for this year. The bad news is that, at the same meeting, they also approved a rate increase in the quarterly sewer bill that will cause a small increase for some.
In next year’s budget, the township will spend more money than it receives receive in taxes and other revenue. This will create a structural deficit, which will be made up by taking it from the general fund. That will drop from $2.5 million to $1.8 million at year’s end.
A 7.09 millage rate means that a home assessed at $100,000 will receive a $709 tax bill.
Though no tax hike is planned, resident Roy Roth told commissioners that Hanover Township has been able to go nine years without a tax hike. He said one of the reasons for this is that Hanover refuses to include grants in its budget because they are always uncertain. Tom Nolan told Roth that the township is now putting money aside for major capital items like fire trucks.
The reason for the rate hike in the sewer bill is because Bethlehem, which handles the township’s sewage system, gave notice in October that it was increasing its rate by 6.5 percent.
Finance Director Andrew Freda took an innovative approach that will spare most residents that will pass along the rate hike, but in a way that spares most residents.
Currently, ratepayers pay $52.50 per quarter, so long as they use 6,000 gallons or less. If they use more, the rate is 0.0069 per gallon.
Under the new rate structure, customers who use 6,000 gallons or less will continue paying the same $52.50 they pay now. But those who use more will see an increase of 0.00707 per gallon above the 6,000 gallons.
“We have a lot of residents in the township that use far less than 6,000 gallons,” said Michael Hudak. “We wanted to make sure there was no increase on their end.” Malissa Davis added that the increase only applies to usage above 6,000 gallons.
The rate increase will go into effect in the second quarter in the second quarter of the year.
Freda added that ratepayers will be able to pay their sewer bills online. No registration is required, and customers can ask for email reminders or even enroll in auto-pay or pay-by-text.
In other business, commissioners authorized a $109,715 payment to TandM Associates as it attempts to survey its storm water problem.”That is our first foot in the door,” said Hudak. They also approved a $5,442.50 to RGC Development for a backflow preventer on athletic fields referred to as the North Forty. Kim Jenkins noted that the Bulldogs, a youth sports association, has volunteered to pay half of that bill.
Finally, Commissioners are considering a smoking ban near the community center. That is a fitness facility with numerous types of aerobic equipment, an indoor track, exercise machines, free weights and a natatorium. Children make extensive use of the indoor basketball courts. But when they walk in or out, they often must go past smokers right outside the entrance. Assistant Director of Public Works Richard Kanaskie, in a memo to commissioners, complained that “this creates a very unpleasant environment for people entering or exiting the building.”
Nolan suggested that the Township ban smoking within 30 feet of the community center and outdoor pool. Mike Hudak agreed, but proposed a designated smoking area and receptacle for members who do smoke.
“I think it’s ironic that people go to exercise at the community center, and have to puff away,” said Nolan.
Manager Melissa Shafer stated that she would reach out to Jackie Gilligan at the Community Center, and establish a policy proposal for action by commissioners.