Trappe Borough Council voted to impose a real estate tax upon residents next year, tentatively through 2017 and beyond, at its special budget meeting on Nov. 9.
The council voted on the $95,000 real estate tax to fund a number of projects, which Borough Council President Fred Schuetz believes will result in a tax of roughly .47 mills.
According to the Trappe website, the municipal real esate tax was eliminated by Borough Council in 2005.
The budget shortfall resulted from increasing road improvement costs and necessary storm water repairs, according to some members of the board.
"A year ago we were thinking $400,000, then $600,000, now $700,000," Council Member and Finance Committee Chair Nevin Scholl said of the Borough Line Road improvements for 2013.
Scholl also said that $500,000 must be budgeted for storm water repairs in the borough over the next five years.
Debates arose on how to deal with the extra expenditures and other projects, primarily between Council Member Paul Edwards and Scholl.
"I drive with a minimum of a quarter tank of gas in my car - some people drive on empty," Edwards said of the borough's lean budget, "I don't like driving with an eighth of a tank. I would rather see the borough with a quarter of a tank and make sure we're OK."
"[Adding to] the budget doesn't put more gas in the tank," said Scholl. "It comes from other sources."
Scholl listed a number of cost-saving measures, some of which Edwards and other council members were uncomfortable with, including delaying one year of road improvements and requesting that the repaving of borough hall sidewalks be moved to 2015.
"We run so lean that we can't do the things that need to be done," said Edwards.
The board compromised by moving the repaving of borough hall sidewalks, an expected $60,000 project, to 2014. All road projects will continue as planned through 2017.
The council also debated the future of the Trappe Fire Co., which is in need of a new building.
Scholl said that, until there is a definitive plan from the fire company on what is needed when, the allotted $37,000 contribution from the borough to the fire company shouldn't change.
"I have a ten-year-old and a three-year-old, and I have no idea what college is going to cost - but I'm saving for it," said council member Marshall Stomel, who along with Edwards local about save more for the fire company.
Trappe Fire Co. Chief Brian Long was in attendance at the meeting, and was willing to work with the borough.
"The sooner the better," Long said when asked about the fire company's need for a new building. "However, we are realistic."
The board compromised by offering funds to help the fire company to pay for the institution of a professional capital campaign.
IMPOSING THE TAX
After discussing specific projects, talk turned to raising taxes, and eventually to blame.
"I have a problem when we start smacking people in the head with a tax that's three times what they're used to," said Edwards, referencing the sudden tax jump. "We saw that our future was looking grim but we didn't do anything about it - and now all of the sudden it's time to jump."
Edwards blamed Scholl on the sudden increase, preferring smaller tax increases on a regular basis, as costs increase.
"I could see from years back that we were headed in that direction," said Edwards of Scholl's financial style. "You don't like to make any changes or moves until you have a definite numbers and then you react from them."
Other than defending the sudden increase due to storm water and road work expenditures, Scholl said he believed that members of the board would find other ways to spend extra borough income, had a tax been implemented sooner.
Council member Cathy Johnson said that, while she understood Edwards's thought process, she believed that taxing should only be done as necessary.
"I would rather say 'here we are, we need an extra $100,000 so we have to impose this tax'," said Johnson. "I don't want to see the tiny little jumps every year just because."
Council agreed to review the numbers at the end of the year and reasess the tax.
"Hopefully the $700,000 will be less, hopefully savings on trash will be more," said Stomel. "Hopefully we can reduce or eliminate. But looking back on the past, all the years we didin't have [the tax]...we've got to plan for the future."
"I think the public needs to understand that we can't continue to provide all of these services and survive without everybody pitching in," said Edwards.
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- Trappe Borough: Possible Trash Collection Fee