New Castle News

November 30, 2012

Neshannock faces sewer rate hike, but no tax increase

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The Neshannock Township supervisors have proposed a $7,041,508 budget with no tax increase for 2013.

However, residents can expect a $14-per-month sewer rate hike beginning Jan. 1.

This will bump the basic monthly sewer bill —now $32.65 — to $46.65. The additional revenue paid by the township’s 3,350 public sewer users is expected to make up an anticipated $526,000 shortfall in the sewer department.

Following the meeting, chairman Ralph Sheen said the sewer rate increase is overdue. He added an increase has been discussed for several years but not acted upon until now.

Property tax in the township remains at 1.90 mills. The proposed budget, which will be on display at the municipal building for 20 days, splits the revenue at 1.48 mills for general purposes and 0.42 mills for debt service.

However, between now and when the budget is adopted Dec. 19, millage may be reallocated within the spending plan.

If the changes are incorporated, tax millage would remain the same — 1.90 mills — but would be portioned out at the rate of 0.45 mills for the fire tax, 0.10 mills for the revolving fund tax, 0.93 mills for general purposes, and 0.42 mills for debt service.

Last year, the supervisors merged the fire tax, formerly collected for use by the volunteer fire department, into the general fund budget. They also eliminated the revolving fund, which is used for permanent public improvements, including sewer work and roads. These funds also were merged into the general fund. If it occurs, the change will separate the two funds again.

The budget also includes a light tax which remains at 35 cents per foot on front footage for occupied land and 15 cents per foot for front footage on vacant lots.

The $7 million proposed budget — $639.90 less than the current year’s — was introduced on a 2-1 vote. Sheen and Ed Stevens voted to introduce it; Joe Gierlach was opposed.

Stevens noted the proposal is a balanced budget and that for the third consecutive year, township millage has not been raised.

Gierlach said he wanted additional information included in the budget proposal. This included the sewer rate increase and an explanation on the reallocation of tax revenues, being considered by the supervisors. He was told that was not necessary because those changes are options the supervisors may consider.

Township secretary/treasurer Leslie Bucci also noted the budget includes a statement that $225,000 plus $65,412 interest is owed to the sewer department from the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp. for engineering costs associated with the Millennium Park sewer project.

If collected, these funds will be payable to the capital expenditure and bond redemption fund.

In addition, the budget statement notes that construction of the Millennium sewer is complete but the municipality is owed $3,595,773, the cost of rebidding the contract to complete the project plus $385,000 for additional engineering work.

These expenses were incurred because of the default of a contractor. The budget statement noted this delayed the project and added $3,980,773 to the cost of the sewer project.

The supervisors are pursuing these costs through litigation against the defaulted contractor and its bonding company.