No lost revenue; property tax hike likely

John Ruehle of Philip Weiner and Company, seated at table, reports on the 2018 audit to Shenango Township officials. From left are Shenango supervisors Frank Augustine, Brandon Rishel and Albert Burick III, and solicitor Lou Perrotta.

Shenango Township might pull the plug on its light tax.

The municipality’s per capita tax also could be headed for repeal.

Supervisors discussed their intention to eliminate both revenue sources at Thursday’s monthly meeting, and to replace them with a bump in property taxes. The moves are scheduled for action at their Dec. 12 meeting.

Under existing policy, when the township erects lights at intersections and along roadways, the property owners in that vicinity pay a light tax to cover the costs.

“The light benefits everybody in the community,” supervisor Brandon Rishel said. “But just a handful of people that have lights are paying for the (Route) 65 corridor, the (Route) 422 corridor and the different things that are out there. If it’s the burden of the entire group, then it lessens the cost for everybody.”

And there is still more light work to do, Rishel said.

“We’ve also talked about being able to have the money to expand, to try to get every single intersection that has stop signs to have street lighting,” he said.

Supervisor Albert Burick III added that the light tax prevents the township from erecting lighting wherever it sees a need.

“We have to petition all the property owners, and they have to agree to pay that higher tax to put that light up,” he said. “So if we get rid of the light tax, then we could put up lights without having to do that.”

Rishel explained that with the light tax gone, the township would adjust the millage of its property tax to make up the difference. The tax provides about $16,000 in annual revenue.

Resident Larry Frederick asked how the township would decide where to place lights under the change in policy.

“I have the intentions over a duration of time to light up every stop sign in Shenango Township,” Rishel said. “That would not be done in a single year, it probably wouldn’t be done in four years because that’s a huge burden and a huge expense. We would have to work within the limitations of our budget. We would prioritize the most dangerous intersections that we have, and then we would work backwards from there.”

Revenue forfeited by a repeal of the township’s per capita tax also would be recouped in the form of a property tax bump, Rishel said. The per capita tax only generates about $20,000.

“So when you divide that out, it’s very, very small,” he said.

Supervisor chairman Frank Augustine noted that paperwork associated with the per capita tax is extensive. Assistant treasurer Mary Gay called it “a very, very high maintenance thing” as the township frequently is not aware of people who have either moved out of or into the township.

Rishel also noted that adult children still living in their parents’ home often don’t realize that they have to pay the per capita tax, and they end up paying a penalty fee for a tax they didn’t know about.

“The collection fee certainly overcomes what the benefit is to the community,” Rishel said. “So definitely, the per capita tax makes no sense to me.”

One thing that won’t be going away, however, is the township’s current garbage and recycling service. Officials had been considering a change, but their research has dissuaded them from making a move.

“It’s not cost-efficient. It’s not beneficial to make any changes to it,” Rishel said.

The supervisors also:

•Heard a summary of the 2018 audit from John Ruehle of Philip Weiner and Co. Ruehle called the findings “a clean report” and the township “fiscally solvent.”

•Encouraged residents to attend the Christmas tree lighting from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the municipal building. The event not only will include the initial illumination of the township tree and other holiday decorations, but also Christmas carols by the Shenango High chamber choir, hot chocolate and cookies, a disc jockey, a collection of toys for needy families and photos with Santa Claus, who will arrive by fire truck.

•Announced a free Dec. 10 Hard to Recycle Items event at the township building, sponsored by Lawrence-Mercer Counties Recycling/Solid Waste Department. Fliers on items to be accepted are available from the township.

•Approved general fund expenses of $247,869.50; fire tax fund expenses of $2,811.15; capital fund expenses of $10,134; and payroll fund expenses of $80,906.11.

d_irwin@ncnewsonline.com

Editor

Dan, editor, started with The News in 1978 and spent 10 years as a sports writer. He's been a general assignment reporter, copy editor, paginator and Lifestyle editor. He's a '78 Slippery Rock University graduate with a B.A. in English.

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