Williams Twp. prepares for life with much less Chrin landfill money

New budget includes hike in real estate taxes

WILLIAMS TWP., Pa. - Property owners in a Northampton County township are going to be paying substantially more toward the cost of running their municipality's government next year because of a legal dispute with the Chrin landfill.

Williams Township supervisors voted 3-0 Wednesday night to advertise a $2,538,809 budget for 2014 that carries a 1.5-mill real estate tax boost.

Supervisor-elect Ray Abert, who will replace supervisor Sally Hixon on the board in January, also voiced support for the proposed budget.

The tax hike -- a 60 percent increase over the current 2,5-mill rate -- was necessitated by Chrin's decision in September to cut the amount it pays in host fees to the township by two-thirds, because the supervisors voted in June to try to collect millions of dollars in back business privilege taxes Chrin says it does not owe.

The matter is now being litigated in Northampton County Court, with the next round of arguments set for Dec. 10, according to township solicitor Jonathan J. Reiss.

Township manager Jennifer Smethers told the supervisors Wednesday night she budgeted only $156,750 in the proposed 2014 spending plan, compared to $475,000 in 2013, and without a tax increase, the township would have a $273,000 deficit.

If the proposed budget is approved at the supervisors' Dec. 11 meeting, the tax bill for a property owner with a home assessed at $100,000 would rise from $275 to $450.
Even with the tax hike, Williams Township's real estate tax rate remains among the lowest in Northampton County, Hixon pointed out.

At least one township resident, Frank Korpics, praised the supervisors for moving ahead without Chrin money. ""I think you're on the right track," he said. "You need to wean yourself off this cow, because it doesn't give milk all the time."

Korpics also objected to the money Chrin has spent on various township projects. "Everything is a gift," he said, adding that the landfill operators send out "propaganda letters" touting their contributions. "This is what they [the letters] are good for," he said, as he dramatically ripped a piece of paper in half.

Before the supervisors acted, Mohammad Umar Choudhry, head of the township budget advisory committee, presented a report urging them to support a 1.25-mill tax increase.

However, the supervisors were uneasy with the recommendation because a 1.25-mill hike would only leave a budget surplus of $17,375, which, Hixon said, "could be wiped out with one [unexpected] bill."

Supervisors chairman George Washburn said a 1.5-mill boost, which would give the township a $75,000 cushion, would allow the board to build up its capital reserve fund to help pay for extensive road repairs that will be needed in the next two to five years.

Supervisor Vincent Foglia agreed with Washburn, saying, "To give us a cushion and money for the capital reserve fund for roads, I'd go along with that."

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