Lehigh Valley

Lehigh Co. municipality moves closer to property tax

Lower Macungie hasn't had property tax in 12 years

LOWER MACUNGIE TWP., Pa. - Lower Macungie Township moved closer toward implementing its first real estate tax in 12 years Thursday night -- but doing so does not have the unanimous support of all five township commissioners.

"I'm opposed to this tax," declared Commissioner Roger C. Reis.

Township manager Bruce Fosselman explained he needed approval from the commissioners to advertise the 2014 budget, which includes the tax, so it can be adopted at the Dec. 5 township meeting.

"I'm going to have to vote against that," said Reis. "I'm just not convinced this is the right away to go. I'm not trying to be pig-headed or stubborn about it. I just think there is more we could have done."

The motion to advertise the budget was passed 3-1, with Reis voting no.

Commissioner Ryan Conrad, who was not at the meeting, also opposes the new tax.

No residents stood to express any opinions on the tax or the new budget before the vote.

Commissioner Ron Eichenberg, who supports the tax, has noted Lower Macungie residents are not shy about making their opinions known, but he has heard no outrage about the tax.

The one-third-of-a-mill tax will cost most residents $33-$99 next year, depending on the value of their homes.

Council member Jim Lancsek, who also supports the tax, calls it minimal.

Fosselman has said the proposed tax will generate about $1.1 million, which will be used for capital improvements. Without the tax, he said Lower Macungie is facing a deficit in its capital fund of more than $1 million.

The manager said the township has experienced unprecedented growth in its population, from 19,200 residents in 2000 to 31,500 now. For the last 12 of those years, Lower Macungie residents paid no township real estate tax.

Fosselman noted the township has conducted three public meetings "to review every line item" of the proposed $18.5 million budget. "We reviewed this with a fine-tooth comb. We've done the best job we can."

On another matter, Fosselman said the PennDOT bridge repair project that temporarily has created two additional sets of traffic signals on Brookside Road is supposed to be completed this month. He said PennDOT has predicted the project will be completed by Nov. 15, but added: "I don't think they're going to quite meet it."

With no opposition from residents, commissioners unanimously approved a new law requiring that on-lot septic systems must be pumped out and inspected once every five years.

That program, which will begin in January, is designed to make sure on-lot systems are properly operated and maintained, to prevent failures that can threaten human health and the environment.

Lower Macungie has nearly 1,000 properties with on-lot sewer systems.

A public meeting about the new inspection program will at 6:30 p.m.
Dec. 11 in the township community center next to the municipal building.

The township has scheduled two special public meetings on other issues next week:

At 6 p.m. Monday, a meeting will be held in the township building on Lower Macungie's proposed comprehensive plan for parks, recreation and open space.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, a meeting will be held about a study being done on the feasibility of establishing a township police department.

That meeting will be held in the community center.

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