Lehigh Valley

Salisbury Township proposes tax hike in 2018 budget

Finance director projects $150K budget deficit

SALISBURY TWP., Pa. - Salisbury Township commissioners are considering raising property taxes next year in order to erase a projected general fund deficit.

During Thursday's workshop meeting on the proposed 2018 budget, township Finance Director Paul Ziegenfus outlined the spending plan and said there would be a $150,000 deficit without a tax increase.

The property tax rate would increase to 2.12 mills from 1.98 or a 7 percent increase. A median taxpayer with a property assessed at $234,000 would pay $496 or $34 more annually.

Ziegenfus said that such an increase would erase the deficit and leave the budget with a surplus of $36,000, which would then go into a capital reserve fund. Various grants that the township receives are projected to decrease or be eliminated and “revenue is drying up,” he said.

The budget as presented by Ziegenfus would have raised the tax rate to 2.04 mills, but commissioners expressed concern that the increase would not be enough to cover the projected deficit. President Pro-Tempore Debra Brinton said that a higher increase would be needed to cover the deficit and still provide a “cushion” in the form of a surplus.

Commissioner Joanne Ackerman noted that a further increase would be needed to erase the deficit.

The annual earned income and local services taxes would remain the same at 1 percent and $52, respectively.

Ziegenfus said the budget provides for a 3 percent cost of living increase for non-uniformed township employees. Uniformed employees would receive a 3 percent cost of living increase and public works employees would get a 3.25 percent increase.

The budget also provides $200,000 for a new police building on Eisenhower Road, and Ziegenfus said $232,000 would be needed to finish the township’s Lindberg Park Project.

Ziegenfus told the board that in coming years he will look into cutting the township’s health insurance costs among other options in order to cut down on expenses.

Township Manager Cathy Bonaskiewich said the township should consider setting up an official capital plan for the general fund in order to keep money in reserve for planned projects.

The board will meet Nov. 9 to further discuss the budget. The preliminary 2018 spending plan will be presented at the Nov. 21 public meeting, and the final budget will be adopted on Dec. 28.

In other news, the board voted 4-0 to approve a zoning ordinance amendment allowing for the use of and setting regulations for medical marijuana facilities in the township. The amendment would provide for academic clinical research centers, medical marijuana growers and processors, transport vehicle offices and medical marijuana dispensaries.

Any business wishing to set up a medical marijuana facility would still need to apply for a permit from the state.

Board President James Brown was absent from Thursday’s meeting.

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