For the first time in 12 years, Lower Macungie residents may start paying a township property tax in 2014.
But that proposal, made by township manager Bruce Fosselman Thursday night, still is a long way from being approved by the five township commissioners.
Even if Fosselman gets the amount he asked for, the new tax is not likely to bust anyone’s budget.
Residents whose homes are worth $100,000 will pay just $33 a year.
Those whose homes are worth $200,000 – which Commissioner Ron Eichenberg said is about the median value of homes in the township – will pay $66.
And those whose homes are worth $300,000 will pay $99.
By comparison, Fosselman said township residents with properties worth $100,000 pay $379 in property taxes to the county and $1,612 to East Penn School District.
Those with homes worth $200,000 pay $758 to the county and $3,224 to the school district.
And those with homes worth $300,000 pay $1,137 to the county and $4,836 to the school district.
Commissioners, who were getting their first look at the 2014 proposed budget prepared by Fosselman and the township staff, did not voice their opinions about it – although at least one of them looked visibly unhappy.
Eichenberg, president of the commissioners, predicted the proposed tax will be hotly debated by commissioners and the public.
“It’s not pleasant news,” said Eichenberg. “But we’ve had a great run of 12 years of zero tax.”
Quoting President Franklin Roosevelt, Eichenberg said: “Taxes are the dues we pay for membership in organized society.”
Fosselman said in 2002, the last time Lower Macungie had a property tax, the township had 19,200 residents. In 2014, he said it is projected to have 31,500, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Public hearings on the $19.5 million township budget are scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct, 1, Oct. 9 and Oct. 29 in the township building at 3400 Brookside Road.
Eichenberg anticipates good attendance by residents at those hearings.
Fosselman predicted implementing the proposed tax is not going to be popular.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” he said.
“Most communities are deciding how much they should raise their taxes,” he said. “We’re deciding if we should have a tax.
“I want you to name me one community in Pennsylvania that doesn’t have a property tax. I’m not saying we should have it because everyone else does. But it’s time, gentlemen…The time is here.”
He noted one argument against the tax is that once it exists, the township will increase it every year. He told commissioners: “If we do have a tax, it’s our job to make sure we keep the tax down. We’ve done that since 2002.”
Stressing Lower Macungie’s many attributes, the township manager told commissioners the increase is needed to sustain the first-class quality of life in the township.
“I’m blessed to live in this township,” said Fosselman. “I’ve lived here since 1987.”
He praised Lower Macungie’s excellent quality of life and reeled off many of the township’s more than $96 million worth of assets-- including 1,000 acres of park land and open space, 29 parks, 26 miles of walking/bike trails, three community centers, a library, a community swimming pool and more than 130 miles of paved roads.
Fosselman doesn’t believe residents want to see that quality of life diminished by having the swimming pool remain closed until July, streets not promptly plowed in winter or not repaved when needed.