Doylestown Twp. Supervisors Double Proposed Tax Increase
In an unusual twist, residents begged supervisors to increase their property tax.
It's not often that residents will implore municipal leaders to raise their taxes, let along double the proposed increase.
But that's exactly what happened in Doylestown Township Tuesday night when a group of citizens convinced a deeply divided Board of Supervisors to reject a 1.5-mill property tax hike in favor of a 3-mill increase.
The tax rate for 2011 now will increase from 7.25 to 10.25 mills.
It's the first General Fund tax increase since 1988, according to township officials, and one that was long overdue, according to residents in attendance.
Under the $10.8 million spending plan, the owner of a property assessed at the township average of $40,000 will see a $120 tax increase, from $270 to $390. Had the preliminary budget had passed, the increase would have been half that.
Before the 3-2 vote to approve the budget – Chairman Barbara N. Lyons, Cynthia Philo and Barbara Eisenhardt voted in favor while Tom Scarborough and Richard Collello voted against it – longtime resident Frank LaRosa raised his voice several times while imploring the board to approve the higher tax increase.
"The mantra has been 'No tax increase on my watch,'" thundered LaRosa, who has lived in the township since 1948 and served on the Board of Supervisors in the 1970s. "It's been about the popularity of the supervisors and not the best interests of the township."
Mardi Harrison, another longtime resident, said township employees had done their part to balance the budget by paying toward their health insurance and pension benefits, and supervisors had done their part by giving up their annual salaries.
She said it was time for taxpayers to step up and do their part by accepting the 3-mill increase, calling it the equivalent of "lunch for two people at Burger King."
"It's not unreasonable for us to pitch in," she said.
Eisenhardt, who championed the higher increase, said the proposed 1.5-mill increase was "totally fiscally irresponsible." She said she wouldn't sacrifice the township's park system, summer concerts or snow removal services for such a trivial amount.
"Raising taxes is not the popular thing to do," she said. "But we took an oath to be fiscally responsible."
Scarborough took the other tack, arguing the board should pass a budget with no tax increase at all. He said police and roads are necessities that must be kept, but that "everything else is nice to have" if the township has enough money to pay for them.
Tuesday's vote culminated a grueling budget season that included five public workshops covering countless hours. The Ways and Means Committee, formed several years ago to work through the budget, recommended a 3-mill tax increase for 2011.
But Lyons, who agreed with the Ways and Means Committee, said she offered the budget with the 1.5-mill increase "in recognition that compromise is necessary. Our responsibility is to pass a balanced budget."
In addition to the 3-mill tax increase, budget highlights include:
- An 8-percent reduction in operating expenses;
- A 3-percent pay increase for all township employees;
- A 1-percent healthcare contribution from employees;
- A 5-percent pension contribution from employees;
- Reallocation of debt service and highway aid to the general fund of 2.75 mills;
- Supervisors forgoing their salaries for the year.
Finance officer Ken Wallace said it will be up to the supervisors to decide what to do with the extra revenue generated in 2011. More than likely, he said, they will use the money – about $330,000 -- to mitigate an anticipated tax hike in 2012.