The average Doylestown Borough property owner will pay about $39 more in municipal taxes next year with the approval of the town's 2013 budget.
Doylestown Borough Council members on Monday night voted unanimously, with one abstention, to approve the spending plan and tax rate for next year.
The borough tax rate will increase by 1.5 mills from 11.225 to 12.725 for 2013, an increase of just over 13 percent.
The increase means the owner of a home assessed at the borough average of $26,000 will pay $330.85 in borough property taxes next year, an increase of about $39.
In the borough's water fund, water rates will be going up slightly - an increase of about 74 cents for the average borough water customer. Those who use less than the minimum will see no increase at all, officials said.
The 2013 budget lays out revenues of $5.5 million and expenses of about $5.6 million in the general fund. The water fund budget includes revenues of about $1.2 million and expenses of $1.2 million.
A handful of residents attended Monday's meeting to question the budget figures and ask council members why a tax increase was needed.
"I think you should go back and reduce the budget," said Richard Schoenkopf, 83, of East State Street. "$39 doesn’t mean much to me, but it does mean a lot to other people."
Schoenkopf said he thinks the borough employs too many people for the size of the town.
But borough officials said the number of employees has held fairly steady over the years. Doylestown Borough employs 15 police officers and 27 public employees.
Many of them have been asked to take on more job responsibilities in recent years. Council member Susan Madian pointed out that Phil Ehlinger is the deputy borough manager, public works director and planning director.
Council president Det Ansinn said the borough has not raised the tax rate in the general fund (which pays for most of the borough's operations) since 2009.
"We’ve been able to hold off on that by tremendous austerity in the past," Ansinn said, adding "We can only take the austerity so far without affecting services" that enhance the quality of life in Doylestown.
That explanation didn't sit well with Schoenkopf.
"The quality of life of the resident has gone downhill, whether you recognize it or not," he said.
Another resident took issue with that statement.
"I moved here in 1991, and it’s done nothing but go up," said Joe Frederick, who lives on West Oakland.
Doylestown has held off on several capital improvements in recent years, said borough manager John Davis.
But council members said three capital improvement projects are important enough that they finally must be done.
The projects include expanding and improving the borough's public works facility ($567,000), upgrading to automated water meters ($550,000) and a drainage improvement project on Hickory Drive to prevent flooding ($325,000).
To help pay for the projects, the borough proposes to borrow about $1.5 million from the Delaware Valley Regional Finance Authority.
Some residents questioned why the borough isn't financing the projects by borrowing from its own reserve fund, which hovers at just under $7 million.
The reserve fund is invested in bonds that have historically returned about 6 percent, Davis said, income that the borough uses as revenue.
Though the bonds are returning only about 1.25 percent right now, council members said they expect the rate to bounce back over the 20-year life of the loan. They expect to make more on those investments than the 2.1 percent the loan is expected to cost.
Eight of the nine council members voted to approve the budget and tax increase. Council member Joan Doyle abstained, because she sits on the board of the Doylestown Business and Community Alliance, but said if she were going to vote, she would have voted in favor of both.