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Borough officials wrestling with possible tax hike

October 21, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Waynesboro taxpayers could be looking at a five- to six-mill tax hike next year if the Borough Council approves requested increases in the number of police officers and paid firefighters sought by the chiefs of the respective departments.

A projected 43 percent hike in health-insurance premiums for the borough's 55 full-time employees also is in the equation, Borough Manager Lloyd R. Hamberger said Monday.

The council already has held two budget sessions, with four more on the table, Hamberger said.

He expects the council to adopt a final budget by the end of September. The deadline is Dec. 31.

All told, the council is looking at a budget deficit of $303,000 if all of the requests are granted and the insurance premiums don't change, Hamberger said.

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"We'll be doing some cutting and we'll be looking for more income sources before we're through," he said. "As a manager, I'd like to see the deficit erased."

Last week, Borough Council President Douglas Tengler said the council had no plans to ask employees to contribute to the cost of their insurance. He said the council would try to find coverage with a lower rate hike, possibly as low as 6 percent or 7 percent.

The borough's 2003 budget runs around $3 million. The projection for fiscal year 2004, which begins Jan. 1, is $3,368,000.

Police Chief Ray Shultz is requesting $996,000 for next year, a jump of $193,000 over his 2003 budget of $803,000, excluding the cost of vehicles. Shultz wants to add three officers to the borough next year.

Fire Chief Dale Fishack is asking for a sixth paid firetruck driver, Hamberger said. The fire department's current budget is $210,000. Fishack is asking for $249,000 next year.

Hamberger said the projected income side of the budget is expected to be close to this year's figures.

Real estate taxes generated $840,000 this year, the same amount projected for next year.

There could be a slight upward tick in earned income tax revenues from $530,000 this year to $540,000 projected for next year.

The tax requires residents who work out of the borough to pay 1 percent of their income. Half goes to the borough and half to the Waynesboro Area School District.

According to Hamberger, the borough's current tax rate is 16.18 mills. One mill, which represents $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value, brings about $52,000 to the borough's treasury.

Last year, the council raised taxes by two mills, meaning the owner of a house assessed at a value of $100,000 saw his annual tax bill go up about $34, Hamberger said at the time.

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