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Tax hike likely for borough residents

December 03, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

The owner of an average home in the Borough of Waynesboro would end up paying about $30 more a year in property taxes next year if the Borough Council adopts a proposed budget Dec. 17 that calls for a 2-mill hike in the tax rate.

Waynesboro's current tax rate is 16.18 mills. A mill, which represents $1 of assessed property value, brings in about $52,000.

The council raised taxes by 2 mills last year. The fiscal year begins Jan. 1.

When the council began budget deliberations earlier this fall, members were looking at a rate increase of from 5 to 6 mills, mostly because of requests from the police and fire departments for more money and large projected increases in health insurance premiums for the 55 borough employees.

Health insurance is provided at no cost for employees and their families.

Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said the new budget is coming in about $200,000 higher than this year's appropriation, up from $3 million in 2003 to $3.2 million in 2004.

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The money the new taxes will bring in will pay for one additional officer for the borough police force, raises for borough employees the council is expected to approve in January and increased costs of health insurance premiums, Hamberger said.

Contracts with the police and fire department unions call for 3 percent pay raises beginning in January, Hamberger said.

The salary for the new police officer won't kick in until the second half of the fiscal year beginning July 1, he said.

Police Chief Ray Shultz said the department's authorized strength is 17 officers. After July, it goes up to 18 when the new officer comes on board.

Shultz originally asked for three new police officers. He said vacancies on the force include Patrolman Billy Kauffman, who is on duty with the military in Iraq.

The Borough Council has been on a push to have more officers on the street to control noise and loitering problems.

Hamberger said health insurance premiums for borough employees will cost about $80,000 next year.

Originally the council was looking at a 42 percent hike in the premiums until negotiations with different providers dropped the cost to between 15 percent and 25 percent.

The proposed budget includes $10,000 in seed money to hire a downtown promotions manager. The council hopes the rest of the money will come from grants and hotel/motel taxes.

The council also raised trash collection fees by 5 percent for next year to raise an additional $30,000 to cover the cost of new landfill impact fees. The rates this year are $32.05 per unit per quarter. Next year it will be $33.65.

The budget is on display in the Borough Hall, the police station and Alexander Hamilton Memorial Free Library.

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