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Township holds line on taxes for 2007 budget

December 19, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Of all the numbers tossed around Monday evening by Washington Township manager Mike Christopher, the one that made five men smile was zero. After months of crunching numbers and transferring funds, supervisors adopted a 2007 budget which included a zero percent increase in taxes.

Christopher called the budget for next year, "fair and balanced," saying that conservative estimates helped him achieve fiscal harmony.

"Washington Township is usually very conservative, it doesn't spend unnecessarily," he said.

Property taxes for 2007 will remain at the current mill rate of 4.4, Christopher said. The township's budget is about $4.9 million.

Christopher said while taxes will stay at the same rate, increased employment in the township will generate more revenue.

The 2007 budget, he said, should allow the township to upgrade equipment, add a program, save some wetlands and leapfrog closer to a finished Washington Township Boulevard.

On Monday, Christopher highlighted where additional revenue will be spent in 2007.

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The largest addition to the budget was a conservation program. Headed by supervisor Christopher Firme, the program will partner with Franklin County to save farmland in Washington Township.

The budget also will fund equipment upgrades for the township. Board chairman Carroll Sturm explained that an upgrade had been planned for some time.

"We decided to do it (upgrade) right, not fast," Sturm said. The township plans to furnish its meeting room and purchase a new computer system in the coming year.

Supervisors also plan to purchase wetlands in 2007. Using donated funds and grant money, supervisors hope to purchase about 4 acres of land adjacent to Happel's Meadow in Blue Ridge Summit. Known as the proposed Blue Oak development, the budgeted amount for the purchase is $300,000.

Finally, residents can expect to see progress on the Washington Township Boulevard in 2007, according to the budget. Sturm said the boulevard includes a bridge over Antietam Creek which he said has been the greatest obstacle for the project.

"The top of the pole, so to speak, is getting the bridge approved and designed," he said. Sturm said the township hopes to have the bridge finished in 2007.

For Christopher, the board's decision Monday brought him relief. "I can breathe," he said.

For supervisors, a zero tax increase and balanced budget was Christmas come early.

"I am very pleased," Sturm said. "There is more income than I anticipated."

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