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Antrim Township OKs preliminary budget

December 09, 2008|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, PA. -- The Antrim Township Board of Supervisors moved property owners in the township one step closer to a tax-free 2009 Tuesday when it unanimously approved its preliminary 2009 budget.

The 20-page budget balances revenue and expenditures for the upcoming year without assessing the 2-mill property tax rate that has been part of the budget for years.

In 2001, Ben Thomas, then township manager, said he could not remember a time when the township property tax rate was not 2 mills.

Board Chairman and Interim Township Administrator Curtis Myers has openly advocated eliminating property taxes during most of his tenure on the board.

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He said the township does not need the additional $267,000 generated through real estate taxes to run in the black.

"I estimate that we will be $17,478 to the good at the end of 2009, even without collecting taxes," he said.

With a quick glance at the budget, it appears as if the township's projected $12.6 million in expenses will exceed its projected $9.5 million of revenue about by $3.1 million, Myers said.

However, about $4 million of those expenditures includes finishing the Antrim Township Municipal Park, replacing eight lift station generators and repairing 8 miles of roadway, all of which Myers said are funded through either the capital improvement or capital reserve funds.

While the proposed budget eliminates the mill rate, it also eliminates the $200,000 earmark set aside annually since 2006 for funding a police force.

Supervisor Samuel Miller asked the board to reconsider eliminating the police line item, saying that while the earmark was small, it was something.

"If we set this fund up right today, then if it takes 10 years to establish a police force we have about $3 million in there," he said.

Myers said he took the line item out of the 2009 budget because the previous $600,000 was not properly restricted in a separate account, but that it also would not put a drop in the bucket of funding a police force.

"I'm telling you that it will take at least $2 million or $3 million up front to create a police force and you can bet the tax rate will have to go up to probably 6 mills to fund it," he said. "At the end of this year, we will have $6 million in the landfill fund, that is more than enough to start a police force if we need to."

Miller asked the board to indicate its intent for saving toward a police department by way of a motion, but his effort died on the floor for lack of a second, and the board approved the budget without funding for police.

The neighboring Borough of Greencastle spends about 40 percent of its budget on police services.

The $21 million budget will be on display for the public at the township municipal building for 20 days or until Dec. 31 when the board will vote on a final version.

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