Tax rate stays same for 60 years
Increased health insurance costs and an expected decrease in revenue from building permits did not stop the Mt. Pleasant Township supervisors from passing a balanced 2005 budget Wednesday that avoids a property tax increase.
The municipal property tax will remain at 2.42 mills, as it has for the past 60 years, under the $1.657 million spending plan approved unanimously yesterday.
Supervisor Don Scott said the township was able to achieve the balanced budget thanks in part to “dramatic fiscal restraints implemented in January 2004” that ended a “consistent pattern of deficit spending” that reached back to 1998.
During that period, Scott said, township officials habitually dipped into the municipality’s $1 million fund balance to pay for such things as renovations to the township offices, two new trucks and an aggressive paving program, as well as 30 percent annual increases in health insurance costs.
Scott said some of the money-saving practices implemented in the past year included doing equipment repairs “in-house” whenever possible and a comprehensive restructuring of bank accounts that eliminated duplicate accounts.
Scott said the expected loss of $20,000 in revenue from building permit fees because of the implementation of the Universal Construction Code and the additional $10,000 expense the township must bear next year for new road signs required under the Westmoreland County Emergency Management addressing program will be offset by an estimated revenue infusion of $60,000 from cable television franchise fees.
Township residents should begin seeing that 5 percent fee appear on their cable television bills as early as February.
While it is not included in the 2005 budget, Scott said the township is attempting to trim health care costs by switching to a self-funded, high-deductible policy.
Scott estimates the savings could be as high as $5,000 to $6,000 a month after all deductibles are paid by the municipality. The township’s unionized employees are mulling whether to accept the changes, which include a $5 million lifetime cap on benefits and come at no cost to the employees.
“At prior spending rates and lacking the fiscal information that our new computerized accounting system will give us, we were destined to overspend and raise taxes, most likely in the 2005-06 cycle,” Scott said.
“We feel confident now that, lacking any unforeseen fiscal emergency, we should be able to live within our budget for the next several years,” he said.