The board of commissioners voted Tuesday to approve a 5.91 percent property tax increase for next year. The vote follows three deliberative meetings held in the past month, as by Patch. Commissioner Chet Derr, of ward 3, voted against the motion.
The increase of 5.91 percent represents an increase of 4.939 mills in 2011 to 5.231 mills in 2012. A mill corresponds to one tax dollar for every $1,000 dollars in real estate value. Given that number, a home assessed at $195,000 would see an annual increase of $56.94, a home assessed at $250,000 would see an increase of $73, and a $350,000 home a $102.2 increase. Township taxes account for approximately 17 percent of property taxes, with the bulk coming from school district increases, according to township officials.
"It's important to note… that none of that is for operations," said vice president Ira Tackel at a . "Operations [costs] have actually gone down, and services have not declined, they've been maintained nearly 100 percent."
The 5.91 percent figure came after the seven member board of commissioners decided to invest in two capital projects: the construction of two flood retarding structures and separate "neighborhood storm water projects."
- 2.5 percent of the increase would go toward debt service on $3.5 million of borrowing for the construction of the two structures.
- One percent would go to debt service on $3 million in borrowing for the storm water projects, with an additional one percent to follow in 2013.
- 1.28 percent of the increase would go to the final portion of debt service on the new firehouse.
- .75 percent would go to capital improvements for the library.
- .38 percent to fund debt service on the township's purchase of 730 Susquehanna Road.
Commissioner Chet Derr, who voted against the increase, previously stated his belief that the township should instead use money from its $12 million community reinvestment fund instead of paying for the structures through taxes.
"I understand the necessity of these, especially the storm water projects…but we have a fund of 12 million dollars," said Derr at a previous meeting. "We're sitting on a chest full of money. Why not take the money, that was basically community money, and put it into these structures?"
Commissioners countered that using money from that fund could harm the township's credit rating, and also said they believe it is an opportune time to take advantage of low interest rates on loans.
Board votes to rebid Old Fort Washington Elementary
Also on the agenda for the board Tuesday night was a measure to rebid the . Township commissioners said they were not satisfied with the previous bid process, including some ambiguities in the language of the bid, and believe a better result can be achieved.
"By asking this to be rebid, the board believes we can do better at the end of the day for the community, the commissioners, those who are bidding on the project and the historic commission," said Tackel. "Those are the underpinnings of the motion."
"There was some ambiguity in both the receipt of the bid, and in the bid document itself-- it needed to be cleaned up," added Derr. "The bids came in, some pretty good, however there were some issues with the legality of the actual document itself and our advertisement."
Commissioner Chet Derr moved that the board reject all previous bids, and put out a new bid within 45 days. The motion passed unanimously.
The board also said they had received a letter requesting a delay on the final decision from the Greater Abington Township Society of Model Engineers (GATSME), which pays rent to use the building's basement for a large model train track. GATSME also agreed to pay for all utilities and snow removal for the building over the next 90 days, and roughly two dozen members of the organization attended the meeting.
Zoning change at Maple Glen Shopping Center
The board also approved a zoning change at the Maple Glen Shopping Center, which they say will conform the property's zoning to match currently existing structures. Greg Davis, a legal representative for Safeway Corporation, which owns the property, met with the township commissioners in a special public hearing shortly before the meeting.
"Safeway has paid some attention to this property; they put in some new sidewalks, resurfaced the parking lot, made some facade improvements, and they also want to take the opportunity to clean up some of those zoning lines and parcel lines that exist on the property," said Davis.
The changes will convert the property's five lots, some of which are zoned CRL and A-residential, to two SC commercial lots. As it currently exists, some of the 's building actually exists in a residentially-zoned plot.
Commissioner Ron Feldman expressed concerns that this might allow commercial structures to infringe on adjacent residential communities, but township officials stated that the zoning changes will actually better prevent such a situation, as commercial zoning requires larger setbacks.
The zoning changes were passed unanimously.
The meeting also saw the retirement of board president Robert Pesavento, who stepped down after a 20 year career. Check back with Patch soon for more.