Tax increase coming for Clarion residents
Sunday, November 27, 2011
CLARION — Taxpayers in Clarion borough may have to pay more in 2012 after a divided council passed the preliminary budget, 4-3, last week.
The nearly $1.87 million proposed budget will increase property taxes by 1 mill from 19.5 to 20.5, meaning the owner of a $50,000 property will pay about $1,025 in real estate taxes to the borough. Residents also pay property and other taxes to Clarion County and the Clarion Area School District.
At a collection rate of 94 percent, real estate tax is expected to bring in $770,435 of revenue in 2012.
The millage breakdown includes 15.54 for the general fund, 1.63 mills for the fire company fund, 0.5 mills for the recreation fund, 1.35 mills for the street lighting fund, 0.5 mills for the recycling fund and 0.975 for the library fund.
Total revenue expected from the proposed 2012 budget will total $1,850,965 while expected expenditures will total about $1,879,695. To balance the budget, $28,730 will be used from the fund balance.
For some council members, the increase in property tax is necessary. “We held off and now we are spending more than we are taking in,” Ed Hopkins, chairman of the housing and zoning committee, said. “I’m not happy raising taxes, but sooner or later it’s going to bite you,”
Although the majority supported the increase, some members questioned the added expenses to the budget.
“We definitely have to curb our appetite for legal services,” Dave Walters, chairman of the public safety department, said. “We had a hiccup in 2011 with an almost 300 percent jump. It’s really unacceptable.”
By the end of the year, the borough is projected to spend about $17,375 for professional services (legal), about $11,875 over the $5,500 budgeted for the department in 2011.
The council proposes increasing the budget for professional legal services to $20,500 in anticipation for legal services regarding the police contract.
Cutting expenses in areas such as computer operations and professional development was discussed. Expenditures for computer operations are anticipated to cost $9,250. New software necessary for the borough’s computers is one of the many costs included in computer operations.
Currently, professional development has $5,500 budgeted for the 2012 fiscal year. Services, such as webinars, seminars and certification courses, are covered under professional development.
Despite some opposition for the amount of money for professional development, some council members believe it is crucial to provide the workers with the professional development opportunities needed to adequately serve the taxpayers.
“Under-budgeting does not serve anyone well,” Brenda Sanders DeDe, council member and professor at Clarion University, said. “I don’t think these numbers are inflated. I’m a taxpayer; I want services.”
Several revenue-generating areas are projected to decrease. With the closure of The Cell Block in Clarion, beverage licenses will bring in less revenue, dropping from a budgeted $2,250 in 2011 to $1,850 in 2012.
Also, with many people making the switch from cable to Internet, franchise fees will also decrease from a budgeted $37,760 in 2011 to $28,600.
Although the proposed budget suggests a tax increase, borough manager Nancy Freenock believes it is a strong initial budget.
“A sign of a good business is not borrowing money for ordinary operating expenses. Over the past six years, there has been a lot of improvement,” Freenock said. “I think it’s a good budget. The numbers are solid. A budget is just a target and we must plan for unexpected contingencies. By law, we must provide a balanced budget.”
The budget must be advertised for 10 days between tentative adoption and the final approval. The budget must also be in place by the end of the year.
The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7, at the Clarion Free Public Library.
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Reported by Brandi Stretavski, Tri-County Sunday. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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