The Peters Township real estate tax rate remains at 1.622 mills for 2021.
On Monday, township council approved the rate, which has been in place since 2018, and also voted to adopt the municipal operating budget for the coming year. But while taxpayers can rest assured for now, that may not be the case in the future.
“I think it’s worth noting that in 2019, the township issued bonds to finance capital projects, and as a result of those bonds, our debt service payments have gone up by $300,000,” township manager Paul Lauer said. “And while we were able to last year and this year recommend that the tax rate remain the same, I will not guarantee you that will be the case in 2022.”
The bond sale prepared the township to undertake projects including the first phase of construction of Rolling Hills Park, for which a $6.95 million contract was awarded in November.
Work on the park, combined with other capital projects, has resulted in “amounts appropriated for expenses” of $33.79 million in the 2021 budget, compared with $20.37 million in projected revenues.
The spending plan is balanced, though, with regard to expenditures not related to capital projects, those deemed to have a long-term impact.
“That budget is predicated on the issuance of a bond issue sometime next year for the purposes of financing a fire station, as well as the aquatic center,” Lauer said, referencing a swimming pool and related amenities to be built at Rolling Hills Park.
For further elucidation on behalf of the public, he addressed council members before their vote.
“When you approve this budget, what you are doing is providing the authorization for the operating expenditures which finance all of the township’s departments,” he said. “What you are not doing is authorizing the expenditure of funds for capital projects because, as council is well aware, all of those projects are coming back to you” for approval.
The budget’s adoption was unanimous, even though some council members voted against the preliminary version in November, including Monica Merrell. At the Dec. 14 meeting, she acknowledged the work her colleagues and members of the municipal staff put into developing the spending plan, but also clarified her position.
“I’m going to vote yes, but I am not in complete agreement with all of the proposed operating and capital expenditures,” she said. “The challenge will be to continue to try to look closely at all those operating expenses and not just take for granted what we approve, but to evaluate each one as the time comes, and also to do the same with capital.”