Windber Borough gave a tentative nod Tuesday to a 2013 budget that raises taxes 1 mill.
It’s a spending plan that includes a $20,000 “cushion” for the possibility of a higher fee to keep Paint Township’s regional force patrolling the borough next year.
But Windber council called it only a minor factor in their need for a tax hike, saying borough payroll, utilities and health care costs continue to rise.
“Nobody wants to raise taxes,” Councilman Jim Spinos said after the borough tentatively adopted the $1.2 million budget. “But if you don’t increase it a small amount now, you turn around and it piles up down the road. We can’t let that happen.”
For a borough taxpayer with a home valued at $50,000, that increase will mean $25 more a year – or $2 a month, borough Manager Fred Oliveros said. It would mean $50 a year for a home valued at $100,000, he said.
This is the first time since 2009 that council is raising taxes.
The increase would bring millage to 13.92 next year in a community where a single mill brings $46,800 in revenue.
Salaries and benefits alone will cost Windber nearly $25,000 more next year, Oliveros said. Then there’s rising fuel and utility costs and looming needs such as a new building roof and liner for the community pool, he said.
“You have to look past today,” Spinos added. “It’s about planning for what’s around the corner, too.”
Neighboring Paint Township’s hesitance to raise taxes, despite several years of deficit spending, put the township in a deep financial hole that threatened the regional police force.
The communities that the Paint force patrols, including Windber, already have been put on notice that the township might seek to amend existing protection contracts to generate additional funding. That’s where the $20,000 cushion comes in, Oliveros said.
Some, or all, of those funds could be used, he added. Or none.
Regardless, it won’t change the borough’s plans to increase millage, Oliveros said.
Windber currently pays $350,000 yearly for full-time police service.
That includes an officer patrolling the borough’s streets 24-7.
“We have to plan our expenses ... and we don’t want to be caught off guard,” Oliveros said.
Council President Barry Jerley said council wants the regional force to work – and is willing to do its part to help in tough times.
But the borough has to be prudent, too, Jerley said.
“We can’t just (let costs) for it get out of control,” he said. “It’s taxpayers’ money we’re spending – and we have to do what’s best for them,” Jerley said.
The budget is now available for public review. It’s expected to be on council’s Dec. 18 agenda for final adoption.
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