Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Lower Merion Township 2011 Budget Proposes 12.7% Real Estate Tax Increase . . . Can Tredyffrin Be Far Behind?

I was checking on the agenda for Monday night’s Board of Supervisors meeting and a couple of items of note. First, there will be the adoption of a resolution setting lease rental and rate and any sewer revenue of the Authority; and secondly, the presentation of the 2011 proposed budget. Now that Election Day 2010 has passed, it is going to be very interesting to see the proposed 2011 budget.

The first draft of Lower Merion Township’s 2011 budget came out today and it calls for a 12.7% municipal tax rate increase! Th proposed 12.7% increase represents the highest tax increase since the 2003 budget according to the summary posted on their township website.

Lower Merion Township Manager Doug Cleland explained the large real estate tax increase was necessary to close the $4.4 million general fund budget gap. Reasons cited by Cleland for the budget gap included employee healthcare cost increases, pay raises to police officers and debt service expenses for infrastructure projects. Also contained in the proposed budget is an anticipated sanitary sewer rental fee in the range of 9%. But the tax increase does not close the $4.4 million deficit – the proposed budget will still be short $1 million which is expected to come from the general fund. Should that happen, it will mark the third year in a row for a general fund withdrawal.

But what about Tredyffrin Township and our proposed 2011 budget? Is there any correlation between Lower Merion and Tredyffrin townships? With much no-tax increase banter in Tredyffrin lately, it would suggest that our supervisors would not be leaning in the direction of Lower Merion and increasing our real estate taxes. Any increases in real estate taxes would go against promises delivered during the campaign season.

However, if we assume that township costs have continued to rise and that revenue (transfer tax, etc.) sources are down, how will our elected officials combat the budget gap? Either by increasing taxes or by reducing expenses (services, personnel, etc.). Certainly going to be interesting Monday night . . . our government cannot have it both ways.

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