by Jonathan Weaver
Ford City Borough council members are proposing additional taxpayer and business savings in addition to the already-tentative three-quarters of a mill tax decrease.
During a budget workshop Friday morning, Council President Kathy Bartuccio, Vice-President Jerry Miklos and Councilwoman Beth Bowser discussed ways to save taxpayers more money.
Miklos said that is the top priority.
“I think it’s about time we give something back to the taxpayers – for too long, they have played sucker and it’s been far too easy for past Council’s to stick their hand in taxpayers’ pocket and pull out whatever it is they need(ed),” Miklos said.
In his proposal, Miklos aimed to save residents an additional mill of taxes by reducing the 2.6-mill Fire Tax to .6 mills.
The other mill of taxes would be earmarked for a newly-formed reserve fund.
“We have been talking all year about creating a reserve fund – I’ve been a strong advocate for creating a reserve fund for years and it never came to fruition,” Miklos said. “I would like to see a reserve fund established, and that can begin with as little as one mill per year.”
Residents currently pay 2.6 mills annually – or about $70,000 – to help offset costs for the fire truck as well as other miscellaneous expenses, but the proposal would cause that profit to drop to about $15,000.
The tax doubled after the Borough purchased a 2011 Pierce Velocity 2000 GPM Engine in December 2010.
About $108,000 is currently available in the Fire Fund. With principal and interest payments, the fire truck costs about $45,000 per year.
Bowser agreed with reallocating tax millage into a reserve fund, but wanted to see more all the fire department expenses before making a decision on the remaining tax commitment.
Firefighters and Borough Council agreed in January 2013 when the budget was reopened to take half a mill less that year to help pay street lighting expenditures. However, that was only a one-time cut since truck payments could not be financed otherwise.
Under the current payment structure, The Borough would continue paying off the fire truck for about the next nine years.
The trio of elected officials also heard the proposal calling for the elimination of the Business Privilege Tax.
All businesses currently are billed $150 annually. If business owners pay the fee by the end of January, the fee is reduced to $135, but if they don’t pay at all, penalties accrue over time.
Miklos and Bowser agreed with the proposal, but also said there needs to be more enforcement against businesses that have overdue payments.
“We should make a concerted effort to collect all back-due Business Privilege Taxes,” Miklos said. “It’s not fair to the people who are paying it every year.”
Miklos said Ford City Borough receives about $17,000 from the Business Privilege Tax, and that eliminating the tax might encourage more businesses to open.
A mill equals about $27,000, but has been decreasing due to population. In last month’s advertised 2016 budget, residents would pay 16.65 mills in local taxes – 11 toward the General Fund, 2.6 for fire apparatus,1.9 toward street lighting, one mill toward the public library along 4th Avenue and .15 toward the non-uniform pension fund.