2013 Budget Mostly in Order
Whitehall Borough property owners should expect to pay about the same in local real estate taxes next year as they have since 2002. But nothing final has been decided yet.
Ten years ago was the most recent time that the Whitehall Council raised the borough's millage rate, and even then, that was the first time that taxes were raised in 24 years.
Actually, when the borough's final 2013 budget is approved by its council sometime before the end of 2012, the local millage rate will end up lower than 2012's rate of 5.50 mills. But that's only due to a recent countywide real estate reassessment that raised the value of most Whitehall properties. And in order to remain revenue-neutral, the borough has to adjust its rate to prevent a "windfall" of increased tax revenue, something that is illegal.
However, the law does allow for the borough to adjust its lowered millage rate at 105 percent instead of just 100 percent, which would mean more real estate taxes for borough property owners and more revenue for Whitehall.
You can click here to calculate your individual taxes based on 2012's millage rate.
For Whitehall Councilman Robert McKown, a certified public accountant and a firm administrator and manager for Goff, Backa, Alfera & Company, LLC, balancing the Whitehall budget while not cutting any of its programs is especially satisfying.
McKown was the de facto leader of Saturday's special meeting of the Whitehall Council, the second of two public meetings to discuss the 2013 budget.
McKown attributed the borough's good financial standing, including a healthy fund balance and minimal debt incurred by the construction of a new fire station, to "sound planning" done by council members.
"The last time we raised taxes, and that was after 9/11 when all of the insurances went up and we realized that we had to raise taxes to cover our cost," McKown said, "at that point in time, we actually sat down and went through a long-range thing to figure out when our debt was going to be paid off, what the millage would be.
"And from our last tax increase—that and, every year, there's always been a little bit of money left over—we've built our savings account, our fund balance with (that money)."
McKown estimated the borough's fund balance to be at around $4 million, and some of that money will be put to good use in 2013, keeping up with a yearly increase in employee pensions and buying things like two new pickup trucks, which were requested by Public Works Director David King on Saturday without any argument.
In fact, the council later decided unanimously after King left the meeting to put an extra $17,000 into his budget for upkeep of borough parks.
"If that fund balance ever gets down to a point where you're around $2 million, then you're gonna hear me start squawking ... (about) what services you wanna cut. At that time, it would be time for a tax increase to maintain the level that we're at."
Check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch for updates on Whitehall's final 2013 millage rate.
Lick Run Watershed
Whitehall Borough Manager James E. Leventry said that he hasn't made an official recommendation yet to the Whitehall Council regarding Whitehall's involvement—or possibly lack thereof—in Baldwin Borough's Lick Run Watershed project.
Baldwin must move forward soon on a large water basin project adjacent to the Lick Run waterway, but it may have to do so without any involvement from Whitehall, which also flows water to Lick Run.
The water basin project is needed to satisfy a consent decree from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), whose officials have deemed that sewage water from south Baldwin and the nearby municipalities that also contribute to the Lick Run waterway (near Colewood Park) has led to overflow in a Pleasant Hills Authority water treatment plant.
Leventry said that he's "not convinced" yet that Whitehall should get involved in a project in which it only contributes "4 percent" of the waterway's total flow.
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