UPPER SAUCON – Despite declining revenues in 2010, supervisors here unveiled their proposed 2011 budget Monday night with no increase in real estate taxes.
Real estate taxes have remained at 4.2 mills since 1989, according to Chairman Miro Gutzmirtl and Assistant Township Manager Robert Kassel, Jr. Kassel presented the proposed budget to several dozen residents during Monday night’s board of supervisors meeting.
According to Gutzmirtl and his fellow supervisors, this is the first time tax revenues have declined in recent memory. Gutzmirtl said the economic downturn is “coming home to roost” in Upper Saucon. “This isn’t an ordinary year,” he said.
The good news, said Gutzmirtl, was that the proposed budget did not raise taxes, cut township staff, or cut services offered by the township. With Lehigh County and the Southern Lehigh School District raising taxes, said Gutzmirtl, supervisors here “didn’t want to be the third party in raising someone’s real estate taxes.”
The bad news is that five-year projections show multi-million dollar deficits in the township’s general fund, capital reserve fund, and road construction capital fund. Assuming zero growth in annual revenues, and assuming that the township carries out all its desired projects, Kassel projected a combined $10,000,000 deficit in those three funds by 2016.
Gutzmirtl thanked fellow supervisors John Gilda, Jr. and Joseph Horvath for their hard work on the 2011 budget, and directed them to begin work on the 2012 budget immediately next year. Gutzmirtl gave them a deadline of August 2011 to present their first draft to the board. Their main objective, said Gutzmirtl, would be to find ways to raise revenue. Gutzmirtl did not rule out the possibility of a tax increase in 2012.
The proposed budget denies or defers many purchases and projects. Examples include: partial funding of the Taylor Drive project, purchase of one new police patrol vehicle instead of two, no contribution towards the Southern Lehigh Community Pool Association, and denial of all but one recreational expense in 2011. Eight recreational requests were denied, including the second phase of the Rails to Trails program and major improvements to Curly Horse Park. The recreation fund is projected to dry up in 2012, according to Kassel. He projected that the township’s water operating fund and sewer operating fund would be in good shape until 2015 or 2016, respectively.
Supervisors unanimously adopted the tentative budget and will consider it again at their next meeting, where they will again receive public comments and questions on the budget. The budget will be formally adopted in December.
The next Upper Saucon Township Board of Supervisors meeting will be held at the Township Municipal Building on Dec. 6 at 6 p.m.