2006 municipal budget calls for 3-cent tax rate hike

The proposed $37.1 million municipal budget for 2006 increased from $34.8 million last year.

By: Lea Kahn
   The average township property owner would have to pay an additional $49 in municipal taxes under the proposed $37.1 million municipal budget for 2006, unveiled before Township Council on Thursday.
   The proposed spending plan, which increased from $34.8 million last year, calls for a 3-cent hike in the 2006 municipal property tax rate — from 62 cents per $100 of assessed value to 65 cents.
   The owner of a house assessed at the township average of $164,117 would pay $49 more in municipal property taxes — $1,067 for 2006, compared to $1,018 last year.
   Increases in the cost of group health insurance, pension, trash collection, utilities, salaries and the reserve for uncollected taxes accounted for the budget increase, Municipal Manager Richard Krawczun said. The reserve for uncollected taxes is required by the state.
   The township collects property taxes for the school district and the county, as well as for itself. The reserve for uncollected taxes is intended to cover the amount of money that the township must turn over to the school district and the county, regardless of the tax collection rate. The actual collection rate in Lawrence is 98 percent.
   The proposed budget contains several new positions — a deputy director of emergency management and one mechanic and one laborer in the Department of Public Works. It also includes an additional sergeant’s position in the Police Department — but not an overall increase in the number of police officers. There presently are nine police sergeants.
   Mayor Michael Powers asked Township Council to look over the proposed budget in anticipation of further discussion at the council’s Feb. 7 meeting. This is the first time that the council has seen the budget and the council members need time to "digest" it, the mayor said.
   Councilman Rick Miller appeared to take a philosophical view of the 2006 budget.
   "It is what it is," Mr. Miller said.
   Councilmen Mark Holmes and Greg Puliti said they wanted to review the budget before making any comment on it.
   Councilwoman Pam Mount commended Mr. Krawczun for putting together the budget, which is "a lot of work."
   For more, see The Ledger on Jan. 26.