Budget in Peters contains no property tax increase

Surplus to be used

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Taxpayers in Peters will enjoy a second year in a row of no municipal tax hikes, after council members voted unanimously Monday to keep the current property tax rate of 13 mills.

Last year, homeowners saw a 1-mill decrease in taxes, and although expenditures continue to outpace revenue, the township's healthy fund balance will again make up the difference.

Next year's budget calls for $18.6 million in spending, with $16.1 million in anticipated revenue. The township will tap an $8.6 million surplus to balance the budget.

The 2013 budget represents a spending decrease of more than 7 percent compared to this year's budget, but it also contains money for several capital projects, including a new bridge over Sugar Camp Road for $1.02 million, $1 million in road repairs and $663,400 in improvements to the municipal building.

The value of a mill has remained fairly steady over the past several years at $327,690, as has the median household income of about $132,000.

Also Monday, council agreed to extend a lease agreement with the local Meals on Wheels program for space in the township-owned fire station on East McMurray Road.

The nonprofit group has leased space in the fire station for the past five years at a rate of $48,000 per year, which included utilities.

A renewed five-year lease called for an increase of about $1,000 per month for a total annual payment of $60,000. The group, however, asked the township to consider extending the lease at the current rate, saying the organization is run by volunteers with stagnant donations.

The revenue generated by the lease is used to maintain the building, although the organization also paid $500,000 for upgrades and renovations in 2008.

Councilwoman Monica Merrell said she felt council should "tread lightly," with regard to the lease, because the group is helping to provide 150 hot meals each day for local people in need.

Councilman David Ball proposed a new five-year lease that would maintain the current rate for the first two years and an option for the township to possibly renegotiate the lease in the final three years.

"It's a good and valuable service," Mr. Ball said of the organization.

Council approved the measure by a 5-1 vote, with Councilman Robert Atkison dissenting and Councilman James Berquist absent. Mr. Atkison said he would have preferred a one-year lease.

Also Monday, council blasted developer Semsi Yilmaz and his architect Jeffrey King for what they felt was an overreaching plan to construct a low-impact retail outlet at the corner of Route 19 and the southern section of Old Oak Road.

Mr. King presented council with plans for a 7,400-square-foot specialty retail building with 38 parking spaces and said he would require several modifications from the zoning code, including smaller parking spaces and an encroachment closer to Route 19. Mr. Yilmaz said he was considering using the site for a mattress or furniture store.

Council members, though, were clearly not in favor of the plan.

"I'm very disappointed that you're trying to over-build your property," said Mr. Ball, who said he felt the plans encroached on the residential neighborhood abutting the site.

The 1.2-acre site is zoned commercial transitional, meaning that while some limited commercial uses are permitted, the site should blend with the residential community and serve as a gateway into the neighborhood.

Mr. Ball said he understood that the steep terrain at the site, along with a stream, make the lot difficult to develop, but he encouraged the men to return to the drawing board.

neigh_south - neigh_washington

Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1867.


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