- Grove City, Pennsylvania

December 7, 2012

GC goes 31 years without tax hikes

By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
Allied News

GROVE CITY — Grove City council passed its proposed 2013 budget for $15,290,086 on Monday, which is about 2 percent more than this year's $15,009,979 but with no increase in millage for 31 years.

Property taxes will remain steady at 2.5 mills as they have in the budget since 2009. The borough last increased mills in 1981 for a building project, but has since decreased millage four times.

"It was very difficult (to balance), but our department heads were all willing to compromise," said borough manager Vance Oakes. "The budget doesn't address every need we have but it does significant ones."

The budget will be funding a number of key projects this year, including a new fire department that will be added to the police station on Pine Street - along with updating the firing range, locker room and leaky roof at the station - for $1,382,800 by Hudson Construction, Hermitage, awarded on Monday.

An amount of $34,075 was also nodded by council for a vehicle exhaust gas extraction system for the slated fire truck bays, for the health and safety of firefighters.

The principal and interested expected to be paid in the 2013 budget on the fire station will be $70,000. That will increase to $138,000 in 2014. Construction is expected to be finished in June.

"It seems steep," said councilman Joel Bigley, but firefighters have waited decades for a new home. They're already sharing garage space with police, because the station on North Broad Street is too small for all the trucks.

Phase II improvements at the wastewater treatment plant on Greenwood Drive will continue next year, and will require a rate increase of $2 per household to fund a loan obtained this year for $3,300,000. Tap-fee reserve funds for $1,200,000 will be added to the principal to complete the renovation.

A second phase to continue revitalization downtown will involve a contribution of $125,000 from the borough's operating reserves, which will match the same amount being funded by Grow Grove City Inc., the administrative arm for revitalization.

The borough is also seeking a grant for $110,000 from the Mercer County Metropolitan Planning Organization for the project, which will include streetscape and infrastructure upgrades on Pine Street from North Center to South Broad.

Bigley, chair of the Infrastructure Committee, noted the borough contribution was generous, considering what he believed would be more important uses of the $125,000 for infrastructure projects important to residents, like updating water lines.

The budget will include continued costs next year to replace the borough's 1980s-era accounting and finance software with a new program by Springbook software of Portland, Ore..

Oakes said he will be looking at different health insurance options. The borough has been using Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield, expected to have a rate increase of 16 percent next year, which would hit the budget with an additional $69,327 cost.

"I see a rate increase of 16 percent to be a lot all at once," he said. He told council that he should have more information about options at next month's meeting.

The borough may be getting revenue from tap-in fees to its wastewater treatment plant from a Dollar General and 40 homes in Mercer Township; however, the borough needs to see if it has enough capacity to share.

Utility lines and pole transformers will continue to be replaced in 2013. The borough wishes to convert its electric capacity to a 12,000-volt system when the replacement work is completed in a few years.

The borough's Park Street water plant is getting in line with the Energy Independence and Security Act, which requires the installation of lights by 2014 that are 25 percent more efficient than incandescent light bulbs.

Bigley - who is the only Democrat on the board - commended the borough employees for their hard work in balancing the budget without raising taxes, but entreated council members to consider millage increases in the future for "long-term planning," he said.

"Generating revenue is a need we have to address," Bigley stated. "It's not palatable to think of the 'T' word ... (but) we can't just squeak by."

Council president George Pokrant was open to Bigley's comments but believed the borough's frugality was important due to the tough economic crisis in the nation.

Published Nov. 21, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201A Erie St., Grove City.