Bucks County Herald

East Rockhill proposes 2-mill property tax hike

CHRIS RUVO

Municipal property taxes in East Rockhill would rise by 2 mills next year under a preliminary township budget.

The board of supervisors says the rate increase is necessary to cover mounting costs tied to the township’s ongoing legal and zoning battles with Rockhill Quarry, while also still providing for essential services to the municipality.

Supervisors had discussed potentially raising the property tax rate by 3 mills – what would have been a near 30 percent year-over-year hike.

At the board’s Tuesday meeting, Supervisor David Nyman said the 3-mill hike would allow the township to substantially build back its fund balance – a kind of cash reserve all municipalities carry to cover rainy day expenses – in the wake of approximately $120,000 in unbudgeted expenditures this year through Nov. 27 as a result of the quarry fight.

Still, Nyman and fellow supervisors Gary Volovnik and Jim Nietupski agreed that a 2-mill increase would be sufficient.

“Two mills should cover us for 2019,” Volovnik said.

The current millage rate is 10.235 mills. If approved as proposed, the rate in in 2019 would be 12.235 mills.

Should the 2-mill increase be instituted next year, a home assessed at the township average of $40,000 would pay about $80 more in municipal real estate taxes.

A mill is equal to $1 of every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. To calculate what the municipal tax on an East Rockhill property would be at the potential higher rate, multiply the assessed value of the property by 12.235 and then divide by 1,000.

For instance: An East Rockhill property assessed at $40,000 would owe $489.40 in annual municipal property taxes, should the 2-mill rate increase be approved by supervisors.

The township also collects an earned income tax of 0.75 percent; of that, .25 percent goes specifically to fund open space preservation.

Township Manager Marianne Morano said the township’s anticipated expenses for the Rockhill Quarry dispute in 2019 are $171,600. That tally is the primary reason for the township’s projected deficit of $42,948 – a deficit that the proposed property tax increase will close.

Supervisors were quick to point out Tuesday that residents who have vehemently opposed the quarry are not to blame for the tax increase.

“The reason for the increase is to protect our residents,” said Volovnik. “We would do the same thing regardless of where this was happening in the township.”

Once legal and zoning battles with Rockhill Quarry end, the township could potentially lower the municipal property tax rate in a future year, said Nyman.

The zoning dispute is expected to last through at least the first two quarters of 2019. Officials are hoping the separate fight in federal district court in Philadelphia will be resolved sooner, but a definite timeframe is not in place.

At Tuesday’s meeting, residents thanked supervisors for refusing to agree to a settlement with the quarry that would have ultimately cleared the way for an asphalt plant to operate at the site on North Rockhill Road.

Richard E. Pierson Materials Corp. has been working the quarry in support of its $224 million contract to provide asphalt for about seven miles of the Pa. Turnpike Northeast Extension.

East Rockhill residents are concerned about the quarry’s potential to cause air pollution, water pollution, intrusive noise, dangerous truck traffic, diminished property values and more. Naturally occurring asbestos from rock formations is also a worry.

For months, township zoning hearing board hearings have focused on Pierson and site owner Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania’s appeal of a township zoning officer decision that found that special exception approval from the zoning board is needed to operate the quarry.

East Rockhill has also been seeking an injunction in federal district court that would effectively prevent Pierson and Hanson from building or operating an asphalt plant at the site until gaining approval and permits to do so from the township, among other things.

The quarry has filed counterclaims.




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