Hellam Township hikes taxes 33%
Hellam Township's Board of Supervisors approved a 33% property tax hike Dec. 5, an increase designed to bolster fire protection and stabilize the municipal budget, officials said.
The unanimous vote will increase taxes from 1.8 mills to 2.4 mills, which equates to the owner of a $150,000 house paying an additional $90 in taxes annually.
The township's 2020 budget will boost total spending to $3.18 million, up from $2.8 million this year. The tax hike will increase the township's total property tax revenue $257,000 in 2020, topping off at $1 million.
Taxes have been flat in Hellam for more than a decade, Smith said. The township's reserve funds have been spent down in order to keep taxes flat.
"Our auditors recommend that the municipality try to maintain 25% of the reserves of their budget," said Phil Smith, chairman of the township board.
Half of the new tax revenue will go to the township's fire capital fund, Smith said. The other half will plug a $116,000 hole in the 2020 general fund and help pay for road work and a new municipal building.
Flooding two years ago destroyed several roads in the township, Smith said, and additional funding is needed to finish repairs that the state Department of Transportation started.
While Hellam Township has plans to construct a new municipal building, Smith said, the township has outgrown its current space, in addition to problems such as a leaking roof and HVAC malfunctions.
"Our building is in dire need of repairs," Smith said.
Based on comments from residents he's heard from since the vote, Smith said, some residents think the tax increase should have been gradual, while others have no issue with it.
"I can see both sides of it," he said.
— Reach Tina Locurto at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.