When: Mountville Borough Council meeting, Sept. 13.
What happened: Borough Council unanimously approved the advertisement a proposed fire tax ordinance.
Background: Diminishing donations from borough residents and increasing fire department costs prompted council to consider implementing a fire tax for several years. Momentum on passing the proposed fire tax increased in 2019, but financial hardships created by the pandemic delayed its implementation.
Why it’s important: The fire tax would give the fully volunteer Mountville Fire Department a stable source of operating income. The ordinance, modeled after one used in Marietta Borough, would establish a millage rate of 0.66%, or $66 per $100,000 of assessed property value.
Quotable: “I would like to push this back one year. Can we offset it with COVID relief money next year?” asked Councilman Matthew Auker, who nevertheless joined fellow council members in requesting the solicitor to advertise the fire tax ordinance.
Budget adjustment: Some council members were surprised to learn that implementation of the fire tax would result in elimination of a budgetary line item that contributes tax money to the fire company. According to the 2021 budget posted on the borough’s website, total expenditures for fire protection total nearly $130,000, including a contribution of $60,000 to the fire department. Auker asked if there was any consideration in reducing the borough’s tax rate based on the reduction of fire department related expenditures. Mayor Philip Kresge suggested it wouldn’t be prudent to promise any tax decreases to residents. Borough Manager Derrick Millhouse concurred, reminding council that the borough’s police contract with West Hempfield Township is up for renewal in 2022.
What’s next: A public hearing on the fire tax is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 11. If approved, the fire tax would be implemented in 2022 and would be due in the spring along with county and municipal taxes.