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Lower Macungie Commissioners Vote to Bring Back Property Tax

The Lower Macungie Board of Commissioners passes a 2014 budget Thursday night that establishes a property tax rate of .33 mills.

Lower Macungie Township Board of Commissioners approved proposed 2014 budget by a 3-2 vote at Thursday's meeting.
Lower Macungie Township Board of Commissioners approved proposed 2014 budget by a 3-2 vote at Thursday's meeting.
After considerable and often contentious debate, the Lower Macungie Board of Commissioners passed, on a 3-2 vote Thursday, a 2014 budget that establishes a property tax rate of .33 mills.

When the 2014 budget takes effect, it will be the first time in 12 years that township residents will be paying a property tax to the township.

Commissioners Ron Eichenberg, Douglas Brown and James Lancsek voted in favor of the proposed budget, while Commissioners Roger Reiss and Ryan Conrad voted against it.

For Eichenberg and Lancsek, the property tax is merely a matter of fairness.

Lancsek said that he had supported the budget since day one. “There is no such thing as a good tax, no such thing as a fair tax,” Lancsek said. “But commercial and industrial users have had a free lunch and everybody should pay a little something for the quality of life in this township, especially the commercial and industrial users.”

Eichenberg was also a vocal supporter of the proposed budget, citing a lack of fairness in maintaining the status quo.

“I believe it is our civic responsibility to support the services that a municipality provides,” Eichenberg said. “Our municipality provides considerable services, it is our civic responsibility to pay for those services. The taxes that we pay are an investment into our community, an investment into our quality of life.

“In my world, I operate on fairness. Mack Truck, Cedar Shopping Center paying zero tax, is that fair?” he asked.

During the debate Eichenberg took fellow commissioner Conrad to task for proposing alternative budget scenarios too late in the budget development process.

Conrad defended his proposal and its timing: "There is no right or wrong time to initiate a discussion or engage the public."

Township manager Bruce Fosselman began his budget presentation by pointing out that Thursday’s meeting was the sixth public discussion of the 2014 budget. He then painstakingly laid out the elements of the proposed $18.6 million budget for those assembled, including the factors making the property tax necessary.

Fosselman also said he wanted to clear up some matters about the budget. He said the township was not “bringing back” a property tax since a Lower Macungie property tax had never been eliminated. The township had merely been setting the property tax at a rate of zero, he said.
Lets Get Real December 05, 2013 at 11:15 PM
Awww.. poor Lower Mac residents have to pay a property tax. Now can they stop sucking off of all other tax payers money? Get your own school district and get your own police. Other municipalities are tired of subsidizing Lower Mac.
Bill December 06, 2013 at 10:00 AM
The property tax should only have been on business, the property tax on residential is just an example of a board that doesn't think before it acts! So you just gave a new financial burden to those who own a property and are elderly or on disability ect..! Brilliant! That's sarcasm as I'm sure the 3 board members are not bright enough to understand! Why didn't you tax income??? You know those who have plenty won't miss it and those who don't keep it! Check the income of the 3 who voted yes!
Bill December 06, 2013 at 10:08 AM
Why don't you hire a policeman to write tickets for all the speeders through the Willow Lane School 15mph zone? Or the speeders on Church Lane near Giant? How about the 60+mph on Spring Creek? How about the people who cut through Oak Drive from Church Lane to Spring Creek or vice verse? Missing STOP SIGN on Birch PL and Oak Drive????
Ann Bartholomew December 06, 2013 at 11:19 AM
Thank you, township manager and forward-looking board members, for your ability to see that we need a property-based tax and that it's the fairest and most appropriate way to pay for municipal expenses. A property-based tax is what we should be paying to live in a community. It was reduced to zero at a time when there was a huge amount of money coming in from the real-estate transfer tax due to all the new residential building going on. That income, in addition to the earned-income tax, made the township financially very comfortable. As development slowed down, the transfer-tax income dwindled. Now we are back to where we should have been for years.
Jay Johnson December 06, 2013 at 11:24 AM
Lower mac is the bulk of the EPSD, paying most of the taxes. Emmaus children also go to school in Lower Mac and are subsidized by LM taxes also. As for speed traps , that's a cheesy way to get revenue. I agree with the speed problems but not that way. Drive through NJ towns and you will see plenty of traps and red light cameras just there to make revenue. If you have police just sitting there all day waiting for that, then you have too many police and it is a waste of tax money. Also the stop sign on Birch and Oak should be flipped, it doesn't flow with the traffic.
ted.dobracki December 06, 2013 at 02:41 PM
While the population and ratables of LMT are both more than half of the aggregate of the EPSD, size alone doesn't matter, in fact, it's irrelevant. On the other hand, the 18 and under population for Emmaus is 21.0% compared to LMT's 25.7%, according to the 2010 US census. (Alburtis is 26.7%, Macungie is 18.0%, and UMT is 20.2%, while the EPSD aggregate is 23.6% who are 18 and under). These statistics suggest a different hypothesis in which the older populations of Macungie, UMT and Emmaus are actually subsidizing the students from LMT and Alburtis. Those two municipalities are actually where the recent growth is, and are also where the extra costs for building new schools are coming from and they are actually benefitting from infrastructure built and paid for years ago.
Jay Johnson December 06, 2013 at 04:35 PM
But its not the students or the amount of students who pay for the schools. If all homes and families paid the same amount then you would have a point. But since the school taxes are based on income and property values, then LM pays more way more then other towns. That is based on info found on epsd website under budget. according to those figures LM property assessments are $3 billion taxed at 16mills with avg family income at 100k taxed at 1%. UM At 720milllion and 76k,Emmaus 825million and 70k, Macungie 226 ml and 74k, Alburtis 130ml and 70k. So LM pays more than half and more then all others combined. But also that brings up a different situation of property values and income are a fair way of paying for school taxes.
ted.dobracki December 06, 2013 at 09:07 PM
Another way of looking at it is that on average, EPSD has 4.0 adult citizens to support the education of those 18. Alburtis has only 2.8 adults to support each of its children and LMT has only 2.9. On the other hand, Emmaus has 3.9 adults per child (very close to EPSD average). And Macungie has 4.6 adults per child, and UMT has 4.0 adults per child. Granted, there may be income and wealth differences between the people in each town, but the latter three have more adults to support each child's education than the first two, and thus Macungie, UMT, and Emmaus could be deemed to "subsidizing" the education of children from LMT and Alburtis. ***************************************************** There's nothing wrong with that, since we were all kids at one time and the statistics are driven by where new houses for younger families are being built. But to say that LMT is subsidizing others just because it has more revenue ignores the cost side of the equation, which is just as important here.
Ron Beitler December 08, 2013 at 10:30 AM
@Bill, unfortunately you cannot tax the businesses without taxing the residential. Here in PA with uniformity clause we have very few viable mechanisms for collecting revenue to pay for the impact of uses such as warehouses and strip commercial. Which is unfortunate since these uses create the most liabilities. I felt as though EIT was unfair since it let these uses completely off the hook. I'm do not like the idea of wage earners paying for the impacts of warehousing. There is an alternative. I've been researching homestead farmstead exclusion for muni's. (*Not the same program that school district taxpayers can enroll in where districts are reimbursed with state money) With this program, property owners who occupy their home as primary residence can apply for reduction of their assessment (only applicable for LMT tax purposes). This is a potential way we can tax the warehouses/shopping centers while reducing the burden for homeowners.
Ron Beitler December 08, 2013 at 10:32 AM
Here is a program nearby in Upper Gwynnedd. http://www.uppergwynedd.org/departments-services/administration/homestead-exclusion.aspx
Ron Beitler December 08, 2013 at 10:34 AM
Gwynnedd is similar to us in that they have a large industrial base (pharm company Merck has a massive complex). That's the key ingredient to make the program work. You need the industrial/commercial base. We have that here in LMT. You need that because this isn't revenue nuetral reduction. That's where it differs from school district homestead program. No state reimbursement to make up for reduced residential assessment. With this program you have to have industrial base to carry the weight.

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