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Somerset Borough increases tax rate

December 18, 2018

For the second year in a row the property tax rate in Somerset Borough is on the rise.

During a borough council meeting Monday night, the board had a split 4-to-3 vote to increase the rate by 1 mill, bringing the total to 16.4 mills for 2019.

Council members Fred Rosemeyer, Judy Pyle and Gary Thomas cast the dissenting votes. All three noted concerns for senior citizens on fixed incomes for their decisions.

Pam Ream, Sue Opp, Steve Shaulis and Ruby Miller voted for the increase.

“There’s so many people on fixed incomes and they can’t afford the tax increase,” Thomas said. “I don’t think it’s fair to the people.”

Rosemeyer said that real estate transactions in the borough are a concern.

“I had a meeting with some real estate people, and people don’t want to buy houses because the tax is too high,” he said.

The council voted unanimously to pass a 2019 general fund budget with projected revenue of about $3.67 million and expenditures of about $3.72 million, leaving a deficit of about $52,679.

Borough finance director Brett Peters said that the deficit will be covered with reserve funds, which are projected to be about $2.1 million at the end of next year.

The increase will add about $117,000 to borough funds, and will mean about a $60 yearly increase for someone with a home with an assessed value of $60,000.

Borough Manager Michele Enos said that officials have talked with the council for about three months about the increase and how to cut costs.

“Nobody wants to raise taxes,” Enos said. “It’s to keep up with increasing costs.”

The sewer rate in the borough is also going up. The council unanimously voted Monday night to increase the sewer rate by 6 cents, to 98 cents per 100 gallons used. The water rate is staying the same.

Enos said that increase will be about $2 a month for households that use 4,000 gallons.

The council also awarded a $425,950 painting contract for a water tower along Route 31, past SCI-Laurel Highlands ,to D & M Painting Corp., of Washington, Pennsylvania. The work is meant to protect the integrity of the structure, which actively feeds the borough.

The bid is well over the $300,000 mark that the borough had budgeted for in next year’s spending plan. Enos said that to make up for the extra cost, a $50,000 plan to build a communication tower toward Bakersville is being scrapped for now.

For the remaining $75,000, she said, other capital water projects may be delayed.

Borough engineer Jake Bolby, of The EADs Group, said that work on the 1-million-gallon tank should begin in the spring and continue into summer.

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