Lancaster Township's proposed 2022 budget includes both a nearly 16% revenue increase and a projected deficit.
The $1.7 million budget, which supervisors will consider during a Dec. 6 special meeting, expects Lancaster will receive $1.5 million in revenue — a 15.9% increase from the budgeted 2021 revenue — but will outspend its revenue by more than $211,000.
C. Michael Foote, township manager, said the projected operational deficit stems in part from funds Lancaster has allotted to improve levels of township service, but not necessarily dollars it will expend.
These allocated funds include money for professional services to handle zoning and land development; the addition of a fourth public works employee; and the shifting of police services by adding one full-time officer and reducing part-time employment to four officers.
Plan to increase real estate taxes
In addition, the township will increase taxes on real estate under the proposed budget to help pay for the Harmony Fire District's new fire station in Zelienople, doubling the fire levy from 1.5 mills to 3 mills. On a house with a market value of $300,000, that spells an increase of roughly $35 per year.
Among the largest line-item increases in the township's budgeted expenses from the 2021 budget include a $60,000 increase for solicitor's fees; a $57,500 increase for full-time police wages offset in part by a $42,000 decrease in part-time wages; and a new $50,000 line item for zoning and land use professional services.
Rescue Plan funds
Lancaster has received $145,000 from the federal government via the American Rescue Plan Act, but unlike some nearby communities, it has yet to allocate those funds for a specific purpose.
Foote said he didn't want to lock in those funds for any specific purpose without first receiving community input.
“I was speaking with the supervisors and what is suggested was, when the weather gets a little bit nicer in the spring, to hold some town hall meetings, some public meetings, and have a listening session,” Foote said. “Show some guidelines on what the money can be used for, and get community input on what the community would like to see.”
Rescue Plan funds can be used to help replace revenue lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, or for various types of infrastructure projects such as stormwater, sewer and other similar projects.
The funds must be dedicated by 2024 and expended by 2025.
Foote said listening to community input on how to spend Rescue Plan money is just one of the ways he wants to take time before proceeding.
“My goal for 2022, on behalf of the supervisors and the community, is to do a lot of assessing,” the new manager said. “It's always looking at a balance of levels of service with what resources you need to deliver those services.”
And it's not just the day-to-day services the township delivers that Foote wants to assess.
“I think the other part of the assessment would be for us to look at, how do we provide funding for Four Springs Park, and how do we start looking at implementing that plan as well as a long-term plan for a municipal building?” Foote said. “I think that's going to be part of the next couple of years, of looking to see how we might move those projects forward.”