New Garden increasing sewer rates, raising local services taxes
● By Richard Gaw
In what they called a means of raising funds to repair the infrastructure of its outdated sewer system, the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance at their Nov. 19 meeting that will raise sewer taxes for township residents.
Calculated according to water consumption each year over the next three years, the ordinance increases the residential sewer rates in the township by $8.36 per quarter for year 1, $8.19 per quarter for year 2 and $8.36 per quarter for year 3. Translated, that's a rate increase of about $36 per year for an average New Garden Township household.
The base quarterly rate for commercial 1 customers will increase by $12.71 per quarter for year 1, $12.70 per quarter for year 2, and $11.71 per quarter for year 3. Customers in the commercial 2 category will pay an increase of $16.46 per quarter for year 1, $16.74 per quarter for year 2, and $16.74 per quarter for year 3. The residential excess 1 rate will increase $3.67 per quarter for each 1,000 gallons used over the the three-year period. The commercial 1 excess rate will increase $6.00 for each 1,000 gallons per quarter over the three-year period, and the commercial 2 excess rate will increase $9.20 for each 1,000 gallons per quarter over that three-year span.
All tax increases will go into effect next week.
To a New Garden Township resident, this increase in sewer rates may appear perplexing, given that in 2016, the board agreed to the $29.5 million sale of its sewer system to Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater, Inc. Since the deal was made, the finalization of the sale has seen numerous delays, most recently in early June, when the township, its sewer authority and Aqua mutually agreed to extend the date of the sale of the township's sewer system from 365 days to 760 days.
While the deal is currently in the Pa. Supreme Court, the supervisors are faced with the need to address serious problems. The supervisors said that income raised from the sewer increase will only be able to repair a small percentage of a system that's in dire need of improvements, at a cost that supervisor Steve Allaband estimated could run as much as $3.5 million.
“Honestly, we're looking at about a 45 percent increase if we continue to just do the upgrades,” Allaband said. “We're only seeking a ten percent increase. There's that much work that needs to be done, and this is a small piece of it.”
The current system is costing the township $30,000 to $40,000 a month merely to keep the sewer plants in regulatory compliance, a spending that's not sustainable, Allaband said.
“Even if the sale [to Aqua] goes through next month, we'll still have to start that process, because we're just throwing as much as $40,000 a month away,” he said. “You have to keep your plants compliant, so in part, some of this is related to the transaction not going through, but the fact is that these monies still need to be secured.”
“Raising these rates is just to stem the bleeding,” said supervisor Richard Ayotte. “We're not trying to bring in more money. This is just to break even, to raise the $400,000 that's needed to pay for the sewer system, every year. We still need $9 or $10 million in repairs.
“Yes, we have an agreement for the sale of the sewer, but the sewer is not sold. ...So as long we are mandated by the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) to fix things that we don't have the money for, we're going to raise rates now, to try to get ahead.”
The board also agreed to raise its local services tax, effective Jan. 1, 2019, that will raise the fee for those who work in the township, from $10 to $52, annually – one dollar a week for those who earn more than $12,000 a year. If an individual working in the township makes under $12,000 yearly, he or she is exempt from the tax increase.
The revenues raised from the tax increase will be used for emergency services – police, ambulance and fire and road maintenance – and is estimated to raise $175,320 a year.
“Part of the [decision to raise local services taxes] was determined when the Avondale Fire Company came in and did their first presentation [before the board], and wanted a five percent increase in funding [from the township], above and beyond what they were currently getting,” said supervisor Steve Allaband. “Secondly, when we looked at the county's assessment tax code for real estate appeals, I think the township lost $5 million of assessed value, so that income has gone down, and everything else is going up.”
Public notice about the tax increase was advertised on Oct. 28, Nov. 4 and Nov. 11 in the Daily Local and on the township's Facebook page. It was not posted on the township's website. Former supervisor Bob Perrotti criticized the board for what he called an ineffective method of informing the public about the tax increase.
“How many businesses are in this township who are going to have to tell their employees [about the tax increase]?” Perrotti asked the board. “That's a poor, poor way of informing people.”
“Should we communicate more of that information on our website? Yes, we should moving forward, but we also had budget meetings, and the public is welcome to attend those meetings,” said board chairman Randy Geouque.
It's the cost of providing police, ambulance and fire services, Allaband told Perrotti.
“On the road, if you get into an accident and need a medic, that's $195, and if you need an ambulance, that's probably $215,” Allaband said.
“Why don't you try spending less?” Perrotti said.
“Bob, I think we do a pretty good job in trying to maintain all of our spending, as much as possible,” Geouque said.
In other township business, the board agreed to extend the date of its decision on whether to grant the application of 380 Starr Road, LP to establish a medical marijuana cultivation and manufacturing facility on 380 Starr Road in Landenberg, a 107,000-square-foot building that sits on 12 acres.
The applicant has asked for an extension until Dec. 18.
Nicholas DeSanctis, a principal with Vedic Holdings, a Bryn Mawr-based commercial real estate company, made presentations at two conditional use hearings before the board this fall. It is projected that David Tuttleman, the owner of Matrix NV, a Nevada-based medical marijuana growing company, will serve as the principal owner of the facility.
The 2019 Board of Supervisors meeting schedule will begin on Jan. 7, and will continue throughout the year on the third Monday of every month. The meetings will be held on Jan. 22, Feb. 19, March 18, April 22, May 20, June 17, July 15, Aug. 19, Sept. 16, Oct. 21, Nov. 18 and Dec. 16. All meetings will be held at the New Garden Township building, and begin at 7:30 p.m.
The board also appointed supervisor Mike Loftus to a two-year appointment on the Southern Chester County Regional Police Commission, and supervisor Richard Ayotte to a one-year appointment to the commission.
The township's annual tree lighting ceremony will take place on Dec. 2, beginning at 3:45 p.m. at New Garden Township Park. Santa Claus is expected to arrive at the park via helicopter at 4 p.m.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.