South Strabane Township municipal building

South Strabane Township supervisors approved a preliminary 2020 budget of approximately $6.89 million, which includes a property tax increase.

The tax increase of 0.1 mill is expected to bring in $126,009 to the township in 2020, bringing the real estate tax to 1.1 mills, for a total revenue of $1,338,716. The increase means that the owner of a property valued at $200,000 will pay about $20 more, or a total of $220.

“As of 2020, the township will only comprise 6.4% of the resident’s tax bill,” township Manager Brandon Stanick said during the Nov. 19 meeting. “Additionally, the average millage rate of our neighboring Washington County communities is 1.1059, (than) which the township would still be lower.”

Stanick said the increase is necessary due to increased wages in labor contracts, an additional career firefighter, increased pension obligations, compliance with the state’s mandated Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit, and the replacement of vehicle and large equipment.

The township plans to make updates to the municipal building to enhance ADA accessibility, which is expected to cost about $71,400 in the township’s Community Development Block Grant fund. Another capital expense in 2020 will be the approximate $173,500 for the construction of a new cold storage facility for public works.

The township will put $100,000 toward design costs for the Manifold Road stream bank restoration project, which helps the township meet its MS4 requirement.

The anticipated 2020 revenues represent about a 15.52% increase over the 2019 budget. Stanick said a “significant portion” of that increase is because 2019 funds dedicated to vehicle purchases were delayed and carried into 2020 because of “delays in production of the 2020 Ford Explorer Interceptors.”

About half the 2020 budget is allocated to public safety – including police, fire and code enforcement services – at about $3.8 million. Some of the money will go toward new body cameras and vehicles for police as well as new turnout gear for firefighters and a strategic planning initiative for the volunteer fire department.

“This will help us get on the same page as far as the future of fire services in Pennsylvania,” Stanick said during the meeting. “Volunteerism throughout the state when it comes to fire services is down drastically. We need to plan for that future. This will be a step in the right direction.”

General government costs, like administrative salaries, engineering and legal fees, are about $856,163. This year the township also established two additional funds, the Capital Improvement/Vehicle & Equipment Fund and the Act 101 Recycling Fund, which will “help the township better track a growing interest in funding sustainability programs,” Stanick said.

The budget, which is available on the township’s website, will be voted upon next month for adoption.

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