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Borough Council Approves 30 Percent Tax Increase in 2015 Budget

by on December 15, 2014 10:09 PM

Even at the last minute, the State College Borough Council was still trying to find a way to reduce the 30 percent real estate tax increase that was ultimately passed in the 2015 budget.

Council president James Rosenberger proposed a last-ditch amendment that would have reduced the proposed tax increase from 30 percent to 20 percent.

In addition to reducing the tax increase from 3.36 mills to 2.36 mills, Rosenberger’s proposal would have delayed hiring new staff while looking for alternative revenue sources.

The 3.36 mil increase in the real estate tax reportedly represents an additional $20 a month, or $240 a year, for a home assessed at $300,000.

Council member Theresa Lafer fired back at Rosenberger’s suggestion, passionately arguing that borough staff has already worked extremely hard to find alternate revenue sources with little success. She said reducing the tax increase – which is the first such increase in five years – would ultimately worsen the borough’s deficit.

Fellow council member Sarah Klinetob also expressed concern that not filling open positions would cause “the borough’s services to degrade over the years.” Without having a plan in place to cut back specific services, she argued the proposal wouldn’t save the borough money in the long run.

“Pulling things out of the air and saying ‘things are going to be okay, because in the next few months we’re going to find savings we don’t see now,” is not sound budget planning,” council member Peter Morris said. “That’s magic thinking; that’s throwing salt over your shoulder in the hopes you won’t have bad lack; that’s making stuff up out of nothing; that’s even worse than I’m implying.”

Some residents, however, disagreed.

State College resident James Shincovich told council that he felt very few members were acting fiscally responsible. He told council that “in a budget of this magnitude, you have the ability to cut two percent without impacting crucial services.”

The 2015 budget includes nearly $24 million in revenues and over $25 million in expenses.

“This 30 percent tax increase will hurt you,” College Township resident Pat Vernon told council. “What business would want to move in here when they can move to Patton Township and not deal with any increased taxes?”

The budget and tax increase ultimately passed 4-3, with council members Rosenberger, Evan Myers and Tom Daubert voting against the measure.

The 2015 budget also included an increase to the borough’s realty transfer rate, which is a one-time fee shared by the buyer and seller of a property. This fee will now be 1.5 percent of a property’s assessed value at the time of a sale, instead of 1.25 percent.

Borough council also approved two outdoor dining areas at 340 and 346 East College Avenue. Both properties are run by Dante’s Restaurant, Inc, which operates Inferno and The Saloon.

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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