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Draft of Solebury 2024 budget shows no tax increase


Solebury Township’s draft of its 2024 budget calls for no increase in the municipal tax levy. If passed, it would be the third year in a row for local taxes to remain stable.

“There are no big surprises,” Mark Baum Baicker, chair of the Board of Supervisors, said Tuesday.

The tax millage remains at 24.8102 mills, with 8.5 mills for the general fund, .491 mills for the New Hope-Solebury Free Library, 13.129 mills for the debt service fund, 1.75 mills for fire fund and .9402 for the EMS fund.

The township reported that while COVID-19 had significant effects on global markets, one of the anomalies the pandemic had on Solebury was to increase Real Estate Transfer Tax and Earned Income Tax collections.

In 2021, the municipality reached its largest total revenue collection (in the last five years) of $14,385,460.

The 2022 receipts were $13,931,193, down 3%, reflecting a return to pre-pandemic levels.

“Now, receipts are on the downward cusp of peak collections, returning to pre-pandemic ‘normalized’ levels, while the costs of goods continue to rise,” the township reported.

Solebury’s estimated revenue for 2023 is $13,393,687 and the projected revenue for 2024 is similar.

The township projects 2024 general fund revenues will reflect nearly flat real estate, earned income, transfer and local services taxes. But by taking advantage of higher interest rates, the budget includes $150,000 in interest earnings.

Also added to the 2024 tally is a stipend hike to volunteer firefighters and fire police who live in Solebury and work for one of the companies that serve the township.

At the Sept. 5 supervisors meeting, resident Barbara Zietchick questioned whether the $500 stipend approved that night was a before- or after-tax sum for the firefighters.

Chair Baum Baicker on Tuesday reported that the $500 was indeed treated as taxable income.

“So I want to propose that we ‘gross up’ that amount to make it the equivalent of $500 after-tax,” he said.

The board agreed and unanimously voted to increase the stipend to $650.

Among budgeting challenges the township anticipates in 2024 are:

• Economic uncertainties due to a significant increase in interest rates to combat rising inflation;

• Continued supply chain disruptions and increasing prices of goods, materials and services, especially for vehicles, fuel and asphalt. The 2023 bid for winter maintenance services for 2024-2027 resulted in an increase of 30% to 35%;

• Insurance costs, specifically for property and cyber insurance, have risen due to repetitive losses attributed to climate change weather events and an increase in cyber-attacks;

• The hiring of a new police chief to replace retiring Chief Dominick Bellizzie and contract negotiations for the upcoming collective bargaining agreement.

The supervisors will vote to advertise the final budget for adoption at its Dec. 12 meeting.

In other business, the board, on the recommendation of the Historical Architectural Review Board, authorized Certificates of Appropriateness, with conditions, for Mark Worth at 2610 River Road, and for Sue and Jonathan Wiedorn at 4224 Wismer Road.

Also, Baum Baicker reported volunteering, with his wife, last Saturday at the Carversville Farm Foundation.

Participants at the event, organized by the Historic Carversville Society, helped prepare onions for distribution and garlic for replanting, he said.

The Carversville Farm Foundation, he said, “donates 100% of its harvests to soup kitchens and food pantries. Last year, this comprised 138,000 pounds of organic produce, 47,000 pounds of pasteurized poultry and grass-fed beef and more than 500,000 eggs from pasteurized free-range chickens.”

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