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Richland plans first tax increase in a decade

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Acting to counter a fire and rescue service deficit for its 2024 proposed budget and beyond, Richland Township is advertising a 2.25-mill increase in its dedicated “fire tax,” with the new total not to exceed 3 mills, up from the present dedicated 0.75 mills.

The action was taken at the Nov. 13 supervisors meeting. It is the first proposed tax increase since 2013, when 1.8 mills was added to the total real estate tax rate to allow for expansion of police services to 24/7. In 2008, 6.75 mills had been added, including 0.25 for fire.

The Nov. 13 action allows for supervisors to pass a new dedicated fire tax at the 3-mill level when the final budget is adopted at the Dec. 11 meeting, while retaining the opportunity to include it at less than 3 mills. No change was proposed to meet real estate tax support for the proposed, balanced general fund portion of the budget, which is understood to remain at 10.55 mills, for a present total of 11.30 mills. A maximum increase to a total of 13.55 mills would result from a fire tax increase to 3 mills.

The township’s open space budget to support land conservation easements, is to remain at the 0.1% “surcharge” to the separate 1% earned income tax (EIT), a method that was recently renewed by voters in a referendum.

Real estate tax support for the township’s public schools is handled separately via the Quakertown Community School District.

During discussion of the matter after a comprehensive budget presentation by Township Manager Leslie Huhn, supervisors noted that the fire service deficit arose primarily from increased out-of-pocket costs for equipment needs, which were particularly noted as costs that were expected to continue to exert further budget pressure going forward, and as needed for firefighters “to protect us and themselves.”

The separate budget presentations for the township’s general fund and fire fund were posted as attachments to the Nov. 13 meeting agenda, which is available via the BoardDocs tab on the township website’s home page.

The fire fund is noted as not only including general contributions and equipment support for its volunteer fire companies, but also support for insurance coverage. A donation to the Upper Bucks EMS is to be moved to the general fund.

Further during discussion, supervisors noted continuing and extensive fund raising efforts by the fire companies, and a strong preference for the present system of providing volunteer fire and rescue services, versus establishing a township fire department.

About 42% of the general fund budget is dedicated to the township’s police department.

Also at the Nov. 13 meeting, supervisors approved the promotion of Cpl. Matt Lawhead to detective sergeant. He was then sworn in to the new position, effective in the new year, by District Magistrate Lisa Gaier.


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