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Tax outlook stable in East Rockhill; sewer rates may rise


Municipal real estate property taxes could remain the same next year in East Rockhill, but it’s possible that sewer rates might rise.

That’s according to Township Manager Marianne Morano, who has been developing a preliminary township budget for 2020.

For 2019, the East Rockhill Board of Supervisors increased local property taxes about 20 percent – from a millage rate of 10.235 in 2018 to 12.235 this year. Under the 2019 millage, an East Rockhill property assessed at the township average of $40,000 is paying about $80 ($480.40) more in municipal real estate taxes this year. School district and county taxes comprise a larger portion of a property tax bill.

Supervisors, who previously hadn’t increased taxes since 2015, did so last year because additional cash flow was needed to fund a legal battle with Rock Hill Quarry, which is in the township on North Rockhill Road. Those battles continue, but supervisors and township officials believe at this time that they will not have to hike taxes again for 2020.

While supervisors held the line on sewer rates in 2019, they might not be able to do so again in 2020. “Pennridge Wastewater Treatment Authority approved their 2020 budget with a substantial increase to its members, which include East Rockhill,” said Morano. “As such, a sewer rate increase is being looked at.”

Still, the township manager added that it hasn’t been definitively determined if such an increase will occur, nor is it yet known what the rate hike might be.

Morano said the township has also looked into what would be necessary to freeze the 0.25 percent earned income tax it assesses residents to pay for open space. Nonetheless, the current “consensus is to keep the open space earned income tax to continue preservation efforts, continue debt payments (on open space purchases), and look at improvements to open space properties following House Bill 1523 guidelines,” Morano said.

For 2020, East Rockhill has preliminarily budgeted $250,000 for legal and related consultant expenses tied to the Rock Hill Quarry fight. So far this year, the township has spent $220,000 on the quarry situation.

“Budgeted expenses for 2019 are slightly higher than anticipated as of the end of September,” said Morano. “Legal expenses have exceeded budget due to Rock Hill Quarry litigation.”

After being largely – some locals would say entirely – dormant since the early 1980s, the quarry resumed operations in December 2017 to the shock of nearby residents. A year later, asbestos was identified at the site, which led state environmental officials to issue a cessation order on mining activities. The order remained in place as of this writing.

For much of 2018 and 2019, East Rockhill has been embroiled in various legal and zoning disputes with the quarry over its operations. Residents are concerned that the quarry, once in full swing, will cause air and water pollution, drain local groundwater supply, create hazardous truck traffic, generate intrusive industrial noise, and diminish property values.

Richard E. Pierson Materials Corp. has been working the quarry, which is owned by Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania, in support of its $224 million contract to provide asphalt for about 7 miles of the Turnpike Northeast Extension.