Lower Macungie budget retains low taxes, foresees significant waste rate hike
LOWER MACUNGIE TWP., Pa. — Lower Macungie Township's budget shifts some tax revenues, but a hike in the waste rate hike is on the horizon.
The budget, now up for public review and which the township Board of Commissioners expects to adopt Dec. 7, keeps the low 1% resident earned income tax and 1% local reality transfer tax the same as 2023.
Half of the earned income tax and local realty transfer tax is to go to East Penn School District, which raised property taxes 2.5% for the current school year.
The budget also keeps the voter-supported 0.15% earned income tax for open space and 0.25 millage real estate tax, with a 50% homestead exclusion towards the Lower Macungie Library.
It also keeps a $52 local services tax for all people working in the township earning more than $12,000 a year.
Despite no take rate hikes, tax revenue for the township is expected to increase, as new building developments continue in the township.
The final $32 million budget shifts from the prior budgets to form a separate solid waste tax in anticipation of heightened rates as a result of the need for a new contract.
Township Manager Bruce Beitel said budgeting has been "very conservative" in revenue forecasting in case of economic downturn, and there would be no change of service to residents.
The township will continue to pay off debt for the community center, and a debt of $6,142,000 it took on last year for land bought with the township's Open Space Fund.
Township employees got raises, though some lower than proposed, but elected officials did not.
Remaining funds from the $3.4 million from the American Rescue Plan were diverted to the capital projects fund and general fund, Beitel said.
Notable waste management increases
The budget restructures waste-related items into a new Solid Waste Fund, while anticipating increases related to solid waste and the need for new contracts.
Doing that effectively removed $2,500,000 from the General Fund.
Beitel has said annual trash bills will increase from $360 to $576, including a 60% rate increase for the last four months of 2024.
He said that's based on observations of new contracts made across other municipalities, including South Whitehall Township.
"This is increases that we're seeing across the market," Beitel said.
The cost of collecting curbside yard waste is expected to increase from $403,000 to $500,000 and charges from the township's garbage collection contract with Waste Management from $2,650,000 to $3,270,000.
"The cost of trash, it's going to go up tremendously with our next contract, as it has in other communities already around the Valley," Commissioner Brian Higgins said.
"Really without any control on our end other than to get the best deal we can."
Total regular solid waste charge revenue is anticipated to increase from $3,330,000 in 2023 to $4,000,000 in 2024. New revenue of $250,000 is expected from yard waste site permits for residents to use a yard waste drop-off site.
The current contract with Waste Management ends in August.
"The cost of trash, it's going to go up tremendously with our next contract as it has in other communities already around the valley, really without any control on our end other than to get the best deal we can."Brian Higgins, Lower Macungie Township commissioner
"I think we wanted to start having that conversation so that people could understand the costs associated with our yard waste operation, as well as that curbside collection," Beitel said.
"Residents may be disappointed with their garbage bill, if we see the kind of raise that we saw in South Whitehall or other neighbors in the future. Try to help them understand that that's what the market is seeing for various contracts."
The sewer fund proposes a 5% rate increase, which also was implemented in 2023. The increase would bring sewer charge revenue up to $4,935,000 from $4,700,000.
There now are 11,145 customers billed for sewer services at $86.20 per quarter. The new increase would amount to an increase of $4.20 per quarter, for a total of $361.60 annually for the typical customer, up from $344.80 according to the township.
Capital projects of $1,260,000 for 22,000 feet of cured-in-place plastic pipe lining and $160,000 to support an Upper Macungie Line upgrade on Mill Creek Road are budgeted for the sewer department.
Total sewer fund expenditures are budgeted to increase about $400,000 to $5,407,600.
Beitel said the township should be mindful that Lehigh County Authority continues to increase costs each year to accomplish capital improvement projects and will re-evaluate rates in the third quarter.
Department goals for 2024
During budget meetings, Beitel noted goals for township departments.
He said Parks and Facilities hopes to:
- Repair elevator in township building
- Complete traffic light upgrade project in the Hamilton Boulevard corridor project and implement a traffic preemption device
- Replace Wild Cherry Park playground
- Coordinate with recreation for a new comprehensive recreation plan
- Construct a park at Spring Ridge Crossing
- Upgrade the tennis court at Wild Cherry Park
- Coordinate the installation of spotlighting at the Quarry Park and pickleball courts
- Assisting with the design and permitting of a parking lot fishing pier at Kratzer Farm
- Facilitate construction of the Hillside School pathway
Recreation listed as goals expanding programming, special events and partnerships with local businesses. Beitel also said the township will continue expanding youth tennis and golf programs, and consider a pickleball league and court programming.
Community and Economic Development's goals are to implement an online zoning map on the township website to assist residents and developers, establish a rental registration program, and administer major development projects such as Lehigh Valley Town Center and Topgolf.
Under capital project goals, the township listed replacing the Gun Club Road bridge, repairing or replacing the Chestnut Street culvert, designing and permitting Smith Lane Bridge, the Saurkraut Extension mast arm and no trucks signage, and traffic pre-emption devices.