Tax hike passes in South Williamsport

The South Williamsport Borough Council approved a 2018 budget including a 0.32-mill tax increase to improve the functionality of the fire department.

The current tax rate in the borough is 4.8 mills. Although the general purpose and sewer tax rates won’t see any changes under the new budget, the borough’s fire protection rate will double- making the total millage 5.12. The fire protection rate, now at 0.64 mills, has never seen an increase since it’s been implemented.

The 0.32 mills translates to a $32 increase on an average home valued at $100,000.

The volunteer fire service has seen a steady drop all over the country over the last few decades. Numbers of volunteer firefighters have dropped nearly 83,000 from a total of 897,750 in 1984, according to the National Volunteer Fire Council.

South Williamsport is facing it, too, said Casey Lowmiller, chief of the South Williamsport Fire Department.

As numbers in the volunteer service decrease, the opposite is true of call volume and the demands placed on the volunteers that are there.

The tax increase will be used to help with base expenses and an active campaign to recruit new members.

“We felt this tax would better fund the organization so that we can get back to providing the essential service to this community,” Lowmiller said.

Voting to approve the budget were Cory Lehman, Robert Cronin, Joseph LaRue Jr., John Decker, David Geise and Henry Frey Jr. Abstaining were J. Bernard Schelb, Carl Nolan and Fred March.

A change order also was passed on a borough paving contract. Less work was needed than expected on phase one. The $7,673 will likely be used toward phase two of the project, Michael D. Miller, borough manager, said.

In other business, the council unanimously approved the following:

• The adoption of an ordinance and resolution that resolves the Matthews Boulevard parking issue by offering exemptions for approved vehicles to park on the narrow street.

• A winter municipal maintenance contract with the state Department of Transportation to plow state routes at a cost of $6,000.

• The adoption of the Greater Williamsport Alliance Multi-Municipal Comprehensive Plan

• The replacement of a playground project on West Second Avenue with the reconstruction of East Seventh Avenue on the borough’s SEDA-Council of Government’s grant program because of lack of participation in a survey to qualify the project for the grant.

The council will meet next at 7 p.m. Dec. 11.