CLEARFIELD – The Lawrence Township Board of Supervisors conducted its first post-election budget meeting Thursday night. During the election, citizens opposed a six-mill property tax increase to fund their police department.
The supervisors have completed the final tentative budget. The tentative budget will be voted on at its next township meeting Tuesday, Nov. 20 after which it will be placed on public display before being finalized by Dec. 31.
The supervisors reported that their expected Marcellus Shale impact fee funding had been slightly reduced to $966,200 with an expected $579,778 forthcoming in July. The supervisors didn’t change the planned use for these funds.
The supervisors’ primary goal was to use the windfall to pay off the township’s debts. This would result in a continuous savings in interest that wouldn’t any longer need to be paid.
The supervisors have marked $250,000 as an acting buffer for the increasing costs of the police department over at least five years. They have set aside another $500,000 to be placed in the township’s capital reserve.
The General Election results regarding the referendum question, which sought a six-mill property tax increase to fund the police department, sparked a new debate in that aspect of the budget.
Supervisors Glenn Johnston and William Lawhead favored increasing the police force and budgeting for the ideal increase. Supervisor Ed Brown argued that citizens didn’t want to pay more for the police department, and the budget should hold the line.
“I won’t go for an increase in the police budget, as that is what the public said,” said Brown, citing a 70 percent vote against raising taxes to fund the police department.
Johnston countered that voters might have believed they shouldn’t be picking up the bill for the police department when the township will have additional funding from other sources.
However, the supervisors reached common ground regarding possibly hiring a part-time officer or two. In addition, they focused discussion on the next police chief and preferred promoting from among the seven, current officers for budget purposes. If none want to accept the position, the supervisors would be forced to hire a police chief from outside the department, meaning a new full-time position added to the force.
“Until we have a chief on the payroll, we have to budget for an outside chief,” said Johnston. He and Lawhead moved forward budgeting for two part-time employees, as well as for an outside chief in case none of the current officers accept the position.
Should one accept the position, their salary would either be a savings for the township, or placed toward a third part-time officer. This places the police department budget at $944,597. This is approximately the township’s income from property taxes and is a $48,199 increase from 2012.