Supervisors pass preliminary Antrim Township budget with raises and cuts

PAT FRIDGEN

Antrim Township's 2012 proposed $2.3 million budget includes a 3 percent raise for employees, a change in healthcare coverage by requiring deductibles for the first time, and an increase to the medical reimbursement fund to help cover some of that cost.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously accepted the budget presented by administrator Brad Graham Nov. 22, with some changes to final numbers made before they were posted on the township website for public review. The budget will be adopted at 11 a.m. Dec. 28.

Refusing to levy a 1 mill real estate tax, as suggested by Graham, eliminated a potential $125,000 of revenue. However, he said the day was coming when Antrim would have to reinstate a tax. To spend less than the expected $2.32 million income, board members Sam Miller, James Byers, Rick Baer, Curtis Myers and Fred Young III made a number of cuts and kept one tax.

Miller and Byers had advocated eliminating the amusement tax, since it affected so few businesses, and non-profit organizations were granted waivers. Only Greencastle Greens Golf Course and Fun Castle pay the tax, expected to raise $10,000 next year.

"Our thinking was, people know they have to pay it; why change it?" said Mary Klein, township secretary. "We never have an issue collecting it."

Young added that since there was no real estate tax, it was at least some commercial taxation.

A light discussion addressed employee raises. Young and Baer preferred 1 percent, but not across the board. Some employees could get none, others more. That would be determined after the December reviews. Miller liked 3 percent. No action was taken to change the raise contained in the draft. The 2011 budget also included a 3 percent raise, although a few employees only received 1 or 2 percent, based on supervisor input.  

Employee salaries in 2011 were $716,688 and in 2012 are projected to be $737,417.

For healthcare coverage, the board supported employees paying $500 in deductibles, something they have never done before. It would also raise reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical expenses from $1,500 to $1,750. The cost to Antrim per person for health insurance will run just over $20,400, which is less than in the past. The benefits package on the proposed budget is up 6 percent, but could be lower after final numbers are in.

Other line items

Graham took out the purchase of a $73,000 truck and an $18,000 plow. He wanted to wait on finishing the Shared Use Trail, to save $83,000, but left it in at the encouragement of Young and Byers. The money would come out of reserves. He also wanted to eliminate repairs or replacements of culverts on West Weaver and Enoch Brown roads, but since construction prices were down, Miller pushed to get them done, along with culverts on Grant Shook and Willowdale  roads.

Irrigation of Antrim Township Community Park stayed in the budget, with the $60,000 coming from several funds.

On the sewer side, the township expected to go in the hole $600,000 to pay off a bank loan from the refinancing initiative in February.

Other business

Developer Tom Shook explained that since banks weren't offering financing in the current economy, he wanted to change his plans for the Melrose Meadows Phase 3 Planned Residential Development. He proposed shrinking the size of the townhomes and putting a breezeway between the units, so they could be built one at a time. He would need to be able to obtain an occupancy permit for just one home, instead of all at once. Zoning officer Sylvia House supported his request as long as the owner of the first home wasn't affected by the future construction. She also wondered what would happen if the project died part-way through. The board found Shook's idea creative, and needed time to think about it.

Though a resolution to the Patton Bridge Road problem was supposed to be settled that night, it was postponed as none of the neighbors were present. Graham said they were trying to reach a compromise on where a gate should be located on the deadend road.

He also announced that Norfolk Southern was sending the $300,000 check agreed upon in negotiations when it chose Antrim for its intermodal facility. There was no specific purpose for the use of the funds.

A change order was approved for painting a closet at the Antrim Township Community Park concession stand, for $540, and adding wood trim for $1,520.

Graham said he was working with John Wardzinski, senior district manager of Mountain View Reclamation, on language for a revised agreement with Waste Management. One point under debate was the fees Antrim would receive for out-of-state tonnage accepted at the landfill. Young and Baer were also part of the sessions.

After an executive session, the board authorized Antrim to file a claim in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas against Heritage Estates West for failure to pay review fees.

Citizen Kathryn Freese asked the supervisors to still consider a new municipal building on its property on U.S. 11 South. She found the intersection on Route 16 and Antrim Church Road dangerous as people tried to get to the township office.

"This building is 35-years-old. Money would be better spent on something new."