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Watch on spending urged as budget OKÔ??d

February 19. 2013 9:42PM
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RICE TWP. – Township resident Rich Evans on Tuesday night asked if every possible financial solution is being evaluated as the supervisors approved the township's 2013 budget.

Evans said the township is probably paying between 6 and 8 percent in interest for the lease of a township truck, money that could be saved if the truck was bought outright.

It makes me question if we're evaluating every possible solution that is the best interests of the taxpayer, he said.

Supervisor George Venesky said the township has the third lowest tax rate in the county and next year's major paving projects and rising employee health care costs have supervisors tightly holding expenditures.

Rates from Geisinger Health Insurance are to increase 6.7 percent in 2013 and a half-mile, long-awaited paving project on Heslop Road will cost an estimated $80,000. Venesky said employee pay increases will add to the list of growing expenses.

In his financial report, Secretary Treasurer Donald Armstrong said the township is behind about $52,000 in anticipated revenue from the failed earned income tax collector Centax, a debacle that has forced officials to keep a lid on expenditures.

Though the current year's budget shows a nearly $200,000 surplus, he said that money should not be considered free and clear.

Venesky said the surplus sets up the township for financial stability next year.

Evans asked what kinds of reserves were being set aside for future big-ticket purchases. He suggested, and Armstrong agreed, that forward thinking should be worked into budget making as things like township vehicles and equipment wear out.

Supervisor Marcia Thomas suggested two public work sessions be held next year for residents to make such comments before the final budget is brought to vote.

Chairman Miller Stella and Venesky both seemed to agree that the current way of doing things meets the need for public comment.

In other business:

• The supervisors received notice from the Luzerne Conservation District that it had cited Piast Home Builders Co. with being in violation of district standards by allowing sediment from its development, Polonia Estates, to pollute a nearby stream deemed a Class A habitat for trout. The district, which encourages compliance with conservation standards, requested action be taken.

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