HORSHAM — The township could see if its first municipal tax increase in 16 years if its 2019 preliminary budget is approved by the township council next week.
The $19.3 million proposed budget calls for an increase in the real estate tax rate from 1 to 1.2 mills, a 20 percent increase. A mill equates to $1 in taxes per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. A resident with a home assessed at the township average of $180,000 would pay $216 under the new rate, an increase of $36.
The increase is being driven by an uptick in the fire tax rate, which represents a third of the overall municipal tax. Taxes for the library and parks make up the rest of the overall levy. The budget calls for an increase in the fire tax from .31 to .51 mills.
Officials say the fire tax increase is being requested to support the Horsham Fire Company, particularly the need to increase staffing for its Battalion 2 station at 1023 Horsham Road. This would allow the company to boost coverage to the central and western reaches of the township and accommodate expected growth in the years ahead.
Fire officials have noted that despite increases in call volume for fire and EMS, revenue has been on the decline, necessitating the need for increased funding. The fire company has not requested an increase in its fire tax since 2000, according to Township Manager Bill Walker.
“If this volunteer fire company is going to maintain and sustain its current level of service for our community and our residents and our businesses, they need additional revenue,” Walker said.
Although a public hearing and review of the overall 2019 proposed budget was held at the council’s Nov. 26 meeting, no official action was taken that night. The budget is slated for a final council vote on Dec. 12.
Also at the Nov. 26 meeting, the council welcomed two new officers to the Horsham Police Department.
Austin Rose and Nicholas Tschepikiewski were introduced and sworn in at the beginning of that meeting, with friends, family and colleagues in the police department present for the ceremony.
“We welcome them,” Walker said in advance of the officers’ swearing-in. “They have a big responsibility and big shoes to fill — a very important responsibility to our residents and our businesses. They are not just driving around. They are active in our community, and they’re protecting us.”
Police Chief William Daly said Rose and Tschepikiewski will fill slots 39 and 40, as the department is composed of 40 sworn officers.
Daly said Tschepikiewski is a Horsham resident and a graduate of Hatboro-Horsham High School. He served in the United States Marine Corps and obtained an associate's degree from the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He is a recent graduate of the Montgomery County Police Academy. He previously worked for the Bristol Township Police Department.
Rose is from the Bryn Athyn area, Daly said, and a graduate of West Chester University. He is also a 2018 graduate of the Montgomery County Police Academy.