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Property tax hikes, water rate increases talk of Hooversville council

May 16, 2019

In Hooversville, borough council members are concerned that property values will decrease as the community becomes more unsightly and infrastructure crumbles.

A number of problems have stemmed from the borough’s dire financial straits. At the council meeting on Tuesday, discussions centered on ways to increase revenue into the borough’s coffers. Raising property taxes was favored by some as a way to pay for various projects, including road work and water pipe installation. The other half of the council favored raising water rates to help ease the financial strain.

“We’re getting a lot of people moving out. We’re getting a lot of empty houses,” said Rick Hause, councilman. “We need a structured plan to know what’s going up and by how much. and we need to get that information out. We need a basic plan to know how much to raise. I’m on the fixed income side of this. I’m not saying we don’t need it here in the borough. Our borough consists mostly of retired people.”

Hause was in favor of raising water rates. By increasing the basic rate from $32 to $40 a month, the borough estimated it would increase its revenue stream from water bills from $185,000 to $235,000.

“What am I getting in return for higher taxes?” Hause said. “If I’m going to pay more, I’m going to expect more back. Our town has never looked this bad. I’ve lived here 45 years and it was never this bad.”

Paul Gaudlip, another councilman, favors a property tax over a year’s time because it spreads out the cost. Property taxes are also deductible on an individual’s federal income tax return. He said they haven’t raised taxes in the borough in his 17 years of living there. The property tax rate is 3 mills.

“Things are getting so expensive to run this town,” Gaudlip said. “We’re looking out for everyone’s pocketbooks, but we have to figure out where we’re going to come up with this money to pay for these projects.”

Council President Ken Karashowsky said the increasing costs are related to the water system and water treatment. He said that they are in the red by about $20,000 a month in dealing with those costs.

“That’s the dilemma,” Karashowsky said. “And to continually borrow money out of the general fund . . . other things get put by the wayside.”

The borough is also having issues with water meters. Some need to be replaced or repaired. Some of the unaccountable losses may be due to malfunctioning water meters that are 20 years old. Engineers have told borough officials that 20-year-old meters can run 20% slower, causing readings to be off. The people with broken meters at their home were still paying rates for service. If they have a defective water meter, it runs slow. The borough could conceivably have lost money for that.

“What they had to do was estimate in some instances what the expense would be,” Karashowsky said.

In other matters, the council voted to appoint Jesse Boncoski to replace Jack Gaudlip, who resigned as a council member in April.

They will revisit the tax and water rate controversy at the council’s next meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 28 at the borough building, 50 Main St.