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Board OKs 2021 budget

Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners met Dec. 14 for the final monthly meeting of 2020. During the meeting, commissioners passed a number of ordinances and resolutions and appointed new volunteers to township positions beginning in 2021.

The board voted unanimously to adopt the 2021 annual budget and appropriate specific sums estimated to be required for various government purposes. Board President Philip Ginder said the board and the township administration worked hard to assemble the new budget under the difficult conditions brought on by the pandemic, and he thanked them all for their hard work.

There is no increase in the township real estate tax for 2021. It will remain at 3.8 mills.

Whitehall Township Mayor Michael Harakal Jr., in a statement in the budget document, said, “Financially, our situation will not improve for 2021. The lengthy shutdown of businesses will directly and negatively impact business privilege taxes for the upcoming budget cycle. Debt service will increase next year, as will pension costs and garbage and recycling fees. In sum, our projected fund balance at the end of 2021 will be $1.5 million less than the prior year.

“Yet, in the time of uncertainty, when many are suffering either financially, physically or emotionally, I propose to retain the real estate tax millage at 3.8 mills,” he added. “The 2021 budget has accounted for decreases in revenues where applicable. Garbage fees will see a $10 increase and an additional $20 for those with two containers. This will permit the township to cover the increasing costs for the hauler and retain all other programs as they currently operate.”

Commissioners also voted on another deferment of required sidewalk construction, this time at the West Coplay Road and Ruch Street frontages of 5305 W. Coplay Road. Commissioner Thomas Slonaker explained he would vote against the deferment because the developer had not made an adequate case to the board against having the sidewalk put in. The rest of the board unanimously voted against deferment, and the request was not granted.

Through a resolution, the board reaffirmed and reenacted the realty transfer tax, earned income tax, per capita tax, local services tax and business privilege tax for Whitehall Township.

Regarding volunteer appointments, the board appointed Jose Espinosa to Whitehall Township Fire Police, Douglas Sammak to Whitehall Township Authority and Shawn Younis to both the recreation commission and as an alternate to the planning commission.

Erich Schock, an attorney representing the owner of the property at 1504 MacArthur Road, asked the board to consider an amendment to the zoning ordinance for the property. The owner, he said, is looking at the long-term viability of having a brick-and-mortar commercial business on that property, where Best Buy is currently located.

Commissioners said they were open to discussion on the matter and would be willing to hear the owner’s ideas of what that property could bring to the township in the future.

In their closing statements for the year’s final meeting, commissioners thanked all members of the Whitehall Township government for their hard work throughout this challenging year. Ginder thanked the bureau chiefs, police and fire departments, township volunteers and his fellow commissioners for all their efforts in keeping the township running.

Ginder also thanked all the residents for having faith in them to do the best they can for Whitehall Township.