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South Middleton Township supervisors Monday unanimously passed a tentative 2018 municipal budget that would introduce a road tax earmarked for township road maintenance and repairs.

The township’s budget includes total proposed expenditures of $7,036,870, with road spending proposed to increase by 35 percent next year. Next year’s municipal revenues are expected to total $7,039,024, which includes an estimated $654,000 collected from a proposed 0.35-mill road tax levied on properties within the township.

“There’s a number of challenges our township has been facing over the past several years,” Township Manager Cory Adams said. “We’ve had an increasing number of roads built in the township, and the incoming revenue has been insufficient to cover this. We hope to implement what will be a modest tax that will help to maintain our roads, which is a basic government function and something that will benefit everyone.”

South Middleton property owners already pay a 0.25-mill fire tax each year, Adams said. For the new tax as proposed, property owners assessed at $200,000 would be billed $120 annually in fire and road taxes next year, Adams said.

South Middleton has no general real estate tax.

Township supervisor Rick Reighard said during a presentation at Monday’s meeting that South Middleton has 150 miles of roads. For now, 114 miles are owned and maintained by the township, but officials anticipate that countless more streets will pop up in the area within the next 10 years or so. In 2014, South Middleton’s population edged over 15,000 for the first time, and by all indications, it will continue to grow.

“In the past decade, the township has taken on 40 different road dedications,” Reighard said. “About 2,000 additional dwelling units have been approved or proposed to be built in the township over the next 10 years.”

Several other factors are contributing to the need for a road tax, Reighard said. In recent years, the township has received less revenue from liquid fuel taxes due to the general public driving more fuel-efficient or electric vehicles. The cost of winter road maintenance also continues to increase with harsher winters in the area. Even a recent widening of the Panama Canal has brought more traffic to the area, with many commercial vehicles using the area’s I-81 corridor to reach the Atlantic Ocean via the Chesapeake Bay.

The township is proposing to spend around $1 million in road upgrades and improvements, including $400,000 to replace bridges on Petersburg Road and on Zion Road. Walnut Bottom Road is scheduled for widening in areas, along with resurfacing and tar and chip applications. Officials also plan to install sidewall or replace sidewalks, crosswalks and other traffic-calming measures in the village of Boiling Springs.

“The township is in a new era now,” Reighard said. “We have over 15,000 people living here. There are lots of things going on here commercially and residentially.”

South Middleton’s proposed budget is available for public review for 20 days before final adoption. Township supervisors are scheduled to finalize next year’s fiscal plan on Dec. 14.

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