Don’t expect to find any casinos in South Middleton Township anytime soon.
On Thursday night, township supervisors unanimously approved a resolution informing the state gaming control board that the township wants to prohibit the establishment of a Category 4 casino, commonly referred to as a minicasino, in the municipality.
“It’s my understanding from our previous conversation (last month) that you want to opt out of this,” township manager Cory Adams told to the board before the vote.
“Based on your recommendation and our judgment, this casino doesn’t fit the character of our township,” supervisor Tom Faley said.
The board beat a Dec. 31 deadline given to Pennsylvania municipalities to decide whether to opt out of allowing casinos in their areas. On Oct. 30, Gov. Tom Wolf signed Act 42, which gave officials until the end of the year to take action on the matter.
Municipalities that opt out of allowing a minicasino have the option of changing their position later. Under Act 42, the auction for up to 10 licenses for such casinos will start no later than Jan. 15, and finish by July 31. The casinos would have a minimum of 300 to a maximum of 750 slot machines, and could include up to 40 table games.
A Dec. 11 posting by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on Dec. 11 posted these Cumberland County municipalities as opting out of allowing Category 4 minicasinos: Cooke Township, Dickinson Township, Hampden Township, Mechanicsburg, Newburg, Newville, North Newton Township and Penn Township. The Mount Holly Springs council voted to opt out of allowing a minicasino this week. Carlisle Borough Council also voted Thursday night to opt out of allowing a minicasino.
“We’re surrounded by our neighbors who don’t want it,” Faley said.
Also on Thursday, South Middleton Township unanimously finalized a 2018 municipal budget that initiates a road tax levied on properties in the township. The 0.35-mil tax will be dedicated exclusively for township road maintenance and repairs.
South Middleton has no general real estate tax, but residents pay a 0.25-mill fire tax. Officials said a property owner assessed at the township’s average of $209,800 will pay an additional $70 in real estate taxes next year with the new fire tax.
The township’s 2018 budget includes total proposed expenditures of $7,036,870, with road spending proposed to increase by 35 percent next year. Officials said the road tax is necessary because the township plans to spend around $1 million in road upgrades and improvements, including $400,000 to replace bridges on Petersburg Road and on Zion Road.
Also next year, 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.
Municipal engineer Brian O’Neill said it’s likely that even more road work lies ahead in the township because some bridges are nearly a century old and “coming to the end of their lives.”
Resident Doug Gale told the board that he was initially angry when officials first proposed the road tax last month but grasped a better understanding about the matter after a phone conversation with board president Bryan Gembusia. Still, Gale cautioned township supervisors “to keep in mind that we have a lot of seniors in town, and a lot of middle and lower-class. Taxes are eating them alive. … The 7-percent increase in school taxes hit pretty hard last year and now we have this.”
“This is our last resort, to raise taxes,” Gembusia said. “I would rather be voted out of office because I raised taxes rather than if I didn’t raise taxes to fix the bridge and someone died.”