Hermitage’s proposed 2007 budget shows a 6.6 percent increase, but local taxes and fees would remain the same.

City commissioners on Tuesday introduced an ordinance for a $10,100,529 general fund spending plan that leaves real estate taxes at 5 mills, the earned income tax at 1.75 percent and the emergency and municipal services tax at $5. Taxes have been the same for 16 years.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value; assessments are a property’s 1970 market value.

The $4,884,373 sewer fund budget keeps the quarterly residential bill at $95.

While there have been occasional calls to reduce taxes — none came Tuesday — commissioners decided to keep the tax structure as it is for another year.

“We look every year at expenses and revenues,” City Manager Gary P. Hinkson said. “Obviously, any change in tax structure that results in lower revenue means we’ve got to spend less. In order to maintain the level of services to our residents, the tax structure as it is currently constituted is the fairest system.”

Hinkson said the city has been able to take on debt in bond issues to pay for various improvement projects without raising taxes.

The budget “continues our strong annual reinvestment in city infrastructure,” such as road work and the storm water management project, Hinkson said.

The spending plan also includes money to upgrade the street, fire, police and water pollution control departments “in order for these departments to maintain the high level of service the residents and businesses in Hermitage have come to expect,” he said.

Among the projects in the budget:

• Pave Morefield Road between South Hermitage Road and Maple Drive; North Kerrwood Drive; and Hemlock Lane. Repair and seal coat Sample Road and Spangler Road south of Longview Road.

• Pave and make storm water improvements to Theota Drive.

• Buy a new hoist and dump truck for the street department.

• Contribute $50,000 to the Hermitage Volunteer Fire Department to buy a new truck.

• In the police department, begin a several-year replacement of police radios, buy three cruisers and upgrade computer software.

• Hire a policeman, bringing the department’s strength to 29. Hinkson noted that the department has additional responsibilities patrolling around Shenango River Lake and in Clark, which hired Hermitage for police protection. “Our work load has increased,” Hinkson said. “We want to be as proactive as we can as it relates to public safety.” Hinkson noted that Chief Patrick B. McElhinny asked to hire two.

• Hire a community planner, a position created in this year’s budget. The planner will take on some of the Community Development Block Grant administrative duties, work on studies and short- and long-term planning and oversee mapping and subdivision and land development plan reviews.

• Work with the Hermitage Community and Economic Development Commission to create a marketing plan that highlights the LindenPointe technical business park and Stateline Industrial Park, but promotes the city as a whole.

• Upgrade the city Web site at www.hermitage.net to make it more interactive.

• Install wireless technology in the city building so the city’s server can be accessed anywhere in the building.

• Upgrade the technology in the commissioners’ meeting room so plans and other documents can be projected on a screen that can be viewed by members of the audience.

• Begin a program of accepting payments to the city by credit card, starting with the real estate tax office.

• Increase the city’s contribution to the Shenango Valley Community Library in Sharon by $12,000 to $97,000 and continue to give the library computers the city is no longer using.

• Add signal preemption equipment to traffic signals at three intersections so that emergency vehicles will get green lights as they speed to calls. Fourteen intersections currently are wired with the equipment.

• Continue administering Wheatland’s housing rehabilitation program.

City officials are planning for an increase in electricity costs and a nominal increase in fuel costs. Hinkson noted that they expect to be able to hold the line on natural gas and employee health insurance.

Commissioners set a public hearing and final vote on the budget for Dec. 20.

Commissioners also tentatively approved these budgets: capital reserve, $408,000; construction, $1,568,680; sanitary sewer utility, $4,884,373, of which $1,752,517 is for debt service; highway aid, $387,804; Shenango Valley Shuttle Service maintenance, $179,957; vested sick leave, $378,212; Pennsylvania Emergency Management loan, $103,219; and capital improvement, $888,589.

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