HERMITAGE — City residents can expect taxes to remain steady under the proposed 2020 budget, scheduled for final approval later this month.

Under the proposed budget, Hermitage's real estate tax will stay at 5 mills. This means the owner of a property at the city's average assessed value of $30,400 would have a yearly real estate tax bill of $152.

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This proposed budget for 2020 marks 29 years without a city property tax increase.

"It's a challenge for the city because we're maintaining the high level of municipal services, reinvesting in equipment and pursuing infrastructure projects," said city Manager Gary Hinkson said. "What you want to do is grow the tax base, because there are costs that go up every year such as insurance or pay raises, but we're expecting those increases and we can budget for them."

The budget includes a projected increase of $1,000,000 in both expenditures and revenues because the city will be taking out a tax anticipation note for 2020, according to the proposed budget. The note would be to help cover the city's operating expenses until property tax revenues come in.

Hermitage did not take out a tax anticipation note last year, but has previously, Hinkson said. The decision on whether to seek the short-term loan depends on how much money the city carries over from the previous year.

If, for example, Hermitage saved money on salt after a mild winter, the city might have a little more money on hand at year's end.

Unexpected spending, such as the new rental property license and inspection program, also affects the amount of carry-over funds, Hinkson said. The program was initiated earlier this year, under the Hermitage Fire Department's oversight.

Assistant Manager Gary Gulla said the city starts to receive tax payments in the spring, with April, May and June being the city's biggest revenue months.

"I expect we'll pay it back by mid-year," Hinkson said.

The Hermitage Municipal Authority project to replace failing on-lot septic systems for properties on North Neshannock Road, and North and South Darby roads is expected to begin sometime in 2020, at a cost of about $1,030,000. Hermitage Municipal Authority applied for a bond issue to help pay for the project and other improvements at their treatment plant, so the project will not affect Hermitage's budget or residents' sewer fees, Hinkson said.

City officials plan to continue municipal projects, such as the replacement of street lights and mast heads at Keel Ridge Road and East State Street, Hinkson said. A $204,640 PennDOT Green Light Go grant will cover most of the cost, with the city matching 20 percent, or $51,150.

Among the city's other projects will be the continued Neighborhood Investment Program, which this year will focus on "area six," or the area of Armand Avenue in Hermitage, Hinkson said. The Neighborhood Investment Program allows the city to focus on improving stormwater systems and repaving roads in Hermitage's older neighborhoods.

The commissioners are expected take a final vote on the proposed budget at 6 p.m. Dec. 18 in the Hermitage municipal building.

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