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Lower Saucon Council to Consider Tax Rate Change

Lower Saucon Township Sign

After reopening the township’s 2024 budget for review Thursday, Lower Saucon Township Council voted 3-1 to increase the tax rate from what was approved by the previous council in December; a move proponents said is in the best financial interests of the township and which would return it to the level it was at before last month’s tax cut.

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After reopening the township’s 2024 budget for review Thursday, Lower Saucon Township Council voted 3-1 to increase the tax rate from what was approved by the previous council in December; a move proponents said is in the best financial interests of the township and which would return it to the level it was at before last month’s tax cut.

Council voted on the matter after it heard a report on the 2024 budget from new township controller Lynn Hill, and after council also heard from Lower Saucon Fire Rescue representatives.

Hill, who worked on the report with township finance director Cathy Gorman, said the 2024 township budget has an excess of expenses over revenue of approximately $57,000 and told council it is possible that more than $100,000 “may need to be transferred in” to cover expenditures.

Councilman Jason Banonis questioned Hill’s numbers, but when councilwoman Victoria Opthof-Cordaro asked Gorman if she felt they had been “editorialized,” Gorman responded “no.”

“These numbers aren’t made up,” Hill said. “They are based on the real budget.”

Lower Saucon Fire Rescue Chief Ty Johnson and President Scott Krycia presented council with some of their organization’s financial challenges, which have included increasing expenses and only a 20 percent return on their annual fundraising appeal.

Although Johnson told council that their marketing partner for that appeal believes a 20 percent donation rate is actually a relatively good response, council president Priscilla deLeon said she was disappointed with that figure and would like to see it increase through better communication about what the volunteer firefighters do for the community.

“There are people moving in here from the cities who have no clue you’re volunteer,” she told Johnson, who agreed that the misperception is an ongoing problem.

After deLeon made a motion that was seconded by Opthof-Cordaro to raise the township fire tax from .75 mills to .9 mills, Johnson also discussed the tanker truck on order for Lower Saucon Fire Rescue, which is to be based out of the 70-year-old Southeastern fire station in Wassergass.

“I tried to get a truck to fit in that firehouse,” said Johnson. “They can’t do it anymore.”

A tanker truck needs to be housed at Southeastern, he told council, because it is centrally located in a rural, 10-square mile area that only has one fire hydrant.

The need to potentially expand the station to house the new truck was questioned by Banonis, who said he wasn’t aware of the fact that the truck would be too big to fit inside the current structure.

Did you tell us then that it was going to cost us an additional hundreds of thousands of dollars or a million dollars for the new firehouse to be built to accommodate the new toy?” asked Banonis, before Johnson and others questioned his word choice.

“It’s not a toy,” Johnson said.

“Firetruck. My bad,” Banonis responded. “Firetruck.”

“If anybody has ideas, you’re more than welcome to give them to us, instead of berate(ing) us in front of everybody,” Johnson told council.

Opthof-Cordaro thanked Johnson and Krycia for their service to the community and apologized for what she said seemed to be turning into more of an interrogation than a discussion.

“The fire tax should never have been decreased,” said deLeon, who remarked that she has voted against all township budget proposals that have included a fire tax reduction.

“We seem to have a lot of capital improvements that we are going to need and we aren’t funding our fire tax appropriately to account for those needs,” commented Opthof-Cordaro.

Resident Russ Sutton told council he supported the effort to increase fire company funding by raising the fire tax millage rate and cited an experience in which he called for help and the fire company responded to his home within two minutes.

The other council spent a lot of money on ballfields and parks and they don’t save people’s lives,” he said. “Our volunteers do a great job and without our volunteers we’re sunk. This is a matter of life and death.”

In addition to the fire tax, council also discussed raising the general millage rate–which is used to calculate property taxes–from the 3.64 mills that was approved in December to 4.24 mills.

The millage rate that was included in the original 2024 budget proposal council received in October was 4.39 mills.

Banonis questioned the idea of resetting it at 4.24 mills, and said that for the statistically average township taxpayer with a home valued at $500,000 a year, the total .75 mill increase would equal a $350-per-year tax hike.

“They want to take more of your money,” he said.

“We’re not raising taxes,” countered council vice president Laura Ray. “The combined total will still be what we’ve had for the past three full years. It’s the same total millage. It’s just we’re dividing it up differently. We’re moving it a little over more to the fire tax, as much as we can, which is 25 percent.”

Combined it’s 5.14 mills, which is the same rate it’s been for the past three years,” Ray said, before adding, “(there’s) a lot of word twisting going on up here.”

“Everybody knows everything costs more money,” said Opthof-Cordaro. “To be in a position where we’re balancing our budget by using our reserves, which is what we did, I don’t think is fiscally responsible.”

The vote to approve the tax rate changes passed 3-1, with Banonis responding “asbolutely not” when asked he was in favor of it. He then gathered his belongings and walked out of the meeting.

Council will vote on whether to approve the revised 2024 budget at its next regular meeting, which will be held Wednesday, Jan. 17 at 6:30 p.m. in-person at Lower Saucon Town Hall and online.

If council approves the budget proposal Jan. 17, the revised budget will be advertised for 10 days before a vote on its adoption is taken at council’s Wednesday, Feb. 7 meeting.

Councilman Tom Carocci was absent from the Jan. 10 meeting; his second consecutive absence from a township council meeting.

In other business, it was announced that in addition to council meetings being livestreamed on the township’s YouTube channel, other township meetings are also now being livestreamed.

The Jan. 9 EAC meeting was one of the first to be streamed under a directive by the new council majority to township manager Mark Hudson to expand online access to meetings, including by potentially adding the use of Zoom to the township’s suite of digital recording/streaming tools. The use of Zoom, council members said, would allow for online audience participation in meetings.

Hudson announced at Thursday’s meeting that Christmas trees are still being accepted for dropoff at the Lower Saucon yard waste center on Polk Valley Road, which will be open this Saturday, Jan. 13 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for dropoffs.

Opthof-Cordaro also asked Hudson to research the possibility of opening a “security gate” in between two developments south of Meadows Road in the township.

The gate on Stover Road between Arden Lane and Viola Lane prevents access for residents who wish to exercise or walk their dogs from one community to the other, she said, and “some residents have asked that we look into whether there’s any need to have the gate there any longer for security purposes.”

Opthof-Cordaro specifically requested that the fire company’s and police department’s input on the matter be sought.


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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at

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