BRIDGEPORT– — At their meeting on May 17, the Logan Township Council discussed the major tax increase included in their 2016 budget. The average home in Logan assessed at approximately $188,000 will see a yearly tax hike of $500.
The tax hike came as a result of a renegotiated pilot agreement with Keystone Cogeneration Company.
Two local people questioned the increase during the public portion of the meeting.
Administrator Lyman Barnes recalled the timeline of events that took place before the tax increase.
“The pilot agreement with Keystone goes back to 1992, and was supposed to expire in 2024,” he explained. “They gave us written notice in February that they were terminating the agreement, which was their right.”
“They gave us a 30-day extension to renegotiate,” Barnes added. Barnes and solicitor Brian Duffield played key roles in renegotiating the deal.
Barnes said Logan Township was making $2.6 million in revenue per year from Keystone. But Keystone Cogeneration Company has suffered declines in its gross revenues, and has taken losses in New Jersey tax courts.
Barnes said that without the pilot program, Logan’s revenue from Keystone would have fallen to $65,000. He pointed out that the renegotiation brought that figure back to $650,000.
“They won their tax appeal,” Barnes said. “It was a business decision by them.”
Deputy Mayor Chris Morris agreed. “It was business. We’re not vilifying Keystone,” he noted. “They’ve been a good friend to the township for over 20 years.”
Logan Mayor Frank Minor stressed that detailed information on the tax hike would be available to residents in the township’s newsletter, due in June. “We always operate this administration open and transparent,” Minor said. But he felt that Logan Township couldn’t cut $2 million from its budget, saying, “It’s just not there.”
Councilmember Stephen Dougherty did not agree with the tax increase, and voted against Logan’s new budget. “I think we should have made some cuts,” Dougherty commented. “We just hired someone to run our website. I’m not sure our priorities are in order.”
Dougherty feels the significant hike was too much of a burden on local taxpayers, saying, “Every night when my head hits the pillow, I know that I did the best I could for the people of Logan.”
“The bottom line is, we lost a contract that would have paid us $2.6 million and it dropped to $650,000,” Barnes concluded. “We’ve frozen our capital projects for 2016, and we’re trying to reduce expenditures.”
In resolutions, Council authorized a payment of $88,592 to Levy Construction Company for recreational improvements to Township Line Park. They also approved a final payment of $3,516.51 to Asphalt Paving Systems for Logan’s 2014 Road Program. An approved change order adjustment in the 2014 Road Program saw a reduction of $43,808.39.
In Public Works, Superintendent Mike Riley reported that the department had cleaned up the fence on Township Line Road, and the basketball courts have been painted. Minor and Councilmember Doris Hall commended Riley and Public Works for the work they have been doing in the community, along with the police force.
Elsewhere, in his report, Logan Police Chief Robert Leash said the local forces answered 1,606 calls for service during April, and issued 223 summonses. Leash also noted that several officers attended seminars during the month.
In new business, Council accepted a letter of resignation from Patrolman Kevin Cleary. Minor pointed out that Cleary had been with the Logan Police for 12 years.
“He was a stand-up officer that always did his job,” praised the mayor. “We wish him well.”
— by Robert Holt