HUNLOCK TWP. — When township resident Linda Wilde opened her municipal tax bill, she noticed two new line items increased her bill by $210.
After further investigation, Wilde found the fees were based on her property’s tax assessment and earmarked to support the Hunlock Creek volunteer fire and ambulance companies.
“They charged me $105 for the ambulance and $105 for the fire companies,” Wilde said. “They were just soliciting for donations around the holidays.”
The 12-year township resident questioned the legality incorporating financial support for volunteer agencies that actively seek donations.
“I didn’t think that was right,” she said. “I asked the commissioner (Luzerne County Council member Stephen A. Urban) if it was legal. He said he wasn’t sure.”
According to page 77 of the Taxation Manual provided by the Department of Community & Economic Development, a second class township such as Hunlock Township can apply “special purposes taxes” which include up to three mills for firehouses and equipment and a half mill for ambulance and rescue squads. A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed value.
“They charged me .33 mills for both (fire and ambulance),” Wilde said. “So I guess they are in range.”
For three years, township supervisors have been looking to find a way to fund the volunteer fire and ambulance companies, said township manager Vicki Benscoter.
The municipal tax bills were mailed Feb. 1. Benscoter received calls from residents asking what the fees are for, but “once I explain it is for the fire and ambulance companies, most are happy to support them.”
Wilde disagrees, noting several neighbors she spoke with do not like the new fees added to their tax bill.
“We have quite a few homes up for tax sale,” she said. “People can’t afford to live here. I do not want this (the new fees) on my tax bill.”
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.