Mayor announces tax increase after five years without one

There will be a 2.44 percent increase in 2021 fiscal plan

Steve Clark stands for a photo with his Steve Petner Award along with members of council, Mayor Joaan Gattinelli and Petner’s family. Clark received the first Steve Petner award at the Washington Township council meeting on Wednesday, April 28 for his dedication to the Washington Township Parks and Recreation Basketball Program.

Washington Township Council met on April 28 to discuss a municipal budget for 2021 that will include the first tax increase in five years.

Mayor Joann Gattinelli announced at the meeting that there will be a 2.44 percent increase in the 2021 municipal budget. Adoption of the fiscal plan will take place at the May 26 council meeting. According to the mayor, the average assessed home value in Washington Township is $231,838, so the tax increase will mean a hike of $33.31 per year. 

“Resident involvement and transparency within my administration is extremely important,” said  Gattinelli. “Again this year, we held multiple small-group budget meetings, as well as our open public budget hearings with council members and department heads on April 21 and April 22. 

“The municipal operating budget is the only portion of the township taxes that are controlled by my administration and township council,” she added. “The municipal portion of the 2021 tax bill represents only 18.81 percent of the total property tax bill. We have continued to do more with the smaller amount of the tax bill each year. This municipal operating budget will continue to allow the township to increase service and improve municipal facilities in order to enhance the quality of life Washington Township residents expect and deserve.” 

Although there will be a tax increase, the mayor and council are seeking different ways to bring in fresh income and limit the burden on taxpayers. One of the projects includes a vehicle fleet replacement, where old municipal vehicles are evaluated and have insurance plans reduced, then are sold for parts on newer vehicles. 

According to the mayor, the capital budget will include improvements for issues in the community such as infrastructure and facility improvements, roadway and traffic safety projects and stormwater concerns.

Gattinelli also took time to mention the Cedar Lake improvements and the grand opening on Saturday, May 1. Although Phase I of the project is complete, the town still wants to bring in better lighting and improve walking and bike paths. 

“We appreciate your patience and cooperation as we get through this time together as a community,” Gattinelli noted. “We strive everyday to keep Washington Township a great place to live, work and raise a family.” 

Also at the meeting, the first Steve Petner award was announced. Petner was a Washington Township resident and beloved basketball referee for the Parks and Recreation department who passed away suddenly in April 2020. He was 58. An award was created in his honor to recognize those who are part of the WTPR basketball program, encourage the team in fair play, have a positive attitude and possess a sense of civic duty. The honor went to Steve Clark, the referee assignor and instructor for WTPR intramurals. 

“I was coming here to say a few words about my interactions with Steve over the course of our years together,” Clark said. “Every year, I have a group of teenagers and the occasional adult who wants to become basketball referees. Every year Steve helped me with those officials … This year he won’t be there.” 

In other news:

  • Gina Gurcsik was named Teacher of the Year in the Monroe Township Public School District.
  • Employee of the Month was awarded to Jim Walker in the financial department.
  • April was officially declared Autism Awareness Month through a declaration by mayor and council.
  • The Art in the Park’s second exhibit is now up and running at Washington Lake Park.
  • The Memorial Day Celebration will again be held online this year due to COVID.