COAL TOWNSHIP - Township property owners surprised by two new listings on their latest tax bills are learning taxes for "local pension" and "fire protection" are hardly anything new.

Millage rates for the two taxes have been listed separately for at least the last five years in the annual tax levy adopted by township commissioners and put on display at the municipal building. They had not, however, been listed as separate line items on tax bills - until this year.

That created a lot of questions as tax bills arrived in the mail late last week.

A breakdown

Although the general fund rate was 15 mills in 2012, it was listed as 16 1/2 mills on tax bills because it included the combined 1 1/2 mills for local pension and fire protection.

Beginning this year, local pension and fire protection are listed separately.

Adding to the confusion is that the general fund millage went up from 15 to 17 mills for 2013.

The local library tax remains 1/4 mill, which had already been listed separately on tax bills.

Rob Slaby, township manager, said the change was made to make the tax bill more transparent. Also, in the event the township general fund tax were ever to reach the current legal limit of 30 mills, it would prevent the perception that the township was exceeding the limit.

However, the move muddied the waters for more than a few township property owners, who were left to wonder where those taxes came from. Several calls were made to the township tax office and still more to the township manager's office inquiring about the rates.

Slaby on Monday paged through tax levies for each of the past five years that listed the two items separately.

The pension tax is maxed out at 1/2 mill. It's used for employee pensions and, Slaby said, is done so according to state law. The fire protection tax provides for fire hydrant service, outstanding lease payments for fire department apparatus and for an annual stipend for each of the township's seven fire companies.