GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Township Council approved a measure Tuesday to make sure all residents are paying their fair share of taxes.

The council unanimously approved performing a reassessment of township properties. The township awarded a $950,000 contract to Vital Communications Inc. to do the work in 2013.

Township manager Arch Liston said the new values will be on the books by 2014.

Due to the high number of residents who filed tax appeals in recent years because of the declining real estate market, there are many residents who are paying based on an outdated assessment and some people with similar homes are paying different amounts of taxes.

Liston said he hoped the reassessment would stabilize the tax rate and make sure everyone pays their fair share in 2014.

The township will pay off the cost of the reassessment over the next five years, Liston said.

Also at the meeting, the council swore in Jim McElwee as its newest member. The Democrat won an election in November to fill the remaining year left on the term of Dennis Kleiner, who resigned in the summer when he moved out of the township.

McElwee defeated Republican Councilman John Mooney III, whom the council appointed to fill the seat after Kleiner resigned.

The council also discussed reinstituting prayer before council meetings. The council stopped the practice a few months ago — replacing it with a moment of silence — over concerns of litigation even though they had a policy that clergy would deliver a prayer as long as it was nondenominational.

Mayor Don Purdy said he spoke with other governing bodies that do prayers. The Anti Defamation League wrote a letter to the council advising them that prayer could be allowed if it was nondenominational and issued by a member of the council.

“I do like the idea of having prayer that everyone agrees upon,” Purdy said.

Township attorney Mike Fitzgerald said having different clergy deliver prayers can be difficult because the council must select a wide variety of clergy and sometimes the clergy members may not want to deliver a nondenominational prayer.

The council decided to put together a subcommittee to discuss the issue and report back at the Dec. 9 council meeting.

Residents and clergy addressed the issue as well.

Pastor Dean Bult, of the Mainland Baptist Church, said everyone should be tolerant of different religions but clergy members should be allowed to deliver a prayer in their owns words and not be told what to say.

“I represent a body of believers in our community of what they believe,” he said. “When a clergy members comes, you say ‘I respect that clergy.’”

Galloway resident Jennifer Chance said she felt a moment of silence was sufficient and a council meeting was not the appropriate place to have a discussion on religion.

She said it shouldn’t matter if a prayer is nondenominational.

“We have more important things to worry about. It shouldn’t be an issue,” she said. “Love is love.”

Contact Joel Landau:

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