BOARD of SUPERVISORS

 2003 BUDGET HEARING

 November 12, 2002

Township Building Meeting Room

 

Present:  Scott Harp, Chairman; Thomas Jirele, Vice Chairman; Dick Weaver, Treasurer; Anne Goren, Secretary; Raymond “Skip” Goodnoe, Member; Bob Pellegrino, Township Manager; Elaine Gibbs, Finance Director; Stephen Harris, Solicitor.

 

Department Heads/Personnel Present:  William Wert, Parks and Recreation; Don Harris, Emergency Services; Chief Martin Duffy and Jean Tanner, Police Department; Ronald Weaver, Technology; Thomas Harwood, Public Works; Gary Crossland, Superintendent of Public Works; and Elaine Gibbs, Finance Director.

 

Others Present:  Nancy Crescenzo, Walter Iwaskiw, Robert Williams, Philip Calabro.

 

Attached to these minutes is the agenda of the meeting.

 

Mr. Harp called the meeting to order at 7:05 pm.  He explained the budget process, and noted that the budget would be on the Nov. 18 work session agenda, if needed, would be hung November 20, 2002, and  ready for formal adoption on December 11, 2002.  He explained the meeting’s format: Mr. Pellegrino would give a presentation, followed by comments and questions from the Board, public comment, and any closing comments by the Board.

 

Mr. Pellegrino presented the budget, noting that he and Ms. Gibbs had revised the format at the request of the Board to be consistent with DCED Chart of Accounts.   Highlights of his remarks included:

¨       Capital funds have been separated from operating funds.  The seven operating funds include General, Street Light, Fire Protection, Rescue Squad, Park & Recreation, Debt Service, and Highway Aid.   The five capital funds include Capital Projects, Recreation Capital, TSA 1, TSA 2, and Traffic System.  The three trust funds include Police Pension, Municipal Employees Pension and Benefit Obligation.

 

General Fund Revenues

¨       A significant source of General Fund revenues, which pays for most municipal services, is Earned Income Tax.  This is estimated to generate approximately $4.5M.  No millage tax supports the general fund.

¨       Permit fees are down, as development slows.

¨       Business Licenses, permits, occupational privilege tax, pension system state aid, police fines and employee contributions to benefits are consistent sources of income.

¨       Federal and state grant funds are decreased, as the COPS hiring grant has ended and processing is complete for the ISTEA trail project.  CDBG and the recycling performance grants are continuing.  Mr. Pellegrino said he would like to emphasize to the public the income generated by recycling.

¨       Intergovernmental agreements with the Borough and possibly Wrightstown Township for police services generate income with some offsetting expenses.

¨       2002 projected revenues are $6,886,000, which is $414,000 over the budget of $6,472,000; budget projections had been conservative.

¨       2003 projected revenues are estimated at $7,133,300, an increase of $661,000 over the 2002 budget, and included $335,000 from the proposed Wrightstown Police contract, increased earned income tax, CATV fees, and pension system state aid.

 

General Fund Expenditures

¨       Mr. Pellegrino noted format changes:

§         Worker’s compensation and liability insurance are distinct line items, in order to track costs.

§         Account titles in department budgets have been standardized, to be consistent with PA standards.

§         Reimbursable items were moved to the balance sheet - fuel.

§         Instead of being included in separate department budgets, utilities for the municipal complex were included in Buildings/Plants.

¨       Total Projected Expenditures of $7,733,300 show an increase of $568,000 (7.35%) over the 2002 budget of $7,165,000, and includes the hiring of two additional full-time police officers and one full-time public works maintenance/mechanic, the purchase of one additional police patrol vehicle (bring total to four), significant increases in liability insurance, increased medical insurance costs, the transfer of $440,000 to the Capital Projects Fund, upgrades in technology, transfer of $160,000 to Debt Service Fund, and purchase of Emergency Services radio communication equipment.

 

¨       The 2002 beginning fund balance should increase by $38,000 by the end of the year.

¨       A balance from eliminated assessment of streetlights would be used for capital maintenance of the street light system.

¨       The referendum concerning Fire Protection services approved an increase of 1 mil; with input from Fire Association Warren Dallas, Mr. Pellegrino asked the Board to consider a ½ mil increase.  ½ mil supports the Rescue Squad Fund.

¨       2 mills supports a portion of Park & Recreation administrative and park maintenance costs.  The budget includes the hiring of a part-time naturalist at $9,000.  Mr. Pellegrino noted that recreation programs continue to maintain 85% to 95% self-sufficiency.  Mr. Pellegrino reminded the Board that new park facilities would generate increased maintenance and cost.

¨       All debt was moved to the Debt Service Fund.  At the end of 2003 total debt will be $1.6 M, which Mr. Pellegrino said was very low for a community the size of Newtown.  He complimented the Board’s debt management.  He added that he hopes that the municipal complex expansion and Wiggins principal balance can be accomplished with little or no increase on the debt service. 

¨       The Capital Projects Fund includes Sycamore Street Project, a document imaging system, and architectural and engineering fees for the municipal complex expansion.  Mr. Pellegrino noted that a $25,000 grant has been received, but was not noted in the budget, to help pay for the imaging system.

¨       Recreation Capital Fund revenues are derived solely from recreation impact fees.  Proposals include a skate park, trail extensions, Robert’s Ridge and Silver Lake property improvements, and minor improvements to the Clark Nature Center.

¨       Transportation Service Area Funds will cover such projects as the traffic signals at Washington Crossing & Linton Hill Roads and North Drive & Durham Road, as well as Buck Road and Newtown Bypass improvements.

¨       The Traffic System Capital Fund, consisting of undesignated traffic impact fee money, will be used for pedestrian crossing signals and emergency pre-emption installations.

¨       The Highway Aid Fund, formerly Liquid Fuels Fund, will be used towards roadway maintenance, equipment acquisition, traffic light expenses and streetlight electricity.  Portions of Eagle Road, Twining Bridge Road and Pheasant Run Road have been identified as needing repair.  A long-range maintenance plan is being developed.  He recommended that that Board consider the purchase of a street sweeper instead of leasing the equipment each year.

 

¨       Trust Funds:  State aid contributions fund all but $32,000 of required obligation for pension funds.  Mr. Pellegrino reminded the Board that they are actual fiduciaries of the funds.

 

Mr. Pellegrino concluded his presentation by thanking Ms. Gibbs for her work on the budget, and commended department heads for their input in the budgeting process.   He introduced the Department Heads present and informed the Board that staff is present to answer any questions.  He noted that the proposed 2003 budget maintains municipal services at present levels and provides for no new taxes except for the increase in the Fire Fund tax as approved by voter referendum, to be determined by the Board.

 

Mr. Harp thanked Mr. Pellegrino, Ms. Gibbs and the Department Heads and asked for Board input.

 

Mr. Weaver said he had attended the Financial Planning Board meeting that morning and reported that Financial Planning members, like he, commended Mr. Pellegrino and Ms. Gibbs, noting that they didn’t remember seeing the budget in such detail before.  Mr. Weaver said he had attended all of the department sessions, including the conversion of the budget to its new format.

 

Mr. Harp noted that the budget included no new taxes, and that the Board would need to discuss the possible purchase of a street sweeper.  He said that future highway and roadway planning was a good idea.

 

Mr. Goodnoe said the budget presentation was well done and contained good, clear detail.  He said he sees an increase of over $1 M over last year’s budget, and asked about the substantial increase in the Public Works budget.  Mr. Pellegrino explained that there is an additional administrative position requested.  He reminded the Board that in 2002 the position of Superintendent of Public Works was not filled until July  and  that it had taken about five months to fill two vacant administrative Codes positions.  Mr. Pellegrino said that proposed equipment acquisition was responsible for most of the increase in the PW budget.

 

Mr. Pellegrino said that there has not yet been an official reply to the police contract proposal from Wrightstown, but if there is no contract the budget should decrease by approximately $145,000, which would be the cost of personnel, police vehicle and benefits.  He said that a decision from Wrightstown is expected on December 18.  Mr. Goodnoe wondered if the fee to Wrightstown should be greater than that proposed, and asked if any older police vehicles would be sold with the acquisition of new vehicles.  Mr. Pellegrino said that it had always been done in the past, and that this policy would be continued.  Chief Duffy said that the older vehicles are traded in to the dealer.  It was clarified that the budget figure represented the net cost of vehicles, including trade-ins.

 

Mr. Jirele thanked the township staff and administration for its work on the budget, commenting that the layout of the budget was excellent.  He asked about the decrease in public safety income.  Mr. Pellegrino said that it was directly related to the decrease in permit fees due to decreased development, and that the fees were placed in the public safety category by the state.

 

Mr. Jirele said that he felt that the township should purchase a street sweeper, estimated at about $160,000.  Mr. Pellegrino said he had proposed a 5-year lease at $30,000 a year, then purchasing the sweeper with a bond of approximately $20,000.  Mr. Jirele said that rental research that had been done in the past had found that it was much less expensive to lease.  Mr. Pellegrino said that the budget called for spring and fall sweeping, but no additional or emergency sweeping, and noted that a sweeper is multipurpose.  He suggested that additional sweeping could be done, perhaps on the Bypass or for PennDOT.  Mr. Harp suggested investigating leasing v. purchase over five to ten years.  Mr. Pellegrino said that the Board should not feel pressured to decide the issue now, but Mr. Jirele said he would prefer to decide now, and asked for cost estimates from the past year.  Mr. Weaver noted that a sweeper could provide additional services; Ms. Goren said that a sweeper would help to remove the dirt and rock dropped on Lindenhurst and Stoopville Roads.  Mr. Goodnoe felt there was no need for the additional expense of a sweeper, and noted that Lindenhurst and Stoopville were state roads.  The Board will receive additional information concerning the sweeper.

 

Mr. Jirele asked why Police Services support staff costs were up 50%; Ms. Gibbs said that the business manager and intern costs had been combined and placed under the support staff budget. 

 

Mr. Jirele questioned the need for a part time naturalist as proposed in the Park and Recreation budget, and suggested that the Board wait to see what the residents wanted.  He felt it was inappropriate to list projects in the budget that the Board had not yet approved, such as a skate park or gazebo, but felt perhaps a figure could be listed for projects to be decided.  Mr. Pellegrino explained that he had included capital projects in the budget that had been discussed by the Board.  Mr. Harp said that a part time naturalist would work 10 hours a week at $15 per hour, and felt the position would be valuable to the township, as he/she could do consulting and work on grant procurement. 

 

Mr. Harp asked for Board feedback regarding the Fire tax.  Ms. Goren said that if the Fire Association felt that ½ mil was adequate and the voters approved up to 1 mil, that ½ mil would be acceptable.  Mr. Harp wondered if an increase of 1 mil could result in the elimination of the township contribution to the Fire Association.  Mr. Goodnoe clarified that the $80,000 for the Fire Association that was in previous budgets was not included in this proposed 2003 budget.  Mr. Jirele said that perhaps the Board should consider holding off the millage increase and fund $45,000 to the Association from the budget.  Mr. Harp said he would speak to Warren Dallas concerning the various options.

 

It was clarified that the document imaging system would not require additional staff; present staff would take on additional responsibility.  The conversion of documents would be gradual, with newer documents being converted first, then earlier ones added later.

 

Ms. Goren said she felt that some contributions were unnecessary, such as the funds given to the Wrightstown Library, and felt that perhaps the contribution to the Newtown Library could be eliminated.  She felt that the funding of various training seminars, subscriptions and professional memberships could be reduced or even eliminated, and she questioned the value of membership in the state county association. 

 

Ms. Goren felt that it was inappropriate to fund the Joint Downtown Newtown Corporation, which is connected to the Main Street Manager.  She felt that there were other associations in the township, such as the Business Development Council and Sycamore Street Committee, which were providing the same service that a Main Street Manager would.  Ms. Gibbs pointed out that the $100,000 commitment to the Joint Downtown Newtown Corporation was part of a resolution and 5-year commitment to Newtown Borough and the state.  Mr. Harris noted that a resolution could be “undone” but a contract could not be broken; he couldn’t remember is any contract had been signed.  Mr. Goodnoe noted that the JDNC came out of the Sycamore Street Committee, and that the Main Street Program is part of the Preservation Trust Program, which recognizes the value of rehabilitation of historic properties into viable tax-paying entities.  Mr. Goodnoe felt that this was worthy of township funding.  He noted that the agreement that the township entered into with the borough involved matching funding from the state, and said that ending the Main Street Program would be counterproductive.  Mr. Harp noted that the program involved other business areas in Newtown in addition to Sycamore and State Streets.

 

Mr. Pellegrino summarized the handout regarding the recommendations of the Financial Planning Committee:

¨       A minimum of 15% (approximately $1.94 M) of the general fund should be appropriated as reserve.  This reserve should never be used without a vote to authorize, and the policy should be reviewed every two years.

¨       Any surplus in the general fund balance in excess of $20,000 should be transferred to capital projects.

¨       A reserve of 15%-20% (approximately $364,000) could be used to balance the budget.

Mr. Pellegrino clarified that no money from the reserve fund was used this year.

 

Mr. Weaver said that the capital expenses in the engineering section of the Park & Recreation budget seemed high.  He said he would the like funds to be labeled for potential future use rather than be limited, but felt that the public would not accept undefined expenses.  Mr. Jirele said he did not want specific projects detailed in the budget that had not yet been approved by the Board.  He said that the Board should get recommendations from committees then decide if the projects should be included in the budget.  Ms. Goren said that the township is not obligated to spend money on a project just because it is in the budget.

 

Mr. Goodnoe said that he continued to support a community center, and that Recreation Director Bill Wert was hired to expand services to all residents.  He said that the focus was no longer as much on sports, and felt that a central area for use by residents was a good idea.  He said that a community center should be considered in this year’s budget.  Mr. Harp said that the maintenance barn has been discussed as usable for recreation activities, and that the Acme Visioning Committee is discussing a community center.  Ms. Goren questioned whether the township could afford a community center and its costs for maintenance, staff and insurance; she felt that funding the ongoing costs had never been discussed.

 

Mr. Pellegrino clarified that a part time position added to the police department (salary $5000) was for animal control officer, the duties of that position being previously handled by Mr. Melchiondo.  Mr. Goodnoe requested figures for the expenses for left hand turn lanes.

 

 

Community Comment

Ms. Crescenzo questioned why the expenditures in the general fund for engineering services seemed to be over budget.  Mr. Harp explained that the costs were pulled from the recreation impact fees.  Mr. Pellegrino said that estimates for 2002 costs were conservative, and that they could be re-estimated if needed.  With regard to the Wrightstown police agreement, Ms. Crescenzo asked if coverage of a greater area with only two additional police officers, which includes an additional school and increased park space, was considered.

 

Ms. Crescenzo said she supported a community center, saying that the township should consider that a community center would serve a greater part of the community.  She felt that a naturalist at the Clark Nature Center was unnecessary, and suggested saving money by hiring an intern from the college.  She agreed that restroom facilities at Roberts Ridge Park were important.

 

Walter Iwaskiw asked about costs for a community center on which the Board had based its comments. He suggested asking taxpayers what projects, such as the Robert Ridge Park improvements, a skate park or community center, they felt were needed.  Mr. Iwaskiw asked why capital expenses were listed throughout the budget; Mr. Pellegrino said that items that can be expensed are listed within department budgets, and that they are typically paid for from the General

 

 

Fund.  Mr. Iwaskiw was concerned with operating expenses v. revenues, and the Wrightstown agreement.  Mr. Pellegrino clarified that if the agreement was not approved,  the budget would be amended.  Mr. Iwaskiw felt that the township had made an agreement to the Joint Downtown Newtown Corporation two years ago, and that it was money spent to make money. 

 

Mr. Pellegrino noted that all utilities costs had been pulled from department budgets and listed on one area of the budget.   He said that the $600,000 in the Park & Recreation budget for Roberts Ridge came from an estimate by Boucher & James.

 

Mr. Iwaskiw asked about the increase in the General Fund Budget.  Mr. Pellegrino explained that it was due to increases in police costs, most of which were cyclical:  contract agreements, savings in benefits, and large increases in insurance and liability costs.

 

 

Mr. Harp noted that issues to be discussed further included:  the possible purchase of a street sweeper, the fire tax, parks, a “to be determined” fund, the resolution concerning the JDNC, and the naturalist position for Clark Nature Center.  Mr. Pellegrino said that he would need time to make any changes to the budget, either before or after hanging the budget, and asked for direction.  Mr. Harp said that additional sweeper information would be collected, there would be another discussion with Warren Dallas, and Mr. Harris would research the JDNC agreement.  Mr. Harp asked that Board members give feedback regarding the parks and fire tax to either himself or Mr. Pellegrino.

 

Mr. Jirele noted that there is additional budget discussion time in three upcoming public meetings.

 

Adjournment

Without objection, the meeting was adjourned at 9:30 pm.

 

 

Respectfully Submitted by:                                                                                                                                     

                                                                       Leslie. Dunleavy, Recording Secretary          1/13/2003