Board of Supervisors Budget Minutes
December 17 , 2003
MINUTES WERE APPROVED at the regular meeting January 14, 2004. SPECIAL MEETING OF 12/17/03: Mrs. Goren moved to approve the minutes of the special meeting of 12/17/03; the motion was seconded by Mr. Harp and passed unanimously
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, December 17, 2003, in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM for a special meeting to consider the adoption of the 2004 budget. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Scott R. Harp, Treasurer/Secretary Richard Weaver, Vice Chairman/Assistant Treasurer Anne Goren, Member Thomas Jirele, and Member Raymond Goodnoe. Also present were: Township Solicitor Stephen B. Harris, Township Manager Robert M. Pellegrino, and Township Finance Director Elaine Gibbs.
CALL TO ORDER: Chairman Scott R. Harp called the meeting to order at 8:00 PM with a moment of silence. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
COMMUNITY COMMENTS: None.
ADOPTION OF 2004 BUDGET: Mr. Harp said that the Board will discuss the proposed 2004 budget, the public will have an opportunity to comment, and then the Board will vote.
Mr. Weaver moved to adopt the proposed 2004 budget, with the changes recommended by the Administration and the Park and Recreation Board. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Goren said the 11/12/03 budget meeting minutes included a Board discussion of the traffic light batteries. She said the batteries are necessary on the Bypass, but she might be willing to purchase fewer of them.
Mr. Pellegrino said he recently received a much lower estimate for the batteries from another supplier, and the same 14 batteries can be purchased for $65,000 instead of the original estimate of $130,000.
Mr. Jirele asked how the Township will handle intersections shared with other municipalities. Mr. Pellegrino said the Township’s contract with Middletown and Lower Makefield does not include upgrades, and those municipalities should pay for their batteries.
Mr. Jirele asked if the lights on the Bypass would still be synchronized if they had to switch to battery power. Mr. Pellegrino said they would be, since the synchronization system uses fiber-optic cable.
Mrs. Goren said the parking lot along Lower Dolington Road at Roberts Ridge Park is needed for safety reasons. Mr. Jirele responded that the Park and Recreation Board concluded that the lot is not necessary, and he does not see any safety issues there.
Mr. Goodnoe said he would prefer to see a process for establishing budget priorities instead of discussing a few specific park improvements without a context or a direction. He said that Mr. Pellegrino’s letter of transmittal which accompanied the budget stated that taxes will have to be raised if the Township continues on this course. Mr. Goodnoe referred to Schedule U of the budget, which shows that Township revenues have gone up over the last ten years at about the same rate as the Consumer Price Index. During the same period, Township expenses have gone up 8% or 9% a year. He urged the Board to reduce expenses in the 2004 budget. He recommended that capital funds be reserved for the Municipal Complex Expansion and a community center, and that the Township continue paying off past open space purchases, but that the Township not commit to any new projects. Mr. Goodnoe stated he cannot support a budget in which expenditures are rising faster than revenues.
Mrs. Goren said the operating budget is balanced. Mr. Goodnoe responded that this was accomplished by using reserve funds.
Mr. Pellegrino said the revenues equal appropriations when appropriations for debt service and capital improvements are subtracted.
Mr. Harp said the budget follows the recommendations of the Financial Planning Committee on the use of reserve funds.
Mr. Jirele said the reserves will total almost $3 million at the end of 2003, but at the end of 2004 there will be $1 million less. He said Mr. Pellegrino’s letter of transmittal warned of the impending need to raise taxes, and the County and the School District are planning tax increases as well. He said there was a tax increase in 2003 and there is none in the proposed 2004 budget, but the Township is headed for an increase.
Mrs. Goren said there was a tax increase last year because the results of a referendum showed the voters wanted the fire tax increased. Mr. Jirele responded that the referendum authorized an increase, it did not mandate one. Mr. Harris confirmed this statement.
Mr. Goodnoe said that two years ago the Fire Company received about $80,000 a year from the Township. The fire tax increase generated about $35,000 this year, so the Fire Company is receiving less money. Mrs. Goren commented that the $80,000 payment was temporary, and was made to help the Fire Company build their new facility.
Mr. Harp offered the public the opportunity to comment.
Maureen Cooper, a resident of the Country Bend development, asked the Board not to cut funds for the Roberts Ridge Park. She said the Township needs more recreation facilities for older children.
Del Purscell, a Township resident, commented that some statements reported in the newspaper are inaccurate. He said that the overall proposed 2004 budget has a deficit of $1 million. He said he has analyzed the budget line by line, and he found $800,000 to $1 million in expenses that could be cut. He suggested that the Municipal Expansion project be taken out of the budget. Mr. Weaver responded that he reviewed all line items carefully with department heads.
Sue Beasley, a Township resident, said the public did not receive any written materials on the proposed revisions to the budget. She asked if the Board believes that most residents approve of the proposed budget; Mr. Harp responded that he believes that is true.
Ms. Beasley also said she feels the additional parking lot at Roberts Ridge is not needed. She commented that the adjacent school parking lot is available after school hours.
Karen D’Aprile, a Township resident, asked the Board not to spend money they do not have, and to follow the recommendations of the Park and Recreation Board.
Nancy Crescenzo, a Township resident, said the Township should address the needs of adolescents with a community center. She said the public should participate in the kind of line by line discussion referred to by Mr. Goodnoe. She asked the Board to address the increase in police overtime, the possibility of obtaining grants for recreation projects, the suggestion that Environmental Council be established, flooding problems on Eagle Road, and the revenues lost when the maintenance contract with Newtown Borough was discontinued. Ms. Crescenzo asked when a public discussion of the Municipal Expansion project will take place. Mr. Harp responded that it is a priority and the discussion will be scheduled in the first quarter of 2004.
Mrs. Goren said the batteries for the traffic lights are needed, and the police overtime is largely due to truck safety details. She also commented that the budget was available to the public as soon as it was hung.
Jim Bowe, a Township resident, said the batteries are especially needed on the Bypass. He also said that the Board was criticized in the past for maintaining excessive reserves. The Financial Planning Committee determined appropriate uses for the reserves, and now the Board is being criticized for following those guidelines. Mr. Bowe said he is concerned about the lack of growth in Township revenues, and predicted that taxes will have to be raised next year.
Brandon Wind, a Township resident, expressed concern about rising payroll costs. He also asked if the Township anticipated receiving impact fees from the Brandywine Realty project in 2004. Mr. Pellegrino said he calculated that some of the fees would come in during 2004.
Mr. Goodnoe commented that the Township might lose fees from all the developers the Township is suing.
Mr. Wind asked if the Township would be able to purchase the Melsky Tract if it becomes available. Mr. Harp responded that if it becomes available the Township will have to look at several options, including using reserve funds, bond issues, etc.
Walter Iwaskiw, a Township resident, said the Board should set policy and direction for the Administration. He said the Board is discussing expenditures and cuts with no direction.
Mr. Goodnoe commented that the batteries are not in the Township’s capital improvement plan.
Mr. Weaver and Mrs. Goren agreed to amend their motion to change the expense item for traffic light batteries to $65,000 and to include a $70,000 expense item for the additional parking lot at Roberts Ridge Park.
Discussion of amended motion: Mr. Pellegrino clarified that the amended motion includes all the Park and Recreation recommendations except for the recommendation to defer the Roberts Ridge parking lot.
Mr. Weaver’s motion passed 3-2, with Mr. Goodnoe and Mr. Jirele voting “nay”.
Mr. Harp thanked everyone who participated in the discussion of the budget. He reminded residents that there will be no new taxes in 2004. The rate will remain 10.5 mills, the 11th lowest rate in the County.
ADJOURNMENT: With no objections the meeting was adjourned at 9:45 PM.
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary
Minutes Approved as submitted _______ as corrected _______
Scott R. Harp, Chairman
Anne Goren, Vice Chairman/Assistant Treasurer
Richard Weaver, Treasurer/Secretary
Thomas Jirele, Member
Raymond Goodnoe, Member