Board of Supervisors
Minutes of November 17, 2008
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Monday, November 17, 2008 in the Township meeting room at 7:45 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Thomas Jirele, Vice-Chairman Robert Ciervo, Secretary-Treasurer Michael Gallagher, Jerry Schenkman and Philip Calabro, members. Also present were: Joseph Czajkowski, Township Manager, Jennifer McGrath, Township Solicitor, and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order: Chairman Jirele called the regular meeting to order at 7:30 PM with a moment of silence. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Mr. Jirele reported that he and other Supervisors attended the groundbreaking ceremonies for the Veterans Cemetery in Upper Makefield, which will be an asset to our community.
Mr. Jirele said that he would like to discuss the issue of parking in culs-de-sac in Newtown Township, as a matter has arisen that might require a Board decision in the future.
Police Chief Henry Pasqualini was in attendance to review this matter. He said that there have been complaints from one resident of a cul-de-sac in the Newtown Grant townhomes about neighbors parking head-in to the curb, making it difficult for this resident to exit his driveway. While State law requires parallel parking, it is very difficult in some culs-de-sac, because both wheels must be twelve inches from the curb. Chief Pasqualini said that he has driven through Newtown Grant at different times of day and has observed both head-in and parallel parking. These culs-de-sac are very wide and even with cars parked it is very easy for emergency vehicles to enter and exit. Reviewing the facts of this particular complaint, Chief Pasqualini assured the Board that it is the only complaint in the Township. He met with Homeowners Association representatives of all of the developments and no other complaints about parking were mentioned. It is his perception that the residents of this particular cul-de-sac have been parking regularly this way for many years and had never had a problem. A new neighbor has moved into the street and feels that his driveway is being blocked unnecessarily. There have been complaints to the police, who have spoken to and ticketed the neighbors. It is Chief Pasqualini’s opinion that the issue can be resolved among the neighbors without the need for a resolution or ordinance affecting the entire Township. He would like to continue to work with the residents of the cul-de-sac, perhaps lining that one street with hash marks to leave an open area for driveway access.
Dr. Ciervo said that he favored addressing the issue Township wide, upholding State law prohibiting head-in parking.
Mr. Jirele said that he would prefer to address the immediate complaint, as a Township wide project determining parking capabilities in over 50 culs-de-sac would be very costly and time consuming.
The Board discussed possible methods to resolve the problem, including striping all culs-de-sac in the Township, using yellow curbs at the complaining resident’s driveway, striping only the street involved in the complaint, drafting a resolution prohibiting on-street parking in the culs-de-sac, and prohibiting on-street parking only in this one cul-de-sac.
Ms. McGrath advised caution in singling out one street to be treated differently by a resolution.
Mr. Calabro, a resident of Newtown Grant, noted that there are no parking lines painted anywhere in the development.
After lengthy discussion, the Board agreed to allow Chief Pasqualini to work directly with the neighbors to reach a satisfactory compromise solution, which could involve painting hash marks or a yellow curb to delineate a clear path for the complaining neighbor to exit his driveway. They asked the Chief to report back to the Board at the December 3, 2008 meeting.
Historical Architectural Review Board: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize a certificate of appropriateness for roof shingles for The Green Parrot, 240 N. Sycamore Street, as described in a memo dated November 13, 2008. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Officials
Hang 2009 Preliminary Budget: Mr. Czajkowski presented the preliminary 2009 budget, which maintains the current 2.5 mill tax rate. Included in this budget are changes recommended at the November 12, 2008 Board of Supervisors meeting. Once the Board votes to hang the budget it will be available to the public for review on the Township Web site and in the Township administration offices.
The Board thanked Mr. Czajkowski, the administration and the Financial Planning Committee for the work done to prepare this budget.
Mr. Calabro moved to hang the 2009 Preliminary Budget. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Czajkowski said that the budget presented shows reductions in some training, police overtime and removal first night fireworks contribution. The fireworks for the 2008 New Year’s Eve were in the 2008 budget. Going forward, the First Night committee will have a full year for fundraising. The budget has a 3.5% increase in operating funds over 2008.
In response to Dr. Ciervo’s question, Chief Pasqualini said that the budget shows $81,000 in reimbursable police overtime, including “buckle-up” and “smooth operator” money. Regarding DARE, the schools’ PTA’s will be donating to the program to make up for the lost grant funding. He reviewed the overtime needed, particularly for court time. The two new police officers he had expected have been removed from the budget, requiring possible need for some police overtime.
Dr. Ciervo said that he did not want to fill the part time position in the Park and Recreation department this year, but would like to re-evaluate existing staffing.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he has spoken to Park and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko about the staffing needs. She has indicated that since the departure of Bill Wert, the department has been under tremendous pressure to continue doing Mr. Wert’s work while also doing work on the recreation programs. A part time worker for about 20 hours per week without benefits, at a salary of $20,000, is needed to continue with the current workload. It has been the Township’s policy to balance programming with revenue. If programs are cut, the department will not make its revenue. The department currently constantly monitors programs. Currently there are fees paid for some facility use, which might be eliminated when the new building is completed.
Mr. Gallagher noted that very few programs lose money, although a few do not make money, but just break even with costs. He agreed with Mr. Czajkowski that it is difficult to predict which programs will be unsuccessful and should be eliminated.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would like to see more effort expended on the summer camps, which are very successful, sometimes generating waiting lists, even if it is at the cost of other programs throughout the year.
Mr. Jirele said that the Board has three choices; to leave the position in the budget, to remove it or to leave it in while at the same time asking the department to show more cost efficiency.
Mr. Gallagher suggested possibly asking for more efficiencies in the department and then, if it is still needed, filling the position mid-year.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Board is not leaving sufficient time to do the necessary analysis of the need. He would rather give the department the resources it needs to continue doing what it is doing.
Mr. Jirele asked if the department could demonstrate what it is doing to justify the need for the part time worker.
Dr. Ciervo said that he did not consider recreation programming a core function of government, and would like to see the department pared down.
After some further discussion, it was agreed that the position would be left in the budget with the understanding that the department would justify the need and would work toward more efficiency. The position would not be filled until the justification has been presented.
Mr. Gallagher said that he would like to ask the Technology Committee to help the Park and Recreation Department with on-line program registration and use of e-mails and an improved Web site.
Dr. Ciervo said that he is concerned about the budget for employee health care. He understands that the union employees’ contributions are tied to a contract, but he would like the non-union employees to begin paying a percentage, rather than a flat dollar amount, toward their health insurance plans.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he had understood that he would investigate this and present information to be acted on next year.
Mr. Jirele said that he did not think it fair to the employees to make a change in policy this late in the year, and would prefer doing research to implement changes next year.
After some further discussion it was agreed that Mr. Czajkowski would provide specific data on a change in employee contribution to the Board to be considered before the budget is adopted. If the affect in minimal it might be better to have this change in place going forward.
Dr. Ciervo asked about the allocation of salary increases.
Mr. Czajkowski said that this has not been completed yet. The budget shows a pool amount of 4% for non-union employees.
Mr. Jirele said that he would prefer to see either a 3% or 3.5% increase in salaries. Mr.Czajkowski would have the discretion to make specific increases, but he would like to see the total brought down.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he would prepare his recommendations for salary increases to the Board for further discussion in executive session.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would like to allocate a specific percentage of the Local Services Tax (LST) to the ambulance squad rather than make a direct dollar contribution. If 25% of the LST were assigned to the ambulance, in 2009 the budgeted amount would be $93,750. This would give the ambulance squad an assurance that a certain contribution would be made. He said that he is attempting to avoid a possible referendum, such as was recently passed in Morrisville.
Mr. Czajkowski reviewed previous years’ contributions to the ambulance squad. He noted that in prior years there had been dedicated millage, and the Township supplemented that with the use of Township fuel, not a cash transfer. There was a sharp increase last year because the dedicated tax was discontinued and the cost of gas increased greatly.
Mr. Calabro expressed some concern about tying the contribution directly to an employment tax, which might go down in the current economy. He had not supported removing the dedicated tax for ambulance.
Mr. Jirele said that the millage could be re-instated, but he would prefer those working in the Township to contribute directly.
Mr. Schenkman expressed some concern about capping the contribution at a certain percentage, which could fluctuate year to year. He would prefer to see some way to be more flexible in capping at a set percentage, perhaps indicating that the amount would not increase or decrease more than a certain dollar percentage from one year to the next. He hesitated to support a resolution which would tie the Board’s hands if the amount were to either rise or fall too much.
Mr. Czajkowski said that a resolution could easily be changed but does give direction for future Boards. If there were a substantial change in the total LST collected, a resolution could be adopted to change the percentage.Mr. Jirele suggested including a cap or a formula to limit increases or decreases to the dollar amount given to the ambulance squad each year in the proposed resolution. This resolution could be adopted at the reorganization meeting.
Mr. Calabro reported that he has been working with the Newtown Corporation on scheduling a joint meeting with Borough and Township officials.
Mr. Schenkman reported that he had attended the Newtown Creek Coalition meeting. He thought it might be a good idea to invite the Coalition to make a presentation to the Board of Supervisors after the New Year.
The meeting adjourned at 9:30 PM.