Board of Supervisors
Minutes of December 16, 2009
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on December 16, 2009 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Robert Ciervo, Vice Chairman Mike Gallagher, Secretary/Treasurer Matthew Benchener, Philip Calabro and Jerry Schenkman, members. Also present were: Joseph Czajkowski, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor, Tom Panzer, Special Counsel and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order: Chairman Ciervo called the regular meeting to order at 7:30 PM with a moment of silence and an invocation by Rabbi Plotkin of Congregation Brothers of Israel. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Czajkowski said that the Solicitor’s Report would be moved up to the Manager’s Report section of the agenda.
Special Action: On behalf of the Board, Dr. Ciervo presented a proclamation to Stephen Andrew Todderud of Boy Scout Troop 29 on attainment of the rank of Eagle Scout.
Mr. Todderud thanked the Board for its recognition. He explained that his Eagle Scout project involved repairing a trail in Tyler State Park, making it more accessible for equestrians. He thanked the Park personnel, his troop, Scout Leader Clark and his parents for their help with the project.
Public Comment: Resident Dennis Fisher said that he has reviewed the Township’s budgets for 2007, 2008 and 2009 and has concerns about the use of the reserve funds because Resolution 2003-R-13 requires that the reserve fund remain at 15% of the budget, but the proposed 2010 budget would leave only 11.7% in reserve. If a budget were to be presented with less than the required 15% remaining in the reserve, it would require a unanimous vote of the Supervisors.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Board is aware of this requirement and has been working to bring the budget to the required 15%.
Resident Glen Beasley said that the Township has some open space that could be used for community gardens. He suggested that the Board investigate establishing a community garden on one of the open parcels, perhaps the Wiggins tract, as a way to maintain it at low cost. He said there is interest among residents in participating in such a program. Other municipalities throughout the country are successfully implementing such programs to produce locally grown food.
Dr. Ciervo said that one member of the EAC has been working with the Park and Recreation Department to establish a children’s garden at Clark Nature Center. A community garden might also be a viable project for our open space. He suggested that Mr. Beasley discuss his ideas with the Park and Recreation Board. An agreement has recently been made with a local farmer to farm the Wiggins tract.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that the Township Manager speak to the Park and Recreation Director about gathering some information on starting a community garden program.
Mr. Beasley said that he had attended the volunteer open house at the new Township Administration Building. He commended the Board for its environmental efforts in this new construction.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that he had discussed the deficit spending proposed in the 2010 budget at recent meetings and had reviewed the previous years’ deficit spending and urged the Board to pass a balanced budget this year.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Board had approved a 2009 budget using $386,000 of the reserve.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that at the start of 2008 there had been over $3,000,000 in the general fund reserve. It has been steadily decreasing.
Mr. Benchener said that the reserve is a rainy day fund to be used in times of economic difficulty. The Board could either raise taxes, decrease spending and services or dip into the reserve.
Mr. Gallagher suggested that this discussion be postponed until the budget is discussed later in the agenda.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of December 2, 2009. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the minutes of the work session of December 7, 2009. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. Benchener moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $1,471,631.01. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Gallagher noted that on page 6 there are a series of payments for audio/visual equipment and repairs. He suggested these expenses be removed from the list, as the Board would be discussing the AV equipment for the new building later in the agenda. Some of these expenses could be duplications of the new building estimates.
Mr. Czajkowski said that some of the repairs have already occurred. These bills should be paid. Only the “scala renewal” might be a duplication. He suggested the Board approve the payments but hold those two checks.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $260,000. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Sensibaugh asked what would remain in the General Fund Reserve after this proposed transfer.
Mr. Czajkowski said that this is an internal transfer and would not impact the General Fund Reserve, which is at 2.2 million.
The motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Officials
Chairman: Dr. Ciervo reported that at a recent work session the Board had heard a presentation of the reopening of the SEPTA R-8 railroad line from Newtown to Fox Chase. The Board has agreed to support the effort and has drafted a resolution in support of the reinstatement of service because of the growth in Newtown’s commuter population and to help alleviate traffic congestion. The draft of the resolution is based on resolutions passed in Cheltenham and Jenkintown.
Mr. Benchener noted that the group giving the presentation had indicated that funding for the rail line would come from the State and the counties serviced by the line, and not from the Townships along the line.
Mr. Gallagher said that as a former commuter he knows that the line is needed and would be a great benefit to Newtown.
Mr. Schenkman asked whether some action should be associated with the resolution.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he would forward the resolution with a letter to the Bucks County Planning Commission, the Delaware Valley Planning Commission and SEPTA.
Resident Harriet Beckert said that the organization Newtown’s 21 st Century Voice has planned a town hall meeting to discuss the R-8 line. Once a date and time has been established, she would invite the Board and residents.
Resident Allen Fidler said that as a Planning Commission member he has been aware that the R-8 line had been on the TIP for many years in the 1990’s, but it had met opposition from other municipalities along the line.
Mr. Gallagher said this apparently is no longer the case; Jenkintown, Abington and Cheltenham are among the municipalities working to reactivate the line.
Dr. Ciervo moved to adopt Resolution 2009-R-31, supporting a review by the PA Department of Transportation, Bucks County Planning Commission, Delaware Valley Planning Commission and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority for the reinstatement of regional rail service to points between Fox Chase and Newtown. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Board Members: Mr. Gallagher reported that the Township had held an open house for Township volunteers on Monday at the new Municipal Complex. Over 75 people are currently serving on the various committees, boards and commissions. He thanked these residents for their years of service to the community.
Planning Commission: Chairman Allen Fidler reported that at its December 15, 2009 meeting the Planning Commission reviewed the Zoning Hearing Board application of Ralph E. Holland & Clare Marie Kronemeyer 185 Durham Road for a special exception to construct additions to an existing dwelling on a non-conforming lot and variances for increased impervious surface and side yard setback. It was noted that the property backs to the open space of Durham Lea development and the proposed construction will not impact neighbors. The Commission passed the application to the Board without comment. The Commission also reviewed the application of Shawn Ward, 240 North Sycamore Street for the number of signs allowed for blade signs, letter signs and a logo at the Green Parrot Restaurant and for height of signage and passed the application to the Board without comment. It was noted that the Commission did not feel the logo should be counted as a separate sign.
The Commission reviewed the conditional use application of Anthropologie, 200 North Sycamore Street for use E-1 retail for an 11,500 square foot space at the Promenade and recommended that the Board approve the application subject to certain conditions, including notification to the Codes Department to arrange for move-in day deliveries during off-peak times. The Commission has also recommended that the applicant seek hours of operation from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM seven days a week to allow some flexibility to participate in Township sponsored events and holiday hours.
The Commission reviewed the Rosebank Winery, 258 Durham Road application for final approval for land development on a 10.1928 acre parcel in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District for a two-story 10,616 square foot addition to an existing barn, a wood deck between the existing stone barn and the proposed winery, and a wood deck to the existing events and promotions building. The plans also propose to restore a portion of the existing parking area to a grass and landscaped area and a new 0.50 acre orchard along Durham Road. Preliminary Plan approval was granted September 9, 2009. The Commission recommended final approval subject to certain conditions, including confirmation, should the Township Engineer so require, that a mistake in the calculation of impervious surface will have de minimus impact on stormwater management.
The Board of Supervisors Liaison reported that Bucks County Planning Commission Director Lynn Bush will be giving a further presentation on Sycamore Street. The Planning Commission would ask to be notified when this is scheduled for the Board’s agenda.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Planning Commission has spent considerable time this past year on review of the TC Zoning District. He asked if there are any other zoning issues the Commission should begin to examine in the coming year.
Mr. Fidler noted that it will be important for the Jointure to review regulations for certain green energy measures such as solar panels and wind turbines. The Joint Zoning Council will be discussing this in the coming year as will the individual planning commissions. The Sycamore Street discussion had concentrated on the larger parcels on the west side of the street. The Commission should also give some consideration to the smaller parcels on the east side of the street, in the historic district.
Financial Planning Committee: Vice Chairman John Stranford reported that the Financial Planning Committee has outlined some goals for the Committee in order to better serve the Township:
To meet and implement these goals the Committee is seeking better communication and direction from the Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Stranford said that the Committee is made up of a number of volunteers with different areas of professional expertise who have been able to help create a very effective financial team.
In response to Dr. Ciervo’s question, Mr. Stranford said that he had no specific comments on the 2010 budget, but that the Committee has carefully watched Township revenues. The Committee’s biggest concern is 2011; the members expect to see a gap between revenues and expenses and are already considering ways to address this gap without reducing services.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that going forward, a monthly report should be given by the Financial Planning Committee at a regular Board meeting.
Mr. Gallagher suggested that members take turns giving the reports so that serving as Chairman or Vice Chairman does not become an onerous task.
Mr. Stranford noted that Committee Member Jim McCrane has been working on projections for the coming year. His projections for 2009 had been very accurate.
Mr. Schenkman expressed interest in seeing the 2011/2012 projections when available.
Mr. Benchener complimented the Committee on its expertise.
Mr. Stranford said that he has appreciated working on a Committee whose members have contributed their skills while leaving political matters aside.
Technology Committee: Chairman Ed Lipski reported that the Park and Recreation Web site, www.newtownfun.com, has been up and running for a month, and has recently begun accepting on-line credit card registration. Residents are finding the site easy to navigate and responsive and the Park and Rec Department is able to generate the data and reports it needs to track enrollment, revenues, etc. Within the first few days over 200 residents registered for on line updates. Mr. Lipski did not have any recent figures on registration and payments but would forward the information to the Board.
The Committee reviewed proposals for various audio/visual equipment with prices upward of $100,000 and after carefully comparing the existing technology with the upgrades, recommends that rather than invest in elaborate equipment, the Township continue to use its current A/V equipment, postponing purchase of upgrades for two to five years. The Committee is recommending installation of new 50 inch televisions for the audience in the public meeting room.
Looking ahead, the Committee has outlined a few projects for the coming year:
Mr. Lipski said that the Technology Committee has been looking at ways it can help the Township make better use of the technology already available to it.
Park and Recreation Board: Dr. Ciervo said that Park and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko and the Park and Recreation Board have been working on a new field use fee schedule. They have researched the field use fees of surrounding municipalities for comparison. Lower Makefield, for example, collects $12 per resident, $24 per non-resident compared to our current $3/$8 charge. Newtown Township’s fees have not been adjusted in a very long time. Dr. Ciervo presented a proposal for increased fees which include an application fee for groups as well as individual fees for resident and non-resident players, children, adults and seniors. Fees for tournaments are also included in the schedule. Mrs. Pawlenko has indicated that it might be better to implement the new schedule in a two step process since some leagues have already begun their registrations and would not be able to increase their own fees to meet the new costs.
Mr. Benchener questioned whether the projected revenues for the increased fees have considered any possible drop in enrollment.
Dr. Ciervo said that revenues are based on last year’s participation.
Mr. Schenkman said he is uncomfortable discussing this without either Mrs. Pawlenko or a representative of the Park and Rec Board in attendance. He would like to see a periodic review of the fees. Perhaps this could be added to a work session agenda.
Mr. Gallagher suggested that a periodic review of all of the Township’s fees should be implemented.
Dr. Ciervo agreed that it might be better to postpone a decision on the fee schedule until representatives of the Park and Recreation Board and Department, as well as league representatives, are in attendance to contribute to discussion.
Resident Ann Porter, representing Rock Girls Softball first noted that if fees were increased there could be a drop in participation. She also said that comparison with Lower Makefield is not fair because Lower Makefield has more fields, many with lights. She urged the Board to consider the contribution made to field maintenance by the different leagues. Baseball and softball have made substantial capital investments in the fields. If this is to be discussed further, the representatives of all of the sports leagues should be in attendance.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Board would like a better understanding of what the various leagues are doing and what they expect from the Township regarding field maintenance.
Ms. Porter said that each sport has different maintenance requirements. A good deal of the maintenance performed by leagues is weather dependent. The leagues are willing to cooperate with the Township to help maintain fields, but would also like this work considered when determining fees.
Mr. Calabro said that he would like to know how the other municipalities raise fees year to year. The proposed increases are very steep; the municipalities used for comparison might only have increased fees a small percentage each year to reach the current level. An increase as large as is proposed could discourage local families from enrolling in Newtown’s teams.
Mr. Beasley suggested that, because this is such a complicated issue, an action team made up of representatives of the leagues, the Board of Supervisors, Park and Recreation Department and Board, be assembled to study the proposals and make a report with an aim of addressing fee increases in 2011. If the Board rushes hastily into a decision it could prove to be a failure.
Historical Architectural Review Board: ChairmanJoseph McKiernan reviewed the application for a new sign at Zephyr Gallery.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize a certificate of appropriateness for a new sign at Zephyr Gallery, 243 North Sycamore Street, as described in a memo dated December 9, 2009. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. McKiernan reported that HARB is nearing completion of both a list of appropriate colors for the historic district and a booklet of appropriateness. He thanked HARB member Harriet Beckert for her efforts in putting both the color list and booklet together.
Mrs. Beckert said that she wished the record to reflect that she has worked with Peter Stampfl, architect on the Promenade and he has been extremely cooperative in trying to comply with suggestions from HARB.
Public Safety Narrow Banding Communications: Mr. Czajkowski reminded the Board that the signing of a letter asking the County to use gaming funds to pay for the narrow band communications required for public safety departments had been postponed until the matter had been advertised. It has appeared on the published agenda for this evening. It is anticipated that County funds would cover the entire cost. In past years when such expenses arose, the County floated a bond.
Mr. Garton explained that those municipalities surrounding the casinos share directly in the casino funds; a portion also goes to the County.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize signing of a letter to the County Commissioners seeking gaming funds for the required narrow banding communications. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Anthropologie, 200 North Sycamore Street, Promenade – Conditional Use: Attorney Thomas Panzer acted a special counsel for the Township in this application.
Attorney Ed Murphy represented the applicant.
Mr. Panzer explained that this application is for an E-1 retail use in an 11,500 square foot space in the TC, Town Commercial Zoning District. He entered into the record the following exhibits:
Mr. Panzer noted that the land development and Zoning Hearing Board decisions have multiple conditions.
Mr. Murphy said that Anthropologie would be the anchor store in the Promenade. The application has been reviewed by the Township’s Planning Commission, which recommended approval. He entered as Exhibit A-1 the Planning Commission’s letter dated December 15, 2009. The applicant has reviewed and agreed to all of the conditions recommended by the Planning Commission.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Planning Commission had discussed its concerns about deliveries to the shop. Of particular concern was the move-in procedure. The recommended condition mentions 5:00 AM. This might not allow enough time to unload and maneuver out of the driveway before morning traffic picks up.
Mr. Murphy said that the applicant will work with the Codes Department to coordinate the move in. The delivery trucks would be pulled into the arcade, off of Sycamore Street, and backed out again without impeding traffic.
David Ziel of Anthropologie/Urban Outfitters, said that moving in would require three trucks. He would arrange for them to deliver at 1:00 AM.
Mr. Benchener said that the Planning Commission has recommended that deliveries by box trucks be at “off-hours.” He questioned the meaning and asked if that could be more specific.
Ms. Fountain explained that the Zoning Hearing Board has required that deliveries of larger than 32 foot box trucks be at off hours. Those were the words used in the decision.
Mr. Ziel said that all deliveries are by FedEx or UPS in smaller box trucks.
Mr. Calabro asked for more detailed information on the number of employees and the number of shifts.
Mr. Ziel said that there are 15 to 18 full time employees, with part time workers added during the holiday season, for a maximum of 25 employees. During a shift there are 8 to 10 employees per shift, or a maximum of 15 during holiday season. The shift times have not yet been worked out, nor have the store hours. The Planning Commission recommended seeking hours from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM to allow for some flexibility. He noted that all deliveries are made on Monday through Thursday, with no Friday or weekend deliveries.
Mr. Calabro asked about allocation of underground parking.
Mr. Murphy said that the exact number of spaces to be assigned to Anthropologie had not yet been determined. He said that there are 68 underground parking spaces, 18 of which will be assigned to the retail tenants. Anthropologie would be given a proportional number, about half of the spaces. Each residential tenant will be assigned two spaces. The rear lot will be available for customers and additional employees. Entry to the underground parking will be with a key or keycard.
The Board agreed that parking should be adequate for this proposed use.
Mr. Benchener moved to grant conditional use approval for use E-1 retail shop use at 200 North Sycamore Street in the TC- Town Commercial Zoning District, tax map parcel 29-10-7, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Gallagher seconded;
Discussion of motion: Mr. Gallagher asked that condition #12 be expanded to include HARB review and “approval by the Board of Supervisors”.
Mr. Benchener amended his motion to read:
Mr. Gallagher amended his second.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro asked whether a time should be included for move-in.
The members agreed that the coordination with the Codes Department would be satisfactory.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Garton resumed his position as Township Solicitor.
Extension of Joint Traffic Committee: Mr. Garton explained that the Board had adopted a resolution establishing a Joint Traffic Committee with a sunset dated of December 31, 2009. Should the Board wish to continue the committee, a resolution would be required.
Mr. Benchener said that he has been liaison to this committee, which is just beginning to build momentum. He urged the Board to extend its term and add two seats.
Mr. Schenkman agreed, suggesting extending it for two years.
Mr. Gallagher said that he had some concerns about the committee, as it is his understanding that the Borough has a separate traffic committee. If this concern has been resolved, he would suggest passing the resolution now so that members could be appointed at the reorganization meeting. The Board can add members, change the terms and give some direction after the New Year.
The Board agreed to discuss some goals and objectives for the committee at a work session in January or February. Mr. Schenkman mentioned a discussion the Board had recently about a pedestrian safety study in the Silver Lake/Penns Trail area.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the Borough and Township had passed the same resolution tasking the committee with addressing traffic in the downtown area.
Mr. Benchener moved to adopt Resolution 2009-R-32, extending the Joint Traffic Committee for one additional year. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Zoning Hearing Board
Ralph E. Holland and Clare Marie Kronemeyer, 185 Durham Road: Mr. Garton explained that this application seeks a special execution and two variances to construct an attached garage, master bedroom, deck, wet room, covered porch and driveway extension on a non-conforming lot resulting in a 19% impervious surface ratio where 8% is permitted and 13.9% exists. The applicant is also seeking relief for side yard setbacks.
Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant. Mr. Marshall explained that this is an older cape cod style house on a 20,000 square foot lot in the R-1 Zoning District where the minimum lot requirement is 40,000 square feet. The applicant proposes to demolish an existing detached garage with a smaller setback. The prospective owner of the house wants to purchase and renovate it to accommodate an elderly relative. He noted that the house backs to the Durham Lea open space and a neighbor at 181 Durham Road was recently granted a variance for 20.24% impervious surface. He also pointed out that in zoning districts where 20,000 square foot lots are permitted, the maximum impervious is 20%. The applicant is already connected to public sewer and will connect to public water.
Dr. Ciervo asked the total square footage of impervious surface.
Mr. Marshall said that the existing garage is to be removed and the new deck is not impervious. The total impervious will be under 4000 square feet.
The Board passed this application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Green Parrot Restaurant and Pub, 240 North Sycamore Street: Mr. Garton explained that this application is for two additional signs beyond the four permitted and to exceed the maximum height by four feet.
Attorney Shawn Ward represented the applicant. Mr. Ward explained that the building has a band around it for signage at 13 feet while the ordinance requires signs to be 9 feet high. The additional signage is for the blade sign on the building in the breezeway area and for the logo on the front of the building. He noted that the Green Parrot is the only building in the shopping center with an entrance in the breezeway.
The Board passed this application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Video Production Quotes for New Building: Mr.Czajkowski presented two quotes for audio/visual equipment and installation for the new building. All new equipment would be very expensive; quotes reflect re-use of some of the existing equipment. Video Gold, the current provider of Township video services, quoted $47,205 for labor for removal and set-up and for some new equipment. Skotieski Video Productions quoted $32,995. Mr. Czajkowski said he has worked with both providers and found them satisfactory. He noted that each quote involves different labor and different new equipment; they are not quotes for identical services and equipment. There is an additional cost for wireless microphones.
Mr. Gallagher said that he would urge using wireless microphones because the conduits for the microphones are very narrow and will require a great deal of work to run the cables.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Technology Committee had recommended flat panel TV’s.
Mr. Czajkowski said that both quotes include the TV’s to be placed toward the rear of the meeting room facing the audience.
Mr. Gallagher explained that with the use of other technologies it will be possible to show electronic copies of plans and documents directly onto the televisions.
Mr. Benchener asked whether plasma TV’s are necessary or whether less expensive LCD TV’s could be used.
Mr. Czajkowski said he would research this. He also noted that Video Gold’s quote includes a tri-caster which would replace an older globe caster, which is in need of repair.
Jeff Jim of Video Gold said that the globe caster has been repaired. He also noted that a large portion of the labor for installation included running the cable for the microphones. If wireless is used, the quote would be reduced considerably.
Mr. Schenkman said that since the two quotes are not for identical services and equipment, perhaps the Township should seek help from a third party to better evaluate them.
Mr. Czajkowski said that a recent applicant to the technology committee has such expertise. He would reach out to that resident for advice. He would also let both vendors know that wireless microphones would be used and he would report back to the Supervisors.
2009 Roadway Improvement Program Pay Estimate #3: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize payment #3 to Bray Brothers, Inc. in the amount of $32,817.39 Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
In response to questions from the Board, Ms. Fountain said that a bid for 2010 will be prepared after the budget has been passed. She and the Public Works Director have already begun evaluating the roads.
Tudor Square Phase III, Certificate of Completion #10: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize escrow release in the amount of $42,740.50 to Tudor Square Phase III. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Manager’s Report Continued
2010 Budget Enactment: Mr. Czajkowski said that the latest budget revision shows a reduction in costs for liability, workers compensation and medical insurances totaling $28,352, bringing the final expenditures to $10,747,748. A 2003 resolution had required an amount equal to 15% of the total budget to remain in the reserve fund; as presented 13.5% of the budgeted amount will remain in reserve, or $1,451,490. To pass the budget as presented will require a unanimous vote.
Dr. Ciervo noted that the State recommends that an amount equal to 5% remain in the reserve.
In response to Board questions, Mr. Czajkowski said that the budget being presented does include the reductions in insurance costs but does not include any change in the fees to be collected for field usage.
Mr. Gallagher suggested that, since in 2009 $8000 was collected, the budget should be adjusted to include that same amount in 2010, not the currently estimated $6000.
The Board agreed to this change.
Mr. Gallagher asked whether the labor solicitor has contacted the employee unions to ask for help.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he did not think the labor solicitor would have an answer from the employees’ unions before the end of the year.
The Board discussed the 2003 resolution requiring 15% to remain in reserve. Mr. Benchener said that the resolution was adopted in a very different economic climate, but now locks the current Board into a difficult, restricted position.
Dr. Ciervo noted that the same resolution requires that reserves above 20% must go to the capital improvement fund. He said that the intention had probably been to save toward the municipal complex expansion.
Mr. Schenkman said that this resolution has only recently been called to the Board’s attention. He said that the Board should address the resolution before proceeding with the budget enactment. He did note that when the bond for the municipal complex was accepted it had been the understanding that debt service millage would have to be increased to meet that obligation.
Mr. Calabro said that the Board must work toward a consensus solution from the current five separate opinions.
Mr. Garton said that if the Board proceeded without a unanimous vote on the currently presented budget it would be violating policy.
The Board briefly discussed whether to rescind the resolution, but Mr. Schenkman urged the members to wait until consideration of a rescission has been advertised. He asked what would be the result of not passing a budget.
Mr. Garton said that if a budget is not passed by the end of the year, the Township could not conduct financial business; it could not pay its bills; it could not collect its liquid fuels funds. A budget that has been passed could be opened and revisited in January because there has been an election. An amended budget could be enacted if it had a 25% or less change in any category or 10% in any line item.
Mr. Schenkman suggested scheduling an additional advertised meeting to review Resolution 2003-R-13 and to enact a budget. He suggested seeking the advice of the Financial Planning Committee and investigating how other Townships manage their reserve funds. He said that if 2003-R-13 is rescinded, an alternative resolution should also be presented.
Dr. Ciervo disagreed with seeking input from the Financial Planning Committee, stating that the Board members are the officials elected by the residents to decide.
In response to Board questions, Mr. Garton said that each municipality is different; some hold no reserves, most that he is familiar with have between 5 and 15%.
Mr. Gallagher suggested that the Board discuss ways to reduce the budget to meet the 15% reserve requirement. It would require a reduction of $176,100. He suggested increasing the Earned Income Tax projection and possibly considering a change in the salary projections for union employees. If no change occurs the budget could then be readjusted after the New Year.
Mr. Calabro suggested increasing the transfer tax projection, since the Township has seen an increase in collections in the second half of the year.
Mr. Schenkman said that he would not be willing to vote on an unrealistic budget.
Mr. Benchener said he would not want to vote when the Board does not know the outcome of any labor discussions.
The Board members did not agree on changes to the budget to bring it to the necessary 15% reserve. They discussed whether to rescind the resolution and replace it with another or to eliminate it entirely. Mr. Gallagher noted that the resolution did not create the reserve fund. The resolution was passed at a time when the reserve was very high after the Earned Income Tax was enacted.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that it had been his understanding that the resolution was first discussed in 2002 as a way to curb deficit spending.
Mr. Fisher said that the policy has been to the Township’s benefit, leaving 15% in reserve. He said he supports the concept of a policy requiring a set percentage to be held in reserve.
Mr. Benchener asked Mr. Beasley whether he had been on the Financial Planning Committee in 2002 when the resolution was first discussed.
Mr. Beasley said that he was not on the Committee, but his recollection had been that the Board had wanted to save toward capital projects, including building the Township’s parks. A clause in the resolution requires that it be reviewed every two years, coinciding with the Board elections. This apparently has not been done. The resolution has been noted in the letter of transmittal in previous budgets. In discussing the budget, Mr. Beasley reminded the Board of the importance of its annual contributions to Newtown Library Company and Wrightstown Village Library. There was some reference to withholding support because the Board has no control over these two institutions, however, as major contributors, the Board does have control. You have the right to set criteria for donation to the institutions.
Mr. Schenkman asked about the Newtown Library Company’s budget.
Mr. Beasley said that the Library has one part time employee, which costs $31,100 in salary and FICA, etc. There are also 78 volunteers. The library has a shortfall this year and is attempting to sponsor some additional fundraising activities.
Dr. Ciervo said that the budget’s first priority is to provide the residents with services. The Board has already included a pay freeze for non-union employees.
Mr. Beasley said that a vibrant community requires more than safety; it should have a library. In the absence of a library, the Township should support the libraries used by the residents.
Mr. Gallagher said that he has looked at the minutes of April 2003, when Resolution 2003-R-13 was adopted. At that time there was 35% in the reserve. That might have influenced the decision to pass the resolution.
The Board agreed to hold a special meeting on December 30, 2009 to discuss Resolution 2003-R-13 and to enact a budget.
Public Comment: Mr. Fisher asked if a letter of transmittal would be included in the 2010 budget.
Mr. Czajkowski said it would be in the budget’s final form but had not been completed in time to be included with the published draft.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked if the costs for the Jointure Solicitor would fall to Newtown Township next year.
Mr. Garton said that while Newtown’s Solicitor would serve as the Jointure Solicitor, the cost is shared by the three member municipalities.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that he is aware of some outstanding litigation. Has any money been put aside in the event of a judgment against the Township?
Mr. Czajkowski said the Township has insurance with a very low deductible.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that during the election campaign there had been some talk of savings on the management of the Township’s pension trusts.
Mr. Benchener said that the Township has been investigating the possibility but no change in pension management has been made at this time.
Mr. Beasley said that at a recent event honoring the Township’s volunteer employees and throughout the year it has been made clear that the Board is very happy with the work done by the Financial Planning Committee. He has been very pleased with the teamwork of this particular group of volunteers and has been happy to serve as chairman. The team had worked together in a non-political way to set goals in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust. Mr. Beasley said this changed with the resignation of Supervisor Chairman Tom Jirele and the subsequent election, during which time it seemed as part of the campaign, the team’s work was disregarded in favor of crediting one member as the “driving force” of the committee. He felt this undermined the Committee’s credibility as a non-political advisory committee. For this reason he said that he would no longer continue and is resigning the Financial Planning Committee.
Old Business: Dr. Ciervo asked any residents interested in serving on Township Committees, Boards and Commissions to submit letters of interest to the Township Manager at 100 Municipal Drive by December 18, 2009.
Dr. Ciervo announced that the Board would meet in Executive Session.
The meeting adjourned at 12:00 AM.