Board of Supervisors
Minutes of November 14, 2012
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on November 14, 2012 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Michael Gallagher, Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener, Secretary/Assistant Treasurer Ryan W. Gallagher and Philip Calabro and Robert Ciervo, members. Also in attendance were: Kurt Ferguson, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order : Chairman Gallagher called the meeting to order with a moment of silence. This was followed by an invocation by Pastor Chris McCloskey of Grace Point Church and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Newtown Elementary School Artists: Dr. Ciervo said that a program has been developed to display artworks by Newtown Elementary School artists. The works are selected by Principal Kevin King and art teacher Donna Farrell and will be displayed in the hallways and changed a few times a year. The new artists selected are: Alex Laqutin, Camille Smith, Angela Wei, Lauren Kim, Brandon Cerami, Greta Rolli and Duba Buber. Dr. Ciervo thanked the children, Mr. King and Mrs. Farrell for their participation and generosity. He said that all of the selected artists are Newtown residents. He hopes to expand the program to Newtown’s other schools eventually.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that at an earlier meeting the Board had agreed to post financial information, including the most recent audit and the draft budget being presented this evening, on the Township’s Web site. As of this evening, the draft has not been posted.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the budget is being seen by the Supervisors for the first time this evening. It is his understanding that it has only recently been completed. It will be posted tomorrow.
Mr. Ferguson said that he has been working on this budget for eight weeks but had been making updates until this afternoon. He will post in in the morning.
Authorization to Purchase Radios: Mr. Ferguson explained that the FCC has mandated the upgrade to narrow banding for 911 calls, and this has been anticipated in budget planning for next year. However the Township has its own local communications channel, which would also need the upgrade. During the recent storm it became very apparent that this communication channel is necessary as telephone service was interrupted and the 911 communication line was being widely used for emergencies. This request for purchase and reprogramming is for the local network to be included in the narrow banding. The contract has been reviewed by Mr. Garton, and is through Costars, a statewide service which allows the Township to move forward without a bidding process.
Dr. Ciervo moved to approve the purchase of radios and their programming and the re-programming of existing radios per Costars contract #4400008564, as mandated by the FCC, for a total cost of $12,312.25. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Board Reports: Mr. M. Gallagher commended the Township administration for their efforts during Hurricane Sandy. Though most of the Township lost power, the administration worked with PECO and PennDOT to remove downed trees and power lines and handle other concerns during the emergency. He thanked Mr. Ferguson, Fire Chief Forsyth, Police Chief Pasqualini and Public Works Director Ron Weaver and staff for their exemplary work.
Mr. Calabro echoed Mr. Gallagher’s thanks. He said that the staff did a wonderful job throughout the storm and aftermath.
Mr. R. Gallagher added his thanks and also thanked all who voted on Election Day. Newtown had a very large turnout. He also thanked the campaign workers who have very quickly cleaned up all of the campaign signs.
Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month : Dr. Ciervo read into the record a resolution declaring November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. This is the most deadly of cancers, with very slim survival rates and no cure, yet the budget for research into this disease is negligible.
Dr. Ciervo moved to adopt Resolution 2012-R-16, declaring November as Pancreatic Awareness Month. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo said that by adopting this resolution, Newtown is participating is a national effort of municipalities to raise awareness and promote education on this very deadly disease.
Mr. Benchener agreed with Dr. Ciervo, noting that although it is the most deadly of cancers, its budget for research is very low.
The motion passed 5-0.
Other Board Matters: Dr. Ciervo said that some time ago the Board had discussed early morning noise from trash haulers. He has recently had some complaints from residents about noise. If residents are having problems with this, they should notify the Manager or one of the Supervisors. The Township can contact the haulers and remind them of our noise ordinance, which does not allow noise before 7:00 AM.
Mr. Gallagher said that perhaps by reminding the trash haulers of the Ordinance, they might try to schedule their very early morning collections in the business districts.
Harold Beck & Sons, 11 Terry Drive: Ms. Fountain reminded the Board that Beck & Sons has asked for return of its escrow for its recent expansion project. The as-built plan showed 168 parking spaces and 26 spaces held in reserve, however the parking lot has been striped for 161 spaces. Beck has informed the Township that it would comply with the requirement to restripe the parking spaces, however, it has striped the lot to accommodate the larger vehicles used by employees. These spaces are painted as 10’X’18’, rather than the permitted 9’X 18’. The additional spaces have not been needed by the business. The parking lot is the same size as would be necessary for 168 spaces.
Township Code Enforcement Officer Martin Vogt has submitted a memo dated November 8, 2012, confirming that the parking lot is the required size. It is his opinion that the Township should allow this striping to remain, but to obtain an agreement in writing that Beck & Sons will restripe and will install the reserve spaces if the Township deems them necessary.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to approve the parking plans for 161 spaces, subject to the written agreement with Harold Beck & Sons to restripe the lot to 168 spaces should the Township deem the additional spaces necessary. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro asked whether the motion should reference the 26 spaces held in reserve.
Mr. Garton said that the Township has always had the option to require the installation of the reserve spaces; this is not changed by the agreement.
The motion passed 5-0.
Rezoning of Goodnoe Elementary School: Mr. Garton provided the Board members with the lot plan for Goodnoe Elementary School and pointed out that the lot spans three different zoning districts, POS, R-1 and EIR. As the entire parcel is being used as a school, the District is requesting that the entire lot be rezoned as EIR. This would need to be done by ordinance and approved by the three Jointure partners. He asked the Board to authorize him to draft such an ordinance for circulation among the Jointure partners.
Mr. Calabro asked how this would benefit the Township and School District.
Mr. Garton said that right now, the properties in POS and R-1 have non-conforming uses. By rezoning, the non-conformity would be eliminated. In addition, the residential building on the property could not become a residence again without zoning relief.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize Mr. Garton to draft an ordinance to submit to the Jointure to rezone the Goodnoe Elementary School property as EIR. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Ferguson commended the administration and staff for their excellent work during Hurricane Sandy. He will be meeting with the department heads to review all procedures to see where improvements can be made in Township response. He noted the difficulty faced when all power throughout the Township was out and most traffic lights had to be operated by generators which needed refueling from 5 gallon cans every four hours. This required round-the-clock diligence by staff. He will be looking at ways to anticipate needs better and improve response.
Police Chief Henry Pasqualini reported that the Department responded to 1151 calls last month, including 2 burglaries, 15 thefts, 7 fraud investigations, 52 reports of suspicious circumstances and one fight at the High School. The High School has agreed to additional police presence at the end of football games, as activities spill out into the surrounding business community.
Mr. Calabro asked about the 52 suspicious circumstances.
Chief Pasqualini said that most of the reports prove to be about people who are legitimately in the neighborhoods, however some reports were instrumental in solving a series of burglary cases. He also said that the detectives have been working closely with the detective squads in surrounding municipalities to solve burglaries.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Benchener moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of October 24, 2012. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $311,080.49. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $360.286.72. Mr. Benchener seconded. The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher reminded the Board that it had tabled discussion of the Holiday Parade fees for police. He would like to revisit this question.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to un-table Mr. Benchener’s motion to provide police for the Holiday Parade free of charge. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Continued Discussion of Mr. Benchener’s original motion to provide police for the Holiday Parade: Mr. M. Gallagher said that through discussion with the Police Chief it was determined that the Parade would require 3 officers for 4 hours.
Mr. Calabro said that he was concerned that the budget has been very tight and many worthy activities and donations have been removed from the budget. The Township has been very careful with spending over the past year and he would favor seeking support from the business community for the parade. The organizers should have considered police support in their initial budget. He also had concerns about waiving fees for this event as it might lead to requests from other community event organizers to waiver other fees.
Dr. Ciervo asked the costs for the police.
Mr. Ferguson said that the cost is $350 per officer for the four hour shift, a total of $1050.
Dr. Ciervo said that he is very concerned with the tight budget and unexpected expenses. He pointed out the expense for narrow banding for radios earlier in the meeting as an example of unanticipated costs. He would favor asking the organizers to pay for the police, as the organizers’ businesses will benefit from the publicity surrounding the event and from the event itself. The Township should limit spending to essentials, only.
Mr. M. Gallagher called the question to provide police for the Holiday Parade free of charge. The motion passed 3-2, with Mr. Calabro and Dr. Ciervo voting nay.
Mr. Calabro reminded the Board that it had discussed hiring a conflict attorney to represent the Township in matters where the solicitor has a conflict.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that there has been a recent matter of controversy between a Homeowners Association and a developer who is represented by another attorney in Mr. Garton’s firm. As the homeowners are asking for Board involvement, he had asked Mr. Ferguson to look into a conflict attorney to represent the Township.
Mr. Calabro said that he would have liked to have someone appointed so that all correspondence could be referred to him. He does not want this matter to drag on.
Dr. Ciervo said that he has heard from residents on this matter, and he is concerned that the residents are not satisfied with answers they are getting from the Township. The Township did not escrow funds from the developer for a club house and the residents are asking the Supervisors to revisit this many years later.
Mr. Calabro said that the residents are not satisfied with Board members’ responses and want to hear a legal opinion from a solicitor.
Mr. Ferguson said that he could research conflict attorneys and provide the Board with a list at the next meeting. He suggested that the Board forward to him some parameters for the scope of work as well as names of possible attorneys who might be suitable.
Mr. R. Gallagher suggested that a list of three attorneys should be satisfactory. The other Board members agreed.
Mr. Garton reported that the Public Utilities Commission has agreed to schedule two hearings on the Newtown Artesian Water Company’s request to place a well on the Tanner property on Washington Crossing Road. These hearings will take place on December 12, 2012 at 1:00 PM and 6:30 PM. This is the second Wednesday of the month and may conflict with the Board of Supervisors’ regular meeting schedule. The second meeting would include testimony and comment from the public and could take a few hours. It was his understanding that Board members might want to be in attendance at the meeting.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Supervisors’ December schedule calls for meetings on December 5 and 19, but not the 12 th. He reminded residents that the Board had agreed to televise these meetings.
Mr. Benchener asked that any future meetings to evaluate Township procedures and performance during storms and other emergencies include discussion of communications with the public. During the recent storm, many residents were eager for information on when power would be restored, which roads were opened or closed and where they could go to recharge telephones.
Mr. Ferguson said that during Hurricane Sandy, power outages were very widespread. These outages included cable service, telephones and in some instances, cellular service. Residents did not have access to their communications devices. One idea that he would be investigating would be reverse 911 telephones. This program refurbishes old cell phones for calling 911 only, and the devices are provided to residents who might be likely to need help in an emergency, particularly elderly people or those dependent on oxygen devices. Another effort would be to notify people in advance of where they could look for help and information during emergencies.
The Board talked about using Facebook, as a more immediate way to update information than through the Township Web site. Mr. Benchener said that he would like any plans to be coordinated so that the same information would be available through any sources the Township might decide to use.
Dr. Ciervo said that the School District has an e-mail system that notifies parents quickly of any timely information. Perhaps working through the Park and Recreation Department’s large e-mail database, a similar program could be started for Township emergency notifications.
Chairman Gallagher announced that the Board would meet for a brief executive session to discuss personnel matters and return for the budget presentation.
2013 BUDGET PRESENTATION
Mr. Ferguson said that he began the budget process on June 25, 2012. The budget before the Supervisors proposes no increase in taxes. The 2013 budget has been prepared in line item format in accordance with the Pennsylvania Chart of Accounts for local governments published by the State Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). The budget presented to the Board of November 14, 2012 is the Township Manager’s presentation of the 2013 budget and has been put together along with Department heads and with significant assistance from Finance staff.
The Township has seventeen (17) funds which it oversees and includes:
Even with 14 total funds, there are only four (4) that essentially address the direct taxation of our residents and that we consider, discuss and debate while going through the budget process. Those four are: general fund, fire protection fund, debt service fund and capital projects fund. While the three (3) pension funds are always a matter of discussion, the amounts we pay into those funds is outlined in our general fund budget.
Our 2013 general fund budget contemplates budget appropriations in the amount of $11,011,557. This budgeted amount represents an increase of 1.26% over the 2012 budgeted expenditures ($10,874,760). The 2013 budget provides for pension contributions in the amount of $1,022,569, with the state reimbursing the Township $343,307, for a net payment of $679,262.
Newtown Township’s departments include Police, Public Works, Emergency Services, Zoning and Code Enforcement and Parks and Recreation.
The proposed budget maintains municipal services and current levels.
The proposed budget, as presented, does maintain current millage at 2.5 mills. That millage is distributed with 0.875 mills being dedicated for fire service and 1.625 mills dedicated for debt service. Each mill generates the Township approximately $322,000.
Mr. Ferguson noted that the recent refinance of the bond for the municipal complex has allowed the Township to create a surplus and reduce the payments.
Mr. Benchener asked whether the refinance has had a positive impact on the general fund.
Mr. Ferguson said the positive impact has been that the 2012 payment has been lowered so that no transfers have been necessary from general to debt service. A transfer will not be necessary until 2016.
Our 2013 budget estimates revenues (without fund balance) to be $10,461,437. This budgeted revenue amount for 2013 represents a decrease of approximately 2.0% from our 2012 budget; this translates to a decrease of -$213,558. The budgeted revenue amount for 2012, including our year end 2012 fund balance is $11,048,378. This represents an overall decrease from our 2012 revenue numbers of 5.80% which represents a decrease of $679,187.
Earned Income Tax
Our earned income tax accounts for 61% of our total revenue. Our 2013 estimate is $6,375,000, which represents a 1.19% proposed increase over our year end estimate for 2012, which is estimated at $6,300,000.
Each department or category constitutes percentages of the proposed budget in the following way:
Department/Category Percentage of General Fund
Public Works 9.2%
Emergency Services 8.0% (net with fire inspections)
Code Enforcement/Zoning 3.3%
Recreation Programming 1.1% (net with registrations)
Pension/Deferred Compensation 7.5% (net with state contribution)
Township insurance 4.2%
The outlined budget presented has been scaled back to include very limited capital purchases. Rock salt (listed as operating supplies in the Public Works budget) has been removed from the general fund and transferred entirely to the Liquid Fuels budget. The budget also eliminates street line painting (reduction of $8000).
This budget includes proposed raises of 3.5% for Police as set by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, 3% for emergency services as set by collective bargaining agreement and 3% for non-uniform collective bargaining employees as set by terms of a tentative collective bargaining agreement and 2% for exempt employees.
The purchases for 2013 are as follows:
Narrow Banded police and fire radios $53,764 (overall cost $330 @3.75% for 7 years)
Police Kevlar vests $10,000 (50% reimbursement)
Replacement mower for Public Works $18,000
General Fund Budget
Police – 5 tasers @ $1,150 each $5,750
Fire – 3 sets of turnout gear @ $9,000
Fire – Increase in overtime to $14,000
accommodate mandatory training
The focus of the Township will now turn to its diminishing fund balance, which will be $36,821 at year end.
Mr. Benchener said that this is the first part of the budget process. The Board must now review the proposed budget and address policy to put the Township in a strong position.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Township’s revenues have only increased 3.6% in seven years, while costs have continued to rise. Earned income tax collection has been flat and there has been a decrease in transfer tax income. The primary increase has been in meeting the labor contracts. The new contracts prevent lay-offs and the Township has been unable to negotiate any concessions with the unions. It could become necessary to discuss a general fund property tax to raise needed revenue.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board will need to review every line item and will need to discuss the budget at the next few Board meetings.
Mr. Calabro reminded the Board that it will need to address the current policy of maintaining 10% in the reserve fund. He asked whether the budget anticipates giving 25 percent of the local services tax to the fire association.
Mr. Ferguson said that this budget does give 25% of the LST to the fire association.
Mr. Calabro asked about the road program.
Mr. Ferguson said that the road program is paid by the liquid fuels tax collected. The Township gets about $400,000 per year, which will pave one mile of road. He confirmed that the Township has 80 miles of roadways.
The Board agreed to circulate questions and comments on the budget electronically so that all members can see questions and answers to avoid repetition of questions.
Mr. Ferguson pointed out that there are a few new line items in this year’s budget. These are not new expenditures, but have not appeared as separate line items before. This include: insurance co-pay reimbursements and police comp time. He also noted that some budgeted numbers are cushioned to cover possible unanticipated expenses.
Resident Jen Dix urged the Board to improve communication with residents, especially on financial matters. She noted that many surrounding communities have posted their 2011 audits, but Newtown Township has not. She would like more timely posting of all financial information.
Mr. Ferguson said that he intends to make this a priority in the coming year. HE is working on a method of monthly financial reporting for the Supervisors which he would also like to be available to residents. Meanwhile, he is always available to answer residents’ questions.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that the 2011 audit shows a discrepancy of $50,000 in the general fund, which should be corrected and reflected in the 2013 budget.
Mr. Ferguson said that he has spoken to the auditors and confirmed the numbers, which are reflected in the budget. There had been some prepaid items shown which the auditor had recommended to remove. These items have been removed.The meeting adjourned at 9:30 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary