Minutes for the meeting held on January 24, 2012

The Newtown Township Financial Planning Committee met on Tuesday, January 25, 2012 at the Newtown Township Administration Building.

Members present were Joe Barkley, Aaron Borstein, Warren Dallas, Robert Daries, Neil Poppel and Scott Rosenberg. Brian Wilson attended the meeting via teleconference. Excused was Tom Dye.

Also present was Elaine Gibbs, Finance Director.

The Committee did not meet in November or December of 2011.

Members present were provided a copy of the 2012 Budget.


Mr. Dallas called the meeting to order at 7:31 P.M.


New member Mr. Poppel introduced himself to the Committee and gave a brief history on his background. The members welcomed Mr. Poppel.


Mr. Dallas made a motion to nominate Mr. Barkley for Chairman. The motion was seconded by Mr. Daries and passed unanimously (6-0).

Mr. Borstein made a motion to nominate Mr. Dallas for Vice Chairman. The motion was seconded by Mr. Barkley and passed unanimously (6-0).


MuniCast Teleconference

Prior to the starting the teleconference Mr. Barkley asked the members to think about what the Township should be trying to get out of the software.

Mr. Daries suggested that the Township would use the data to generate a useful five year forecasting report.

Mr. Barkley advised Mr. Swanson that he could begin the presentation. Mr. Wilson was also on the phone.

Mr. Swanson (MuniCast representative) began the teleconference with an online presentation regarding the MuniCast system. The members were provided hard copies of the various slides. Mr. Swanson updated the members on the capabilities of the latest generation of the MuniCast Forecasting and Trend Analysis Model. The information being viewed is the latest financial information provided to him by Mrs. Gibbs. The model is a 100% Micro Soft/Excel based model. He explained the various pages and purposes of the worksheets. The model allows municipalities to set forecasting date ranges and select the detail included in the data. The funds included in the model are the General and Debt Services Funds. The model functions like an Excel spreadsheet and can forecast out to the year 2030. He reported on the flexibility of the system and the ability to view various scenarios.

Mr. Rosenberg commented on the model with regards to baselines, forecasting and applying the sensitivity options.

Mr. Swanson reported on the model’s forecasting assumptions, key statistical data and the various forecasting account types. He discussed understanding what drives each account type and reported that the information is driven by the assumptions.

Mr. Rosenberg inquired if there is any standard charting that looks at the historical data to compare economic indicators. Mr. Swanson reported that the system offers that ability and referenced the correlations between the indicators.

Mr. Barkley inquired on how the percentage of variability is compared. Mr. Swanson explained how the variability is compared and reported on how the information is useful in forecasting.

Mr. Swanson suggested the Township consider adding output and performance measures to the model at a later date. He reported on how the trend analysis allows you to select by account type or department. He recommended that the Township’s next steps be as follows:

  • Finalize economic, financial and operating data sets to include in forecasting assumptions and statistical analysis templates:
  • Refine and finalize revenue and expenditure account types, and formulae for purposes of forecasting;
  • Begin training on new model.

He also suggested creating a forecasting team to help with the project.

Mr. Rosenberg inquired if there is any type of change log control with regards to changing the model, input changes, account changes, department heads. Mr. Swanson reported that most of his clients prefer to have him make the changes, but he does train customers so that they can make the changes on their own if they choose. He recommended that the Township submit their changes to him until they feel more comfortable with regards to entering data into the model, he would update the official model. He also suggested that the Township have a backup file and a training model.

Mr. Barkley inquired on the time to train someone besides the Township’s Financial Director to use the model. Mr. Swanson reported that it would take approximately eight hours over a six month period to train someone. He suggested that the first training session be approximately two hours and noted that the system is mastered through trial and error.

Mr. Barkley inquired with regards to MuniCast clients, whom is doing most of the input and reported that the Financial Planning Committee consist of volunteers. Mr. Swanson advised that most of the input is done by employees and that it helps to be familiar with excel. He reported on the use of the pivot reports, the ability to manipulate the information and that the best training is done during the input of the data. He suggested having an online training session once Mrs. Gibbs has new financial information to be updated.

Mr. Wilson inquired on how the new information was being adding to the model. Mr. Swanson reported on how he adds data to the model; he prefers not to hand key the dollar amounts due to possible errors and that he just cuts and pastes the information received from the Township’s Finance Director. He advised on how new accounts are created and on how the information is double checked to verify that the updated model matches the information received from Mrs. Gibbs.

Mr. Barkley asked the members if they have any questions.

Mr. Dallas reported that he had no questions at this time.

Mr. Barkley inquired on the annual maintenance charge. Mr. Swanson reported that the annual fee is $1,995. per year. The fee includes various things such as any questions, training, updating the model, adding worksheet, etc.

Mr. Barkley questioned the proposed next steps and if they are included in $1,995. Mr. Swanson reported on the time that he has invested and that no further payment due until the forecasting model is complete.

Mr. Rosenberg inquired on the hourly maintenance charge. Mr. Swanson reported that the hourly fee is $100. per hour.

Mr. Swanson advised that MuniCast also offers a monthly analysis. He suggested reviewing the analysis on the MuniCast website and reported that it could be incorporated into the forecasting model.

Mr. Wilson commented on having the Township not utilizing Mr. Swanson’s services to update the model. Mr. Swanson reported that the Township has the complete ability to enter data, but once structural changes happen he can’t warrant anyone else’s work.

Mr. Barkley inquired as to what Mr. Swanson needs from the Township. Mr. Swanson reported that he still needs the Township to provide the key drivers/assumptions for revenue expansion types, once he inputs that information he will refresh the model and the Township should be good to go.

Mr. Wilson inquired if the model is compatible with Excel 2010. Mr. Swanson reported that the model is compatible with Excel 2007 and all future versions.

The members agreed they had no further questions for Mr. Swanson and thanked him for his time.

The teleconference ended. Mr. Swanson and Mr. Wilson left the discussions

Mr. Barkley requested input from the members. Mr. Rosenberg reported that he likes what he has seen and feels that the Township should start using the system. Mr. Dallas questioned the compatibility of the system with the Township’s current accounting software. Mr. Daries reported that he feels the system would be very useful and looks user friendly. Mr. Borstein commented on training being critical, but felt that the system would be a very useful tool. Mr. Poppel felt the information provided by the system would be very useful to the Township. Mr. Dallas commented on the need for whoever inputs the information needing to have an understanding of excel. Mr. Barkley suggested that the amount of data available could be overwhelming and advised that he likes the forecasting history. Mr. Rosenberg commented on the information regarding the drivers being critical. The members discussed the ability to manipulate the information wanting to be reviewed.

Mrs. Gibbs commented on MuniCast being a great system. She reminded the members of the cut backs in Township staff and questioned who would be inputting the information. She suggested discussing the matter with the Township’s elected officials with regards to who will input the information and if the Supervisors will use the reports.

Mr. Barkley discussed the Committee’s next steps. He suggested developing four to five reports before presenting any information to the Supervisors.

Mr. Rosenberg agreed with Mr. Barkley’s suggestions to develop reports. He suggested getting Mr. Swanson to provide sample reports from municipalities similar in size. The members discussed the Township’s demographics (Pop. 15 -20 thousand, 80 miles of roadway).

It was agreed that Mr. Daries will contact Mr. Swanson to ask for report samples.

Mr. Barkley advised the members to be prepared to discuss the matter at the next meeting.

The members discussed choosing the indicators/drivers. It was agreed that Mr. Borstein and Mr. Rosenberg would work together to choose the indicator/drivers by the next meeting. Mrs. Gibbs suggested reviewing the 2012 Budget and explained how to read the budget and schedules.

Mr. Barkley inquired on the cost of the MuniCast software. Mrs. Gibbs advised that she did not have that information with her, but would email it to him.

Update on Variance/Executive Summary Report (Financial Management Report)

Mr. Barkley reported that there were no new updates regarding this matter and that it should be removed from any further agendas.

Update on Alternative Accounting Software Packages

Mr. Barkley advised the members that he would have an update regarding alternative accounting software packages at the next meeting. He noted that the Township’s current accounting system, AMS, has the ability to forecast.

Update on Road Analysis Presentation to the Supervisors

Mr. Dallas reported that he is prepared to present the road analysis to the Supervisors at a work session. The members agreed that the matter would be discussed at their next meeting before making the presentation to the Supervisors.


Mr. Dallas made a motion to approve the minutes from October 25, 2011 as presented. The motion was seconded by Mr. Rosenberg and passed unanimously with one member abstaining (5-0-1).


Confirm 2012 Meeting Dates

The members agreed to continue to meet on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 7:30 P.M.

Mr. Barkley reported that he is unable to attend the meeting scheduled for March 27 th and inquired if the members would consider rescheduling the meeting to March 20 th. The members agreed.

Mr. Barkley made a motion to reschedule the March meeting to March 20, 2012. The motion was seconded by Mr. Daries and passed unanimously (6-0).

Discuss Goals for 2012

The members agreed to postpone the discussion regarding the Committee’s goals for 2012 until the February meeting. Mr. Barkley suggested members begin thinking of possible goals for 2012 and 2013.


The members discussed where the meetings are held. Mr. Barkley advised that he prefers meeting in the conference room located off of the main meeting room. The Recording Secretary advised that the public needs to have access to the meeting space.


Mrs. Gibbs advised the members that the Township is at the top of it revenue resources and that she is looking for additional sources of revenue. No capital projects are being done in the year 2012. The Township’s income is drying up. The members discussed researching possible grants available to the Township. Mr. Barkley requested Mr. Dallas and Mr. Poppel to work together researching the availability of grants. Mrs. Gibbs advised the members that they could contact her and she could offer ideas of where to being the research.


There being no further business the meeting was duly adjourned at 9:13 P.M.

The next meeting is scheduled for February 28, 2012 at 7:30 P.M.


Respectfully submitted,

Christy Holley-Flaherty, Recording Secretary