Bud­get holds line on taxes with no lay­offs, ser­vice cuts

The Advance of Bucks County - - NEWTOWN AREA - By Jeff Werner

NORTeAMPTON TOWNSeIP – cor the fourth year, the town­ship will hold the line on taxes.

rn­der the town­ship’s pre­lim­i­nary $28 mil­lion bud­get, passed unan­i­mously by the board of su­per­vi­sors Nov. 15, the tax rate of 11.1425 mills will re­main un­changed next year.

Tax­pay­ers with prop­erty as­sessed at the me­dian value of just over $35,000 will con­tinue to pay $397, or about 8 per­cent of their to­tal tax bill for town­ship ser­vices.

crank Rothermel, chair­man of the board of su­per­vi­sors, com­mended the town­ship ad­min­is­tra­tion and de­part­ment heads for “sharp­en­ing their pen­cils” and pre­sent­ing a bud­get that holds the line on taxes while re­tain­ing the cur­rent level of ser­vice with no lay­offs.

rn­der next year’s bud­get, gen­eral fund rev­enue is pro­jected at $13.2 mil­lion, an in­crease of $600,000 over 2012.

Nearly half of those funds, about 47 per­cent or $6.5 mil­lion, will come from the earned in­come tax.

Town­ship man­ager Robert Pel­le­grino said while the town­ship saw a re­duc­tion in its earned in­come tax in 2009, “since that time we have climbed up out of the hole and we’re see­ing rea­son­able in­creases in that rev­enue source. It’s not large,” he said. “We’re pro­ject­ing about two per­cent next year.”

While earned in­come is on the rise, the townVKLS FRNWLNUHV WR VHH flDW UHVHNUH IURP WKH WUDNVfer tax, the money the town­ship re­ceives when a home is sold in the town­ship. cor 2013, the EUGJHW SURMHFWV $700,000 WR flRW LNWR WRWNVKLS cof­fers.

At its high point in 2006, the town­ship was col­lect­ing $1.5 mil­lion from the tax. “We’ve had to ab­sorb that loss of rev­enue, not just this year but since 2008. Nor­mally we would have over 600 prop­er­ties trans­fer. It’s half of that amount right now,” Pel­le­grino said.

There are glim­mers on the hori­zon that the hous­ing mar­ket is start­ing to pick up, said Pel­le­grino, “but we are be­ing con­ser­va­tive and bud­get­ing the same as 2012. If it comes in more, that’s great. We’ll en­hance our re­serves.”

An­other vari­able in the bud­get are per­mit fees, which change from year to year based upon the amount of build­ing tak­ing place, said Pel­le­grino. “Those are down, but with a num­ber of in­sti­tu­tional projects we’ve seen this year our per­mit fees are over bud­get and we’re es­ti­mat­ing about the same amount in 2013.”

Also bud­geted is a $200,000 bal­loon pay­ment on the Spread Ea­gle Inn in 2013 and $90,000 more in real es­tate rev­enue due to a shift in mil­lage from the debt ser­vice fund to the gen­eral fund.

A ma­jor area of con­cern con­tin­ues to be the town­ship’s real es­tate as­sess­ment, which has steadily de­clined since 2010, from a high of

$599 mil­lion in 2009 to a pro­jected $575 mil­lion in 2013. The de­cline has re­sulted in a re­duc­tion of $260,000 in tax rev­enue to the town­ship, said Pel­le­grino.

“It’s been a steady de­cline. We haven’t felt it all at once, but it has had an im­pact over the term that we have had to deal with,” he said.

On the ex­pen­di­ture side of the ledger, 75 per­cent of the bud­get will pay for per­son­nel, while nine per­cent will fund in­surance, util­i­ties, con­tracted and pro­fes­sional ser­vices.

Non-union em­ploy­ees are bud­geted to re­ceive a two and a half per­cent salary in­crease in 2013 WKLOH SROLFH RI­fiFHUV WLOO JHW D 3.5 SHUFHNW ERRVW in their wages af­ter for­go­ing a salary in­crease this year.

)RU WKH fiUVW WLPH NHXW YHDU, WKH WRWNVKLS WLOO be pick­ing up the en­tire tab for its four full-time GDYWLPH fiUH­fiJKWHUV DW D FRVW RI $500,000. ,W WLOO also be ab­sorb­ing $500,000 in pen­sion cost in­creases.

rtil­ity costs are down due to the town­ship’s work to re­duce its en­ergy con­sump­tion. But Pel­le­grino said the bud­get in­cludes a three per­cent in­crease in the event rates go up next year.

The town­ship will also be paying more for work­man’s com­pen­sa­tion, pro­jected to be up by eight per­cent.

Other costs out­side of per­son­nel are pro­jected to be at or be­low 2012 lev­els, ac­cord­ing to Pel­le­grino.

Cap­i­tal projects slated for 2013 in­clude the con­tin­u­a­tion of the town­ship’s en­ergy re­duc­tion pro­gram, re­place­ment of po­lice ve­hi­cles, the pur­chase of bal­lis­tic vests as needed for its po­lice de­part­ment and re­place­ment of a 1991 dump truck, a 1976 mower and two smaller trucks.

Other planned ex­pen­di­tures in­clude soft­ware for per­mits man­age­ment, up­dat­ing the recre­ation com­po­nent of the com­pre­hen­sive plan, com­ple­tion of the na­tive gar­dens, a bat­tery backup sys­tems and gen­er­a­tor con­nec­tions at town­ship traf- fiF VLJNDOV, PLNRU EULGJH UHSDLUV, LPSURVHPHNWV to the bath­rooms at The Shack and 3.2 miles of road repaving projects.

Pel­le­grino ini­tially rec­om­mended a tax in­crease to plug a fund­ing gap in the li­brary bud­get and to pay for cap­i­tal pur­chases.

With the town­ship’s cap­i­tal re­serve fund ex­hausted, he sug­gested the cre­ation of a new fund­ing stream - road equip­ment cap­i­tal fund of .46 mills - to pay for the re­place­ment of “old equip­ment” that, he said, in some cases is “fall­ing apart.

ee also sug­gested a .2 mill in­crease to shore up the li­brary fund bal­ance and op­er­a­tions.

The re­main­ing .34 mill dif­fer­ence would sup­ple­ment the cap­i­tal equip­ment re­serve fund for new po­lice cars, com­puter equip­ment, build­ing main­te­nance, etc.

“That was my ini­tial thought,” said Pel­le­grino. “I still be­lieve that at some point we’re go­ing to have to ad­dress those con­cerns.”

Pel­le­grino said he was able to avoid the in­crease by bud­get­ing the sale of the Rich­boro School­house in 2013 to fund some of the town­ship’s cap­i­tal needs for 2013.

Pel­le­grino said ad­just­ments were also made to its rev­enue pro­jec­tions. “Our pro­jec­tion for the earned in­come tax was very con­ser­va­tive. We are now less con­ser­va­tive,” he said. “We made up some money there that will fund the li­brary op­er­a­tions.”

“The board is solidly be­hind your rec­om­men­da­tions,” Su­per­vi­sor de­orge home­lasky told Pel­le­grino. “rn­for­tu­nately we just don’t think this is the time we can im­ple­ment it. With all the things peo­ple have had to go through the past few years we should be look­ing at needs and not wants.”

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