Up­per Darby bud­get holds line on taxes; Dems vote no

All 5 Democrats vote against spend­ing plan

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Linda Reilly Times Cor­re­spon­dent

UP­PER DARBY >> Taxes are not go­ing up in Up­per Darby – at least for res­i­dents’ town­ship tax tab.

The 2019 Up­per Darby Town­ship bud­get, which holds the line on taxes no tax in­crease, was adopted

6-5 af­ter a lengthy de­bate by coun­cil.

The $80.2 mil­lion bud­get was in­tro­duced by Mayor Thomas Mi­cozzie in Oc­to­ber.

A home­owner with a

$108,000 av­er­age as­sess­ment will pay $2,262 next year, the same amount as this year.

The an­nual $190 trash fee and $205 sewer fee to home­own­ers re­mained the same.

The vote for the bud­get was along party lines with the six Repub­li­cans vot­ing in fa­vor and the five Democrats vot­ing against adop­tion.

Democrats Bar­barann Kef­fer and Laura Wentz started the ball rolling, ques­tion­ing the amount of money in the fund bal­ance and the bid­ding process.

Mi­cozzie noted the town­ship was able to in­crease in­vest­ment in on­go­ing mu­nic­i­pal op­er­a­tions by ap­prox­i­mately $3.5 mil­lion over

2018, while still hold­ing the line with no prop­erty tax in­crease on prop­erty owners who are al­ready fac­ing an in­crease in school taxes.

“Given the sig­nif­i­cant cost drivers fac­ing Up­per Darby and many other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, de­vel­op­ing a no tax in­crease bud­get was a chal­lenge,” Mi­cozzie said. “But I know that many of our town­ship res­i­dents are strug­gling un­der the weight of ex­ist­ing prop­erty taxes, so I worked with our mu­nic­i­pal staff mem­bers to find op­por­tu­ni­ties to tighten our belt and iden­tify new revenue sources be­sides prop­erty tax in­creases. The end re­sult was a fis­cally re­spon­si­ble bud­get pro­posal that con­tin­ues to in­vest in im­por­tant mu­nic­i­pal pro­grams and meets our pen­sion obli­ga­tions with­out bur­den­ing prop­erty owners with an­other tax hike.”

Mi­cozzie noted that the largest in­creases in ex­pen­di­tures in the now-ap­proved 2019 bud­get fell un­der the town­ship’s fire, pub­lic works, and po­lice de­part­ments. He said that new, in­no­va­tive pro­grams - such as hir­ing a col­lec­tion firm to cap­ture delin­quent trash and sewer fees will help bring in new rev­enues to cover the in­creased costs in cer­tain ar­eas. In ad­di­tion, the bud­get pro­poses to use $2.2 mil­lion of a gen­eral fund sur­plus that is pro­jected to be $6.37 mil­lion at the end of 2018.

“I could not, in good con­science, raise taxes on res­i­dents who are al­ready over­bur­dened while the town­ship main­tains an ex­cess bal­ance in our gen­eral fund,” said Mi­cozzie. The Mayor also noted that the es­ti­mated fund bal­ance at the end of 2019 would be more than $4.1 mil­lion, an amount that ful­fills the town­ship’s pol­icy that re­quires a fund bal­ance that is greater than 5 per­cent of pro­posed 2019 ex­pen­di­tures.

At the same time, Mayor Mi­cozzie ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment in the par­ti­san op­po­si­tion to the bud­get.

“It is dis­ap­point­ing that the five Demo­cratic mem­bers of Town­ship Coun­cil voted in op­po­si­tion to this bud­get and at­tempted to claim it was not fis­cally re­spon­si­ble, but at no time of­fered any pro­posed amend­ments or al­ter­na­tives,” said Mi­cozzie. “I have no prob­lem with mem­bers of Coun­cil dis­agree­ing with my pro­posed bud­get, but at the very least they should put in the work and of­fer their own al­ter­na­tive. They had two months to put to­gether their own plan, but opted to crit­i­cize it and never set forth how they would ad­dress any of the is­sues they raised.”

“We all would like to put money into the fund bal­ance but I’m not pre­pared to say in­crease taxes to put money into the fund bal­ance,” Fi­nance Chair­man Thomas Wag­ner said. “Tax­pay­ers are al­ready telling us that taxes are al­ready too high. The time to ask for in­for­ma­tion was over the past cou­ple of months.”

Ac­cord­ing to Wag­ner, the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee con­ducted two pub­lic hear­ings and met with ev­ery depart­ment head go­ing over the line by line bud­get pre­sented.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion also met with some Democrats re­cently to an­swer ques­tions.

Wentz also had a con­cern about in­creas­ing the salaries of non-union town­ship em­ploy­ees.

“There is not enough in­for­ma­tion for me to fig­ure things out,” Wentz said. “I couldn’t fig­ure out the num­ber of hours they work. I don’t know how to solve the prob­lem.”

Demo­crat Sekela Coles asked about the pos­si­bil­ity of in­tro­duc­ing an amend­ment to de­lay adop­tion un­til later in the month, a sug­ges­tion that would ne­ces­si­tate the in­tro­duc­tion and ad­ver­tise­ment of an­other or­di­nance.

Repub­li­can Marc Man­fre rec­om­mended coun­cil con­duct a re­treat to get def­i­ni­tions of dif­fer­ent as­pects of the bud­get.

Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Bon­nett sug­gested ques­tions be aired ear­lier in next year’s bud­get process.

“I would like to be in the process ear­lier,” Wentz said.

Res­i­dents ques­tioned of­fi­cials prior to coun­cil vot­ing on the bud­get.

“It’s hard for res­i­dents to get a re­al­is­tic pic­ture of the bud­get,” said Bon­nie Hal­lam, of Wood­land Av­enue. “It would be more help­ful to see what’s hap­pen­ing, maybe sup­ply a line item bud­get with more de­tails.”

Jen­nifer Hal­lam, of Wood­land Av­enue, who pre­vi­ously sug­gested more in­for­ma­tion be posted on the Web for res­i­dents, of­fered on­line mod­els coun­cil could con­sider.

She re­lated a dilemma af­ter ask­ing of­fi­cials for job de­scrip­tions of em­ploy­ees at a pre­vi­ous coun­cil meet­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to Hal­lam, Chief Ad­min­is­tra­tive Of­fi­cer Thomas Judge said some were in union ne­go­ti­a­tions and un­avail­able, fol­lowed by a re­minder from Hal­lam of her re­quest and re­sponse from Judge of a 30-day ex­ten­sion since it was a rightto-know re­quest.

Hal­lam says she re­ceived a $77.40 bill for cost of copies of 278 pages and postage.

“It causes some frus­tra­tion,” Hal­lam said. “I did not sub­mit it as right-toknow, so I’m in a lit­tle bit of a quandary. What I re­quested should have been on the Web site. I sug­gest and urge the coun­cil and mayor to get into the 21st cen­tury.”


The 69th Street Ter­mi­nal will be get­ting a new park­ing ter­mi­nal, the lat­est in a se­ries of im­proves to the 69th Street Busi­ness Dis­trict in Up­per Darby.

Up­per Darby fi­nance boss Thomas Wag­ner

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