Lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal fam­i­lies set spend­ing plans for 2019

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - NEWS - Greg Vell­ner Colum­nist Greg Vell­ner is a colum­nist for Mont­gomery Me­dia.

’Tis the sea­son Bucks and Mont­gomery County towns fine tune the pow­er­ful ma­chine that makes home the place to be — in other words, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are pre­par­ing to pass their 2019 op­er­at­ing bud­get.

’Tis the sea­son for tough work and dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions.

Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties ev­ery­where are do­ing it: Hat­boro Bor­ough Coun­cil con­sid­ers a 4.4 per­cent tax hike next week. And Up­per Southamp­ton Town­ship will act Dec. 4 on a bud­get pro­posal pro­vid­ing ser­vices to 15,000 town­ship res­i­dents. As­sem­bling the plan is no small or easy task be­cause it cov­ers a range of items from snow re­moval, po­lice pro­tec­tion and pub­lic works cost­ing mil­lions of dol­lars. You know what it’s like to bud­get for a fam­ily of two, three or four; how about plan­ning for a very large group liv­ing over four square miles?

Let’s see what it might be like. Pre­tend you are a mem­ber of the “Mr. and Mrs. Southamp­ton fam­ily” and Town­ship Man­ager Joe Golden is your fa­ther. Af­ter din­ner one evening, Dad says (just as Golden did at a pub­lic hear­ing Oct. 16): the town­ship 2019 bud­get could be balanced without a real es­tate tax in­crease if the town­ship “is will­ing to dig deep into the re­serves.”

On no, you might be think­ing, will there be no fam­ily sum­mer va­ca­tion next year? But the need for the re­serves might be re­duced, Golden says, “depend­ing on the ac­tual amount of rev­enue and ex­pen­di­tures.”

Phew! Keep­ing in­come and ex­penses level is the goal al­right but one dif­fi­cult to achieve when costs seem al­ways to out­race money. And then one of the Southamp­ton’s chil­dren makes a case for an al­lowance in­crease.

The fam­ily daugh­ter, played by Kim Ingram, di­rec­tor, Southamp­ton Free Li­brary, said she needs a 2 per­cent ($11,000) in­crease over the cur­rent bud­get due pri­mar­ily to staff salary hikes. The to­tal bud­get is $670,015, she said, and pro­gram, book fund and mag­a­zine drives helped raised funds for the li­brary. Kim also said ren­o­va­tions in the li­brary are nearly com­plete.

(Kim and the li­brary are great as­sets, so I hope they get what they want.)

Mean­while, next up were fam­ily sons Joseph Reaney and Glenn McKen­ney, pres­i­dent and chief, re­spec­tively, of the Southamp­ton Fire Com­pany. They asked if the same amount ($287,000) could be do­nated by the town­ship to the fire com­pany for its new bud­get.

The fire com­pany in 2019 will get a new en­gine and will pay for it with funds in its ve­hi­cle re­place­ment fund, said Reaney, who added com­pany mem­ber­ship is strong and a ju­nior fire­fight­ers pro­gram is “healthy.”

(All great news from a great fire com­pany that has seen state aid “de­cline dra­mat­i­cally” an­nu­ally — funds that help by safety equip­ment.)

Chief McKen­ney then said Southamp­ton Fire Com­pany cur­rently is hav­ing its busiest year ever and also is re­spond­ing to help neigh­bor­ing fire­fight­ers who have been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing mem­ber­ship de­clines.

The bud­get process is com­plex, but see­ing it as a fam­ily gath­er­ing makes it a bit sim­pler to re­al­ize.

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