Archive for the ‘Upper Makefield Township Budget’ Category

Township Meeting – October 19

No video up yet, and I’m not doing a general round up.  Maybe later.  I didn’t watch the whole thing.  In an entirely predictable manner, the supervisors sat quietly during public comments when people praised them, and interrupted constantly when challenged.  The selective courtesy is a hallmark of the Jekyll and Hyde behavior of these supervisors.

Last night’s big draw was public reaction to the budget, now that it’s had some time to circulate and sink in. Continue reading

Streams of Gold

In a prior post, I referred to a guest opinion in the Courier Times.  The “cable franchise fee” was mentioned in that piece.  Looking into that a bit, I found that it’s neither a fee or a tax; it’s rent!

Apparently it has something to do with the Cable Communications Act (1984), which was supposed to ensure that the powers between cable operators and governments would be balanced.  Weren’t you worried about that!  Government bodies are allowed to issue franchise licenses to cable companies; the fee doesn’t have to be passed on to the consumer, but I pay an extra 5 bucks a month on my Comcast bill for a “cable franchise fee”. Continue reading

You Won’t Feel a Thing

I’ve avoided posting about the budget presented at last night’s meeting because I don’t think the prelim 2012 budget is up on the website yet.

Okay, that’s a half-truth.  The other is that the proposed budget is depressing.

The General Fund shows a deficit of just over half a million dollars.  Like the past, it is always with us.

Depressing as the deficit is, there’s worse.  A mil of tax is being diverted from open space funding to the general fund, and a half-mil is coming back to us.  Technically it’s a matter of cutting the open fund mils by one and a half and raising property tax by 1, but in the end it’s the same.

I always assumed that the open space levies would come back entirely to us, so I certainly made an ass of me.

The thing is, there’s still 9.2525 mils going to open space.  Changing my prior assumption, I guess that could all be up for grabs by the township.  Will we ever get those mils back?  Maybe like this:

In funding open space, we may never see that money again, long after the open space plan has ended.  We’re paying it anyway, right?  Pay for this or pay for that; no harm, no foul.  Just keep saying it.

In a year of yet another significant deficit, even with grabbing another mil (about $230,000) which will likely be permanent, why even talk about giving a half mil back?  Seems like just yesterday Rattigan was talking about how a 1 mil increase would be no big deal to a township of fat cats like ours.  What changed?

Oh yeah, the election.

In this news story, Guy Polhemus calls this move a shell game.  I disagree.  I call it a sucker punch.

Sucker!

A More-or-Less Permanent Union

A good opinion piece in Mondays Courier-Times.

On June 15, the Upper Makefield board of supervisors meeting featured a presentation by the township manager, Stephanie Teoli, describing how the cost of privatizing the remaining four Department of Public Works unionized workers would cost considerably more than leaving them as township hires.

At the conclusion of the presentation, the supervisors stared in rapt attention, and supervisor Dan Rattigan pronounced it a“no-brainer”. They then moved on to the next order of business: signing the three-year union contract for those four employees, with pay increases for all.

Read the whole thing.  The last line is spot on.  Remember also that the police contract is coming up and may in fact be in progress.  Will anyone be representing the residents at those negotiations?  Anyone?

Budget Sweatshop

So the first budget workshop of 2011 was held last Wednesday.  How often have the supervisors talked about the value of attending budget workshop sessions?  Answer: lots.

If you’ve ever been – there’s that one person Rattigan referred to who attended at some point in the last 5 years, so you’re out there somewhere – you know the drill.

If you haven’t, here’s some skinny.

You, as a resident funding the township operation, will be given nothing to look at.  For the price of admission – 2+ hours in a chilly room in a building with a busted water fountain – you’ll get to squint at the TV screen hooked up to a laptop, to stare at numbers and try to follow the discussion.

Supervisors and township employees shuffle papers and talk about this line item and that one.  Really, it’s not unlike the regular township meetings, where supervisors have all kinds of info while those paying for it stare at their own empty hands.

The water in the township building contains arsenic.  Hmm, maybe that’s why the fountain stays broken.  Cut repair expenses and better serve the residents!

Questions from the public are not permitted.  There was something begging for an answer in the pre-pre-preliminary budget, but when one person wanted to ask, Bud Baldwin swiveled about, flung out his hand, and barked “no questions!”.  There is so much venom in this man that he could be our very own super-villain.  It’s difficult to understand why he chooses to behave this way, or why the other supervisors choose to remain silent.

Maybe Bud drinks the township building’s water.

No tax cut shown at this meeting.  RAT-again and Ryan seemed a tad vexed.  The election’s coming up, the flyers are printed, better hurry!

Next meeting is Monday, Sept. 26, at 6 PM.  The earlier starting time means it will be long.  And the means to the promised tax cut should be revealed!

If you plan to attend, don’t sit too close to Bud.  And bring your own drink.

Where’s the Date? (Updated)

There are 2 Upper Makefield budget meetings scheduled at this time.  These were announced at the last township meeting on September 7.

The first is scheduled for tomorrow, Sept. 14, at 7 PM.  The second is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 26, at 6 PM.

I felt motivated to put this post up because there’s nothing about the meetings on the township website.  Not on the home page, the news, the news archives, or the finance page.  Heck, they’re not even on the township calendar!

Dan RATtigan says only one person has ever attended in the past 5 years.

Well, maybe if they put something up about the meetings more people would know!

There are a million ways to be stupid, but it shouldn’t be a feature.

So come out, if you can.  Call first if you want the township to confirm the dates and times.

215-968-3340.

Or send an email.  info@uppermakefield.org

Update – the township calendar has been updated to show the budget meetings

Town Without Pity

In my last post I went through the township budgets for 2008-2011, to demonstrate that the budget numbers proposed have been outlandish, and that actual expenses have never really been cut.

In this post I want to go back to November and December of 2009, when the preliminary 2010 budget was presented, and the one mil tax increase was proposed and passed.

At that point in time the board consisted of Dan Rattigan (chair), Bud Baldwin, Dave Kulig, Bob West, and Dan Worden, and it was clearly a divided board.  West and Worden opposed a tax increase; the others, not so much.

On November 4, 2009, the preliminary 2010 budget was presented.  There was a lot of talk about falling revenues, increased expenses, cost-cutting actions taken.  By then the supervisors had cottoned to the fact that the year-end deficit was not going to be the $2.779 million dollars originally anticipated (including the Gateway grant), but it would instead be closer to $850,000.  There was a chart showing how cash reserves had been used to balance the budget for years.

Here I just want to insert a note about the cash reserves.  There must be other things hitting those reserves, things not shown in the budget.  During this presentation the 2009 beginning year fund balance was shown as $2.581 million.  The 2009 outside auditor’s report dated July of 2010, available here, shows a 2009 beginning fund balance of $3.127 million.  That’s nearly a half-million dollar difference.

The tax increase was proposed to make up an anticipated shortfall in the reserves.  The point was made that at the beginning of any year, money is needed to carry the township for some months until new tax receipts start coming in.  The recommended reserve balance was about $600,000, and based on the projection for the remainder of 2009 and the proposed 2010 budget, the cash reserves would fall to about $50,000 by the start of 2011.

(That’s according to the township presentation.  My numbers don’t show that, but that slippery cash reserve balance won’t stay put!)

I have a problem with this “save the cash reserves and we’re okay” approach.  While the claim was made that a “scalpel” was used on the preliminary 2010 budget, “again and again and again”, budgeted 2010 expenses were $6.045 million, or $445,000 more than actual 2009 expenses of $5.6 million (adjusted for the Gateway grant).  The scalpel looks more like a spoon, adding to the dish rather than cutting away.

At the same time, the 2010 anticipated revenue total without the tax increase would have been about $4.534 million, up only $134,000 from the 2009 actual revenues of about $4.4 million (adjusted again for the Gateway grant).

The time when a tax increase was proposed would have been an excellent time to point out that deficit budgeting, which had already drawn down cash reserves, would only continue to do so in the future.

And we know exactly what happened.  Because, like “deja vu all over again”, on November 3, 2010, the board announced that the cash reserve fund would be in jeopardy at the start of 2012, and another tax increase – this time a 3 mil one – was proposed.

You might argue that you take things a year at a time.  The economy could get better, revenues could go up.  But you play the hand you’re dealt, not the wishful thinking in your mind.  If revenues have been going down for 3 straight years, and all national economic indicators suggest that a rebound is not on the immediate horizon, when do you get serious about real cuts to expenses?

That 2010 “scalpel” wasn’t applied to expenses at all.  Dollars out the door stayed the same in 2008, 2009, and 2010.  The 2010 “scalpel” was applied to whatever budget was originally suggested in September/October of 2009, and result was “only” a $445,000 budgeted increase in expenses over 2009.  The 2009 kabuki replays in 2010.  Actual expenses in 2010 were about $5.661 million, and budgeted 2011 expenses at that time were about $5.986 million, “only” a $325,000 dollar increase, an amount larger than the prior year’s tax increase.  And that proposed 2011 budget, with an assumed 3 mil tax increase, wasn’t balanced.

Even with multiple tax increases on the table, the deficits march on.