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Budget Review & New Township Manager

Updated: Nov 20, 2021



Before we get started with a summary of the November 18, 2021, Warminster Township Board of Supervisors meeting, we wanted to let you know that we have a new feature on our website. If you’d like to be notified about events and future articles, you can subscribe (FOR FREE) at the bottom of every page on this site. When you sign up, you’ll be added to our email distribution list so you don’t miss anything that happens in the township or the Republican party.


MEETING AGENDA

The agenda for the November 18, 2021 Board of Supervisors meeting had only two significant items on it; a preview of the 2022 Township Budget and the naming of a new Township Manager.


NEW TOWNSHIP MANAGER

The Board of Supervisors voted to hire Tom Scott as the new Township Manager. Mr. Scott is a Certified Planning Professional (AICP) and is currently the Director of Building, Planning and Zoning for Bristol Township. He has worked for Bristol Township for the past 8 years. Prior to working for Bristol Township, he has also served as Assistant Manager for Tredyffrin Township and Assistant Manager and Planning Director for Warwick Township. Mr. Scott has a BA in Liberal Art from Villanova and a M.A. in Political Science and Government from Colorado State University. He will begin his term as Warminster Township Manager on December 13, 2021. An Assistant Township Manager will also be hired soon.


BUDGET SUMMARY

Warminster Township is in the middle of “Budget Season.” At the November 18th Board of Supervisors meeting, we were given a preview of the 2022 budget. The actual budget will be provided to the public for review on Tuesday, and a budget hearing and vote will take place during the public meeting on December 17. We’ll give a full review of the budget once it’s available, but for now we’ll share with you what we know.


Included in the budget presentation was a discussion about the overall revenues and expenses expected for 2022, the General Fund Balance, taxes, paid firefighters. There was also some discussion about paid firefighters and the overall cost of public safety in the township.


TAXES

The topic that everyone wants to hear about is taxes. This year your township taxes will be increased 4.3%, in the form of a 1 mill increase in the Fire Fund. One mill is equivalent to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value of your property (not the market value). You can look up your assessed value here. This is the third budget passed by the current Democrat majority board and the second one that included a tax increase. Their first increase was a 35.1% increase in 2020. Of course, with 2021 being an election year, we saw no tax increase. This tax increase was delayed until after the election, and that political move also delayed the Township’s hiring of paid firefighters. Seems both money and politics comes before public safety with this board.


THE FIRE FUND

It was announced that the Township was working with the Fire Companies on an agreement to hire 4 paid firefighters, and how to fund it. For the first three years, the salaries and benefits of the firefighters will be fully funded by the $1.7 million SAFER grant that the township was awarded in 2020. But, after those three years are up, those expenses will be paid for using the Fire Fund. But the catch here is that the law states “The township may appropriate up to one-half, but not to exceed one mill, of the revenue generated from a tax under this clause for the purpose of paying salaries, benefits or other compensation of fire suppression employees of the township or a fire company serving the township.” What this means is that if that 1 mill is not enough, the township will need to come up with the remaining costs of salaries and benefits from the General Fund. It is estimated that the 1 mill of taxes will amount to about $337,000 and the cost of the paid firefighters’ salaries and benefits will cost approximately $462,000. It was stated that raising the Fire Fund tax now would give the Township a jump on those future expenses by building up a fund balance to offset those future expenses. It’s projected that this balance would be depleted in about 8 years, which means the Fire Fund alone will not be able to fund the firefighters after that point. Any difference would have to be made up from the General Fund.



PUBLIC SAFETY

It was noted during the budget preview that 74% of the Township expenses go towards “Public Safety.” This might be true, but their definition of “public safety” differs from the average taxpayer. When you hear the words, “public safety”, you immediately think of police and fire, but the Township defines it as Police, Fire, Emergency Management and L&I. During the last couple of meetings, it was mentioned that the Township is “investing” in our police and fire departments. Keep in mind that the word “investing,” when used by politicians, just means “spending tax dollars.”


At the October Board of Supervisors meeting, two new police officers were sworn in, and it was announced that the Township was not defunding the police, but rather funding them by adding two new officers. What may have been lost

on many watching was that prior to this announcement and the swearing in ceremonies, the Police Chief mentioned that three officers had retired. So, by using simple math, if you take away 3 and add 2, you’re result is -1. We’ll enter 2022 with one less officer than we had at the end of 2020. In the most recent meeting, everyone seemed pleased by the fact that we’re finally moving forward with hiring 4 new paid firefighters. Again, what was not mentioned was that when we applied for the SAFER grant, as well as several times during the past year, it was announced that the grant would pay for 5 paid firefighters. Seems the headcount of paid firefighters was cut by 20% before the first firefighter was even hired.


OPEB – Other Post-Employment Benefits

The largest liability of the Township is the cost of OPEB. In Warminster, when a police officer retires, the Township pays for that retiree’s, as well as his family’s medical benefits until the retiree is 65 years old. In some cases, that cost is paid for over a decade. The problem is that we have just about as many retirees getting this benefit as we have active workers. The current liability to the Township at the end of 2020 was just shy of $20 million. It has been increasing by nearly $2 million per year, so addressing this is something that absolutely needs to be done. The plan, as was explained during the meeting is to create an OPEB Trust Fund. The Acting Township Manager suggested the Township move $1.5 million from the General Fund Balance to this Trust Fund. Once in the Trust, it cannot be pulled back to pay other Township bills, or anything else for that matter. Also, if this money is in a Trust Fund, it can be invested in the stock market and other financial vehicles that cannot be used with General Fund monies. If this Trust Fund is created and monies are moved to it, it should help whittle away at the over $20 million in OPEB liabilities. By the way, the original 2020 budget included an OPEB Trust Fund, but when the Democrats took over the board, they tore up that budget and removed it. We’re glad they finally realized how important this is to the financial well-being of the Township.


FINAL THOUGHTS

As mentioned above, we were just given a preview of the 2022 budget. Once it’s available for public review, we’ll give you a more detailed listing of what’s in it and what that means to the average taxpayer. But, in the meantime, we’ll take a short walk down memory lane.

We’d like to point out that 3 of the last 5 budgets submitted by Democrat controlled Board of Supervisors included tax increases:

2011 – Democrat Majority - Taxes increased by 41.4%

2012 – Democrat Majority - No Tax Increase (Note: Election Year)

2013 – 2019 – Republican Majority - No Tax increases

2020 – Democrat Majority - Taxes increased by 35.1%

2021 – Democrat Majority - No Tax Increase (Election Year)

2022 – Democrat Majority - Taxes will increase by 4.3%


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