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The Abington Citizens Network
where Abington, PA residents can share ideas and join forces to build a better community
 

 

The Abington Township Budget

    Please feel free to send your  information to us and please be sure to contact us about any information you believe to be incorrect  - Please verify info with your township or Commissioner before relying on this information.

  THE 2017 BUDGET
The 2017 budget is posted on-line at http://abington.org/home/showdocument?id=5131
A copy, as of 11-28-16, is also available on this website by clicking on 2017 Proposed Operating Budget

  THE 2016 BUDGET

    By the way, the  budget is finally  posted on-line --this year without a fight for it.   A huge step forward .  Thanks to all who spoke up to get it done.

   Due to a supposed operational deficit of 1.1 million  Abington real estate  taxes will be increased in 2016 .  Why so I say "supposed"  deficit....?  Because in a budget of 30 to 50 million there are a massive number of factors that can change almost overnight that can cause a 1 million dollar deficit to appear or  disappear.   That's what Fund Balances / Buffers are for .  The same thing  happened just 2 years ago when, while holding  13 million in the  buffer fund that we call the "Fund Balance"  that was "unrestricted"  with no "supposed"  (there I go again ) plan for that money, Commissioner Kline was putting on a full court press to increase taxes.   But by January, that $800,000+ deficit disappered , due to unexpected  revenues or some other unanticipated change.  We have myriad features that  change dramatically, almost overnight, so there is no way that anything but a buffer should be used to temper a  mere  1 million  in a budget this large until the whole picture can be reviewed. Commissioner Kline tried at the budget meeting to propose a scenario that looked like we had a set, locked in budget that had an operating deficit. But there are many, many line items that change year to year -- emergency management costs, business taxes , debacles like the Colonade  --- huge swings both pro and con can be expected in any given year.

    So, in 2016 while holding 9 million dollars in the buffer account, they have decided to raise your taxes.

     So first let's talk about the method they used to make it look like the "public" agreed.  Second let's talk about another underlying reason for them wanting to raise your taxes, and finally let's discuss how the buffer got to be 9 million  in the first place . 

Method :  The method used to make it appear that the public was quite happy to be taxed is that they announced that they would have to cut Police & Library positions if they did not raise taxes . Coincidentally, these two entities have huge lists of supporters because of the many activities they run,  and if they call on these supporters to come speak up, well.... many of them will come.   And they did. The room on 11-30-15  was packed with Police and Library supporters saying "tax me, please", "tax me double if you need it" ..."just don't cut my Police & Library budgets.  Meanwhile, I think it would be fair to say that very few, if any, of these people, whose sentiments were genuine,  had reviewed the whole budget  - or even glanced at it at all in most cases.  ( I asked several who were in attendance and they had not - they had just gotten an email that these services were on the chopping block. ...)   On top of that no group of 50 or 100 people really represents all 56,000 residents - especially when chosen "less than randomly" like this due to their direct affiliations.     
      What would they find if they had reviewed the budget ?  Well it may not be easy to see  - because our budget is not laid out for  transparency . Just getting it posted was challenge enough - now how's abouts we work together to get it laid out  properly....?   But  items like the Colonade should have a special place where the costs can be seen  once they begin to run above and beyond what would normally be allotted .... That is one place where your money and services just flew out the window....

        As of this writing I have a request in for the documents from the Colonade that would enable one to determine what that debacle has cost the Township.  I am not sure if I will get the documents in time for the December 23rd final vote - or if the records, if I do get them, will be complete enough to make any determination. But where the Landlord could have been fined for his actions, he was not. The costs for all the shenigans there were bourne by the taxpayers ... and it is possible that this  property alone has not cost the Township the better portion of what we are calling an "operational deficit" . 
      There have been other situations, too, where the specifics actions of our management, staff or officials  have been excessively costly to the taxpayers .  Certain lawsutits and certain instances of poor management or accounting have been costly . Careful scrutiny and accounting in each department should show up these items, but no one is asking for  this - so instead they are presetning Police & Library cuts.   That someone that should be asking would be you !!   All 15 Commissioners instead allowed you to think that the  "normal" running of the Township is so lean and tight  that there is no room for change anywhere and your Police & Library will have to tighten their belts.  Does that mean that they intend to have a "Colonade"  every year? Or a 10 year lawsuit that drug on because of  testimony  that was not accurate?  Are these the kinds of things that are built into our budget.  Are we budgeting for another Colonade experience????????

 

Underlying reasons So why do they really need to increase your taxes?   Well, OK they had been on a plan to just pay for the "Other Post Emplyment Benefits " ( OPEB) as the costs came up.  They weren't apparently required post a picture of the long view . But I'm not sure how our accounting department did not provide a "look down the road" which showed the  cummulative costs as many people retired.   That  look down the road was a bit frightening.  We were  $50 million or so  originally in the "hole",  I believe, when we first brought this into the sunlight .  This year we have a $37 million hole to fill --- and if we don't fill it , the obligation compounds.   So in 2013 (? or 2014? )   they decided to increase the amount of the fund balance to hold  1 to 3 months of operating expenses  ( the minimum previously had been around 3 million  which was about 1 month -  now it would be  3-9 million . ) Then they decided that they would no longer keep large amounts - but anything OVER the 9 million ish that was equivalent to 3 months would be put into the 1) Capital Fund, 2) the OPEB benefits and 3 a small %   used as an opening balance.   So this  is what I believe is behind the need - or desire to increase taxes --- but they are not being terribly transparent about it . This is not to say they have hid this "hole"  - but clearly there should be a specific plan for how it is to be filled --- rather than one that over taxes you - puts the excesses that weren't intended for  the OPEB into this fund.  Instead  there should be a specific plan that the fund needs this much money  each year ----IF extra taxes are needed to cover that , they will only be institued until that hole is filled and then rescinded.    As to whether general expenses have risen and the increasing cost of goods is causing the need for a raise in taxes,  I think you can dispel that myth just by looking a tthe fund balance history.   The unrestricted fund balance grew to $13m, 15m  or even 19 million at one point. That will tell you we're not having a problem with the costs of goods and services ---you couldn't have excesses to dump into your Fund Balance every year if you were . We have actually been over taxed  to allow such balances to accumulate.  But because our budget is not laid out in a transparent manner, over taxing is hard to see.  I recently tried to get the documents that showed the total employee expenses - with salaries and benefits for all employees.  I was told no such document existed. They would have to generate it specially for me and the manager was not willing to do that .  So tell me - if he has not generated this for himself , and to show the Board of Commissioners , who IS minding the farm??? 

How the buffer got to be 9 million ...  well I mentioned above that when they had collected so many millions  in reserve, they then made themselves a little rule  that said they couldn't keep that anymore that a % would go to Capital  to OPEB and to the start of the year.   So now their goal is to accumulate excesses - the more excesses they can get, the more they will have in each of these funds.

This is not my idea of good planning and proper budgeting. Is it yours? 

    Originally there was  NO buffer .   Because of storms and emergency situations and other unforeseen events  a Fund Blance minimum of  I think  7%  or 7.5 % was instituted.  That money should be for one time unforseen events - instead seems it is becoming something of a "line item" that they are relying on, to fill OPEB and Capital needs and to start the year.  
     The 7%  also served to provide us with the highest ratings from banks for bonds and borrowing.  My hunch is that now that  the OPEB situation made us bad candidates for borrowing - and the giant Fund Balance counteracts that .  I don't know about you, but frankly, I'm not happy to have them out there borrowing more money anyway, until they figure out how to fill the hole they've already du
g.  I'd like to see a solid plan for that. None transparently available at present.   

If you have relevant information on this topic, please share .  If you see errors - or errors in my thinking on this -- please share.  Volunteers  willing to discuss budget issues should  contact me .

     
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  THE 2015  BUDGET

Still not on-line that I can find .  Call your Commissioner and get it put there .

Sunlight needed !

We are at 3.971 mills as of 10-14
Of great concern is where the 13 million that we had at the end of last year went .
Please work with us to get all budget information put on the township website in a place that easy to find  (right in the left hand menu on the main page - as well as in the site map. ) 

If you recall - last year Commissioner Kline and others were pushing for a tax hike despite the 13 million excess .  This year, they are parsing off the extra millions ..... stay tuned...
 

 

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The 2014 Budget    (please ask your Commissioner to post the Budget on the Township site )

 As of 10-13    Budget (proposed) for 2014     - ( patience - large file - it will take an extra minute to open )
           Check Township Calendar for the dates of the meetings  http://www.abington.org/resident/events.htm
           Currently 11-14 and -11-21 and final 12-19 are the listed meetings  - these could change or be added to ...so double check before going

NO PROPER ACCESS TO THE BUDGET LINK
   As of the 2nd budget workshop Oct 24, 2014  the proposed budget is still not linked on-line - effectively leaving people out of the conversation and without access to the information.  This can only be viewed as an intentional play by the Commissioners and Manager, as to link it would be a "once and done" cost effective way of  sharing the information out to everyone, Commissioners and residents alike .  This would save the Commissioners time too.  Instead, a few  Commissioners are creating their own links ( often "trackable - do YOU want to be tracked?  I don't )  and they are distributing the link to a limited  ( very limited ) number of people .  This is EXTRA work to see that FEWER people get the information . It IS what you need to work to change FIRST.  

BUDGET ISSUES  The budget one again is in deficit - to the tune of over $600,000.  But the "Fund Balance" has between 12 and 13 million in it.( Making some unhappy because with a balance that big, they can't justifiably raise taxes to close the deficit  )  I had an idea-- how's about's we start reducing spending . You know , historic renovations, waiving rent on facilities and doing hardscapes for private property all along Easton Rd and in other areas of the township, police academy benefitting just a couple of people, police overtime speed patrols, if that's still being done. The non-profit activities by township officials of clerical and other work that should not be being done on township time, paying $60,000 in heat and all exterior upkeep while a non-profit using a building pays only ---what was it ? --$100 a month .
       There are a million ways that your money is going out that it should not be.  And a whole lot of people that are reaping the benefits, for which your taxes will be raised..
       In addition, I have no doubt that this township would benefit greatly from an incentive program where those who spotted waste and recommended modifications to the Township would get a cash incentive award for the recommendation . That way  56,000 residents could be engaged in helping their township run better ---- including those "on the inside "  .

The fund balance with over 12 million in it is actually higher than it needs to be to garner a favorable rating from those loaning us money .  They only need 15-20%  of the budget in the balance . So there will be efforts to spend the excess ----some of which will probably go to close the deficit again and the bulk of  which SHOULD , in my esteem be spent on those flooding sho do not have the quality of life they deserve because the township is not taking their own responsibilities - like managing  stormwater- to heart.  There is a mega problem with waters and sewers in this township and the fact that the proper yearly measure of these upgrades have not been done for many many years. Like in our neighboring townships, aging sewer pipes are all coming due at once and sewage back wash is happening in homes  here and there in the township .  If this is not put on a regular plan, then the result will be a huge financial pickle from the can we kicked down the road .     

   A  "Stormwater Fee"  has been proposed  this year which would be paid based on what Residential designation you are - an R1 property might pay $40  whereas an R4 property might pay $10 . It will apparently be dealt with during  2014  - not necessarily at buget time either. By calling it a fee, they have managed to remove the "tax increase"  part of it - but that's what it is .  A tax .  When the zonng director took zoning measures  out  of the taxes -  he added fees that did the same thing.   Now our  Township Engineer needs more money to manage the stormwater .  We have never seen him ask at Budget  time for the proper funds to handle the work that his dept needs to do .  Mr Powers can also be quoted at meetings telling people who flooded that there are only 4 in the Engineering Dept so there is "only so much they can do" .  I have asked why he has not then been at the podium asking for more staff and a larger budget . But on Oct 24 he said that the reason they could only do a little over $3 million of the $24 million ( they are putting the 3 million our to bond ) there is to do is because there would be too much construction around the township.  You have to scratch your head .  These projects are situated in completely different towns from each other - some in Glenside , some in Jenkintown, some in Roslyn and many on the back roads in the neighborhood. It just  never ceases to amaze.  But on it goes....

  Meanwhile , people are still flooding - and  President of the Board Peggy Myers seemed not to know, Oct 10th , how many there were ....She learned a bit more about it on the 24th when the huge list went up. This  is at the heart of the problem. Those approving the funds do not have the whole picture -- and certainly seem not to understand the urgent priorities.  So one more historic renovation might leave one more family with personal loss. It really is that simple.

There are more budget issues - will try to get back to fill  you in on somemore .

 

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WHAT ABINGTON TAXPAYERS NEED:
It was several years ago that I first looked in on our budget. A copy of it was/ is kept in the Library. You will probably have to ask at the desk - it isn't always on the shelf. What was astounding is that our budget is kept in a zillion different little "pieces" - so much like the telephone bills ( which you and I both know would  be better kept on 1 page) our budget is a maze that no one can see - and Abington taxpayers do not demand  a comprehensible annual report .
   There is no clear report avail able on the Library - or on the Grove Property or on the Nature Center or on  What a report would look like would be something that was done in a fashion that all 56,000 residents would have an opportunity to REALLY see where their tax money went and really saw what some of these undertakings cost. We have Commissioners for whom spending on wants has not been a problem, but spending on needs seems to end up out on bond or neglected. We have even been told that we didn't have the funds to tape the meetings ---even when we showed them it could be done for as little as $60 per meeting . Of  course, when they decided to tape the meetings they spend a fortune on the equipment and accessories, and no one seems to be able to tell me now the cost per meeting.
  This happens because we allow it to . If you are interested in seeing that changed contact me .
Meanwhile - the below links might be a little bit enlightening.

  THE 2013  BUDGET LINKS  while in working stages  

Budget Meetings and Workshops Schedule   ///   Manager's Budget Message   // Real Estate Tax   /// Commercial Refuse Fee / /General Fund // Sewer Operating Fund - Revenue // Sewer Operations // Highway Aid Fund - Revenue Budget // Highway Aid ///Health Fund //Health Cost Fund /// Worker's Compensation Revenue ////  Worker's Compensation //// Refuse Fund Revenue ////  Refuse Fund

 

   THE 2012 BUDGET

 December 15 2011at 8 p.m Final Budget Meeting  at the Township Building.     - Tax Increase Imminent

____________________

12-11   Considerations  for the   2012 Budget
Freezing all employee salary increases (The existing per-diem union contract would need to be amended and the police union would need to incorporate this into their new contract)

also

  • Freeze hiring  (do not fill  4 police officers & 2 library staff which are currently open)
  • Reduce capital expeditures from $500k to $250k
  • Reduce staff (all part time employees)
  • Reassignment of personel (reassign full time staff from various departments to make up for the reduction in part time staff)
  • Increase employee pension contributions (this still needs to be accepted by the organizations the township currently has or is negotiating contracts with)
  • Road overlay program will be paid through the township's $2.5 million unrestricted fund balance.$306k being taken from the fund balance to fund the overlay is only a little more than what has been  taken out to supplement the road ovelay program in past years.
  • $2.7 mil bond issue to handle over 35 storm water management related projects

 On Thursday, November 17th the Board voted to advertise a final budget that includes a $25 per year tax increase on the township average home assesment of $150,000 (remember assesed values are approximately 1/2 the real value of your home).  There will be no increase in the Fire Tax, Sewer Fee or Refuse Fee.  This budget does not put us out of the woods for the 2013 budget as the salary increase for all employees will need to be absorbed.

 

- this preliminary budget balanced cuts (~$960k) with fund balance use (~$310k) and a tax increase (~$600k). 

 

____________________________

2010 - Tax increase --  if you listened to the rhetoric offered freely by the Commissioners, you might believe it was the "first increase in 19 years" . Unfortunately there seems to be nothing illegal about flat out untruths .  The taxes 19 years ago included a WHOLE lot more than they do now .  The zoning department, for instance, virtually runs on the fees it now charges . Someone should take a proper look at the value of what was REMOVED from the taxes  while they feigned that the numbers had not changed. We asked the newspapers to investigate. They refused . No news is good news.

 

___________________

3-09  The Budget process  clearly needs improvement in this coming year - and at least one Commissioner vowed to do something to improve it last December, as we watched presentation after presentation of places where things couldn't or shouldn't be cut - and very few genuine offerings to reduce spending.

    Where citizens want more speeding enforcement , offerings were made to make cuts there ( and those cuts would have actually COST money) .  The township manager presented certain items  & the amounts that would be saved if they were cut --- and then told us that we weren't allowed to cut them.  It took many months and many contacts  to gather a picture of what the tax office costs are ---- it was not evident from the budget book. But it should be in order for residents to have any oversight.

  Clearly there is room for improvement - but the process has to start earlier . And be more genuine. Will that happen this year?  We can hope.

 

_______________________________________

December 2008 Final Adoption Hearing - budget adopted with additional changes made .

It was noted during the final sessions that the budget process is in definite need of  improvement .......Some hope lies just in the simple fact that this was openly noted and it was brought forth that the process should  be reviewed with an eye toward developing priorities and with the understanding that change will not happen if this is left to the end of the year again.

    In the 08 Budget process,  the fire tax/fee and the sewer tax/fee were raised.  These increases came despite a  fund balance of  9 million or more and what appeared to some of us to be a less than genuine process, where items proposed for cutting would actually result in greater loss than what was being saved, and the cost savings of cutting other items were elaborated upon, only to learn that they were not items we were allowed to cut.

_____________________________

 

11-08   The 2009 Budget is underway

1st Budget Workshop October 23, 2008
Budget Workshop October 30, 2009 at 7:30 pm
Preliminary Budget Meeting November 13, 2008 at 8:00 pm
Budget Workshop (optional) November 20, 2008 at 7:30 pm
Final Adoption Hearing December 18, 2008 at 8:00 pm

The  meetings are being recorded and televised on Township Channel 43 but will not air until the subsequent week ( 9:00 am, 3:00 pm, and 9:00 pm)

If you would like to have input, it is best to attend the meetings. You may also call your Commissioner  to register your thoughts.

As I understand it, there is a deficit thus far in the process  - the budget is not balanced and the Commissioners will need to consider either trimming projects and programs  or adding revenue .  For many many years the Commissioners have not raised your property taxes -  technically - but  in the course of "balancing the budget" some services that used to be included in taxes are  instead covered now by fees or were dropped and additional taxes were added, like the LST tax last year.   It was discussed in this budget process, for instance, that leaf removal might  be considered separately  - a salaried full time position in the code enforcement and zoning department  may be deleted in favor a part time position or third party coverage ( fees again ) rather than possibly keeping the salaried position to alleviate the congestion in the overall code enforcement and zoning department .  Some have suggested seeking new ways of "gaining revenue"  while others have asked if staff cuts  might be appropriate to review . So there is much that residents should be aware of as this budget  process continues. Adding additional revenue making items that might  impact households  that are less affluent should be a carefully considered step - and we might all seek to understand the addition of  new fees and  taxes while a 5-6 million dollar surplus exists that most residents are unaware of .  Residents are encouraged to attend these meetings with some prior information and it would seem that engaging civic groups in the process might improve understanding. In the past, we have asked for a regular citizens forum where issues like this can be discussed by those interested. We have not yet met with a positive response.  At the open township meetings, only a very limited time for questions is allotted and answers are not guaranteed.

The following information is compiled from information received from Commissioners Kline & Peacock as well as from viewing  one of the Budget workshop meetings on channel 43 . It is possible that some has been misunderstood by the editor of this page - please check all figures & info with your Township or Commissioners before relying on them . Let us know if you see any errors we should correct and please  note that this update is as of  the info from the October 23rd, 2008  workshop .....

 _________

The initial 2009 budget distributed to the Board of Commissioners shows a $1.3 million budget deficit. 

 Services from the township are paid in four separate taxes/fees. 

1) Fire Department Service tax  2) Refuse fee (for trash and recycling pick-ups) 3)  Sewer tax and 4) Township property tax

Budgeting notes :

General Fund $33,301,739  This is the budget for the all township services excluding refuse, sewer and fire services
Initial  projected deficit $800,000  -- Without  further cuts in the General Fund budget,  an 8% increase in the property tax  might be anticipated  ($37 per year for a property assessed at $150,000, which is the Township average).
The primary sources of revenue for the General Fund are various taxes and fees, including, but not limited to: property tax, business tax, local service tax, earned income tax, deed transfer tax, fire tax.
 The main  reasons for the General Fund deficit include:
Flat property tax revenues;
Business tax revenues decline of 2%-  due to economic downturn ;
Local service tax revenues: a decline of 22% -
 enacted during last year’s budget to help balance it-    The tax office and finance office are working on methods to streamline the collection of this revenue, which they believe to be a large part of the reduced revenue;
Earned Income Tax: The revenue for this tax is projected to see a small reduction due to the economic down turn (approx $20,000 or about 1/3% of the fund amount ).
Deed transfer tax revenues decline of 21%  
Big ticket items  - increased costs anticipated for items like such as salaries, medical insurance, and pension plans ( some, like gasoline might see a decrease)
 The additional expenditures for these four items may be as much as $1.45 mil.

Fire Dept Tax -  Assuming no further cuts in the Fire Department budget, the fire tax (currently $79 per year) would increase by $7 per year. ( $14 increase accidentally noted earlier- there is an  added advertising /marketing campaign of approx $50,000 that the Fire Dept sought to have approved at the recent Board meeting- so not sure if that is calculated here or not)
.

Refuse Fund $ 5,633,355 -sustained directly by fees levied for the services provided
               For the largest trash container, represents a 4% decrease in the fee over 2007.
               Residents who choose a smaller container can realize even larger savings.


Sewer Fund $ 8,818,217 - sustained directly by fees levied for the services provided.
             There has been a 22.5% increase in charges by the City of Philadelphia for
             treatment of wastewater from eastern Abington Township, and a 52% increase
             in the cost of chemical supplies used for treatment at our own plant.
             Assuming no cuts in the proposed sewer budget, we anticipate a $14 increase
             in the sewer fee for 2009.

Capital Expenditures  - Over $4 million in capital projects has been proposed, including storm sewers, creek bank stabilization, vehicle replacement, and facilities maintenance. The budget allocates $1.5 million in capital expenditures, so a list of priorities will need to be made and presented for approval to the Board of Commissioners. The Board will discuss these priorities with Township staff at the next Budget Workshop

Surplus - Fund Balance  - Somewhere in the neighborhood of  5-6 million was held last year - not sure exact amount  held currently ... assume near that figure  .....?

    Please feel free to send your  information to us  and please be sure to  tell us about any information you believe to be incorrect - just contact us  

 

 

BROKEN LINKS ALERT  

Abington Township recently completely revamped their website at the end of 2015 . All links directed to the old site were broken. We will be reinstating links as we find them and if the data is still available.  
Please  let us know if you find a broken link . Send us the name of the link and the page it is on , and if we can reinstate it, we will.

 


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The information on this page or in this site may have unintentional inaccuracies, and also has opinions. It should not be relied upon as fact until investigated personally by the reader.  Please read our full  Disclaimer
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