THE 2017 BUDGET
The 2017 budget is posted on-line at
A copy, as
of 11-28-16, is also available on this website by clicking on
2017 Proposed Operating
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 &
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
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
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
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
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????????
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???
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?
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
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
money anyway, until they figure out how to fill the hole they've
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
Still not on-line that I can find . Call your Commissioner
and get it put there .
We are at 3.971 mills as of 10-14
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...
The 2014 Budget
(please ask your Commissioner to post the Budget on the Township
As of 10-13
(proposed) for 2014
- ( patience - large file - it
will take an extra minute to open )
Check Township Calendar for the dates of the meetings
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 .
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.
because we allow it to . If you are interested in seeing that
changed contact me
Meanwhile - the below links might be a little bit
2013 BUDGET LINKS
in working stages
Budget Meetings and Workshops Schedule
Manager's Budget Message //
Real Estate Tax ///
Commercial Refuse Fee / /General
Sewer Operating Fund - Revenue //
Sewer Operations //
Highway Aid Fund - Revenue Budget //
Highway Aid ///Health
Cost Fund ///
Worker's Compensation Revenue ////
Worker's Compensation ////
Refuse Fund Revenue ////
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
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)
- 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.
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
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
1st Budget Workshop October 23,
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
Budgeting notes :
General Fund $33,301,739
This is the budget
for the all township services excluding refuse, sewer and fire
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
Local service tax revenues: a decline of 22% -
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)
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
Sewer Fund $ 8,818,217 - sustained directly by fees
levied for the services provided.
has been a 22.5% increase in charges by the City of Philadelphia
treatment of wastewater from eastern Abington Township, and a
cost of chemical supplies used for treatment at our own plant.
Assuming no cuts in the proposed sewer budget, we anticipate a
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 .....?