On December 12 the Abington Township board of commissioners passed a budget that literally a handful of people, if
next two years, Abington residents were likely to receive the
largest increase that any have ever seen in their
in Abington….. and I
personally, have lived here 44 years.
And I fear it is on the cusp of getting far worse under
this current leadership. (As things turned out - the Covid 19
Pandemic hit us in early 2020 and the increases decribed
below never came to pass)
Manager Richard Manfredi, the
least transparent manager we have ever had
is consolidating power at
the top - and you should be concerned.
Here are some 2020
9.9% INCREASE TO EVERY HOME
DOUBLE THAT AS A
POSSIBILITY NEXT YEAR
OUR TOWNSHIP AND YOUR WALLETS
“OPEN FOR BUSINESS”
A MANAGER CONCENTRATING
AT THE TOP
A MANAGER FULLFILLING HIS
WISH LIST NO
MATTER THE COST TO YOU
FALSE REASONS GIVEN FOR THE TAX INCREASE(S)
the reason given
in a direct phone call with the Manager was for
the OPEB and Debt Service.
Nonsense. Those are obligations.
Pensions are obligations.
You take care of your obligations before you take your cart to
the toy store. They have plenty of money for all their
obligations but they don't have
money for their obligations and also dozens of wish list items.
In his presentations he also cited the actuarial report
requiring an extra amount in the pension fun etc.
Again....hogwas. A pension fund is an obligation. It is the wish
list items that are causing them to increase taxes while the
have $11-12million in the unrestricted fund balance .
Wish list items like:
-- a new Township building and
-- an Economic
(not vetted with the public)
--- personnel devoted to the
Economic Development Committee ( free or for $1 per year)
-- converting Manor Woods
(to we don't know what - it's not been vetted)
-- new IT toys
of every kind including
a GIS system ( not vetted with the public)
-- IT personnel (while dropping needed department personnel)
-- 7% increases
to some personnel ( not to all, just to some)
professional advisor to figure out how to make revenue
something I don’t want them doing because they’re doing it in
their interests not in mine)
-- Park studies (while we have
no Parks Director who knows our Parks and how they are
-- a brand-new “Inclusive Park “
(again- not vetted with the public)
-- Open Gov
Software that produces charts and graphs of financial
( not vetted with the public)
Contigency Expense - was previously $150,000 - gifted self $485,000 in
2020 (we were told this was for contract negotiations
or similar - but we understnd an outsized part of it went to the
solicitor - that information is STILL being made hard to get
These - and many, many more like these -
are the reasons for your tax increase - not the reasons cited.
all things that they are not obligated
Mr. Manfredi confirmed ( by phone
12-12-19 ) that the things that are approved in the budget no
longer need vetting for him to begin spending those funds per
that plan . He said we had an opportunity at the Budget
meeting to comment - but, of course, there were
dozens and dozens of things at the Budget meeting and only
a few precious minutes is given to comment on all of them
THE SOLICITOR - A DILEMMA In addition to the wish list items
being a huge burden , the
solicitor’s budget, in my
opinion, warrants no increase but, I think , but an investigationnot . He
explained his increase saying it is expensive to take code
violators to court. Hogwash. First of all , I don't think he
does many of those. If those properties are properly
cited, the fines will pay for the attorney fees. He would have
to make the case for us to the judge that the violator, not the
taxpayer, should bear the cost. Apparently that is not his
strong suit - getting money BACK for the taxpayers.
His high fees can be attributed not to work that brings good
results for the taxpayers - but often for work that lets the
guilty parties off the hook at the expense of the taxpayers. Many actions on his
part are extremely problematic. Ie:
I made a simple request for documents in November 2018.
They exist. They are not exempt. But I still don't have
many of them. The solicitor decided to withhold a vast number of them, and
that act alone, that sheer beligerance, has cost the
Township untold thousands ... whilke thwarting transparency .
The Commissioners continue to
allow it. You might want to ask them why ------ and I would love
to hear their answer. I guess because it's not their money....it's
yours and he profits nicely
and then raises his retainer.... That is just ONE of the
things that make him unwarranted hundreds of thousdands.
INCOMPREHENSIBLE COMMENTS ABOUT HOW RAISING THE
RETAINER WOULD FIX THE OVER-CHARGING Because he had gone over his previous retainer so often,
the manager was
somehow going to solve the problem by raising the retainer
fee. Really? So he doesn'thave to bring excesses
before the Board to approve.? The only thing that
will do, is to set a higher amount that he will be paid this
coming year and will base his raise on the next year...... and
it will produce a higher amount for RFP's (Requests for
Proposals)Those firms likely would be
chosen by our Manager anyway - so when viewing all
the extra work our Solicitor made for himself, why wouldn't they
be high, too? And when we raise the retainer he will most certainly go over it again.
A proper investigation
into the reasons so many legal actions are initiated here needs
to be investigated. The taxpayers are being fleeced. In some
cases, taxpayers are paying for both sides of the case...and the
solicitor seems to have no incentive to hold guilty parties
accountable so taxpayers get paid back. Employees
have been moved or fired, documents have been withheld on purpose or through
negligence, and there was the MOU (memorandum of
Understanding ) on the Colonade where the solicitors rendition
could not be honored while abiding by laws and codes. That was
the MOU that launched a thousand legal
some still "sailing" ..... many that have gone on for years,
fattening the solicitor's wallet and driving up his "need"
for a bigger retainer.
I think a new solicitor would solve
a WHOLE lot of problems. Time for some proper open
bidding - not a closed RFP where a few select high priced
alternatives are chosen. And time for some oversight.
A BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS HELPING THE MANAGER
HIDE THE TRUTH
Knowing otherwise if they had read
any parts of the budget, your Commissioners allowed the manager to suggest they
needed to raise taxes for the OPEB
and Debt Service and didn’t correct that with the
residents. They didn’t
discuss at budget time the real cost of the manager's wish list and the many, many,many, things on
it. They also refuse to
acknowledge what the solicitor is doing,
as noted above ----all of which has been brought to their
attention--- and ignored by them. They are the enablers. Mr
Bowman recently a valient cheerleader while he has no time to
hear residents concerns. Is this the kind of Township you want?
It is costing the taxpayers dearly for behavior
that I believe should be under investigation for improprieties, not rewarded with
A BUDGET LAID OUT TO CONFUSE IN A DOZEN WAYS
– more than 100
extra pages of repetitive nonsense
has been added to this
budget. Manager Manfredi was asked
previously to keep narratives brief and to keep them right
next to the financial page where the explanation and the actual
numbers could be compared. He refused. He is
choosing the more confusing
way. When you have a
question about a financial in one of the charts, you have to
scroll up 3-500 pages to try
to find the explanation for it . The organizational chart for
that department is also not nearby as it always was in the past.
An absurd and confusing way to keep a budget. Manager Manfredi
has been asked to change that. The Commissioners allow him to
continue to confuse.
A PROCESS DESIGNED
TO CUT THE PUBLIC OUT- delayed budget presentation,
meetings moved up with no
overt notice (even on the opening webpage)
WITHHELD FROM THE PUBLIC
THE LAST MINUTE -on purpose - and transcripts withheld and
slides withheld - all till the last minute. Meeting cancelled.
Speaking opportunities removed. Dates changed but moved up, not
back with no notice. Requests for information ignored
entirely - or not honored until the last minute. Does that
all sound like your version of transparency.
5 DAYS AFTER THE FIRST
PRESENTATION , IT WAS APPROVED FOR THE HEARING
absurd – but if your
Commissioner didn’t even tell you that happened, how would
even know they did th
at- oh -- and your Commissioner didn't
tell you, did they?
533 PAGES- MUCH OF IT SERIOUSLY EXTRANEOUS INFORMATION - The
amount of useless information in this budget is simply
overwhelming. It is unthinkable that a police department should put the
minutia of their arrests in a budget document, where important
information is intertwined with the voluminous narrative. A link
could be included that would lead to the full Police Department
description, if desired, on the police site where it belongs
(is it even there? ) or it could be included at the
end of the budget.
But to mingle the minutia with the important information swhen a
reader needs to understand the line items is quite
clearly designed to confuse- or perhaps just a sign of
inexperienced management. The budget USED to be done quite clearly.
But it seems apparent there is another agenda in this administration. Now here's
a question for you to consider. Will you work to change this – or let
it be the norm ?
NOMENCLATURE DESIGNED TO CONFUSE -
MULTIPLE NAMES FOR THE SAME THING-in one case, five or six
different names were for the same thing. Time worn nomenclature
has been changed just to break the continuum so year to year
comparisons are more difficult. The "fund balance" became
equity" . Capital and Permanent Improvement continue to be used
sometimes separately sometimes together. But the number of
different descriptions used for OPEB simply tops the charts. No
one would know WHAT you are talking about when you keep
referring to it differently.
MONEY SHUFFLED FROM THIS ACCOUNT TO THAT ACCOUNT FOR NO
REASON other than to
confuse multiple issues. On the one hand Mr. Manfredi said
he couldn't move money because there was a specific fund
balance policy. But. of course. a couple of sentences later he
was talking about something else he was doing that was a
violation of that policy. And he simply explained "well they
have a right to grant exceptions" . Yes they do -
and in the blink of an eye they can change the fund balance
policy, too, So we have to look for another reason that
all this shuffling is taking place ----- and to recognize
that it is not the only element of this budget that seems
purposely designed to confuse. This many elements of
confusion are not something that the
residents of this Township should tolerate.
$11 MILLION IN THE UNRESTRICTED FUND BALANCE
SHOULD PROHIBIT A TAX INCREASE Steve Kline pushed
before for a tax increase in years prior while we
had so many unspoken for millions in our Fund Balance ... and
they did not allow him to prevail. This Manager however is on a
spending spree ---and has many plans both for the dollars
they have hoarded and for the ones that he just taxed you for. I
never ceased to be amazed at how far residents will let
them go without "looking in to it" --- but they a) make it
as confusing as possible b) keep the information from the
residents in as many ways as they can. So the whole charade
(OPEB) AND DEBT SERVICE PULLED OUT of THE NORMAL BUDGET and
given separate millage ...... that can be raised separately.
Heads up - a little raise her and a little raise there
looks so harmless....
EMPLOYEES WITH RAISES EQUIVALENT TO 7% OVER THE PRIOR YEAR . Not
all employees just some employees. Who doesn't know that this is
PROJECTS NEVER VETTED
ARE INCLUDED IN THIS BUDGET - where the approval of the
budget will be considered approval of the project without proper
public vetting ever . The Inclusive Park, Manor Woods , the EdCorp,
the new Township Building and Firehouse , the GIS system,
and on and on
The record that Richard
Manfredi has in the 2 ½
short years he has been here
is one that has brought a huge increase in expenses and monies
used - not in ways desired by residents, low morale
among many watching the firings and the transfers and the
locking off of the upstairs “power center” from both residents
and employees. Gone
is any feeling of an open door policy. Instead, Abington is "open
for business". And you should be concerned.
Richard Manfredi has been the
most unavailable manager (to residents) that we have ever had. He has another agenda. How to make
business with what we own.
Using our personnel, our land & properties, our resources,
I have watched how again and again how the taxpayers are the
payees rather than those beeing served.
Economic Development Corporation,
for example, he tried to ram through before it was even
written --- because he knew if you found out what it was, you
would be upset. Now he is refusing to post the questions
for it ..... promised since September . More than 3 months
later, they are still unavailable because he knows they would
raise eserious budget concerns. They want to slide the budget
through before anyone has time to share out the sordid details.
That is just one small example of many
disrespects the residents must endure.
For the EDCorp alone you
can expect lots of outgo… but there is absolutely not a single
line for any income.
And only a fraction of the outgo will ever be listed. Why is he
not required to show us exactly how this will benefit us, what
it will cost, including the cost of the "free" manpower
they want? Why? Because the Commissioners that represent you
are not demanding that he do that.
They are giving him carte blanche and that’s why your
costs have so dramatically risen that you now will have a
9.9% increase this year alone…………….
with a possible increase that is
that depending on what happens in the economy year.
Did your commissioners even tell you
I don’t think they did.
Permit fees are taxes too - when they don't represent the cost
of the work.
Have you paid a permit fee lately? I just paid $255 of
Yes - it is exactly like
increasing my taxes that amount . They are making revenue on
permits. I don’t know if you find that as disgusting as I do,
but just consider for a moment the families whose roof fell prey
to a storm, or those who had
a fire, or a flood or who have an elderly relative that needs to move in
……. They will need to get
permits ---- but
their permit won’t just fund the work that needs to be done
will fund the Manager's wish list a for code personnel.
roofing permit was $355 . The going
rate for roofing permit in many, many other townships is around
$100 …. and that’s if they
come out to do an inspection. They didn’t do one on my project.
So I paid a $255 extra
tax . Makes the $60 they're planning to charge in 2020
look like chicken
feed. It even dwarfs the more than $100 of a 2nd tax
hike that they probably will have to
charge you in 2021 in order to keep their wish list going .
How many families have paid such a tax? I think all
of us are due a refund.
I intend to ask for mine.
The code department is now collecting monies
that equal 130% of the costs of running the code
department ….. And I know many of the ways in which they choose
to spend that money are things you would not approve of. For instance, while they didn’t come out
to inspect my roof, sometimes as many as three or four paid
Township people sit in a vacant
property meeting, where the intent is
to do what a real estate
agent should be doing - matching vacant properties with
speculators or purchasers. Money
out of your pocket and mine that will provide a bigger & better
sale for others.
Many of the properties out of code were not even cited
when they have violations. And they are charging them just for
being vacant. I'm not sure how that is not a violation of
their property rights. They call
them under-utilized - and have decided that they should be
bringing in money ( even though they pay their taxes - and
even the ones that have no code violations )
They intend to build a “real estate site” for vacant
properties at your expense, too.
That should probably also go on the wish list.
So why is it that people
needing a permit are paying the freight for every wish
list thing that they would like to do. The members of vacant
property were planning the staff time for their wish lists like
it didn't cost anything . Of course, because your permits are
making it "free". The code
people are failing to properly inspect our properties at times,
or to follow up with citations -------in my case , negligence in
that department led an entire addition project to go awry. No
one has even so much as said "I'm sorry".
So there is a LOT here that needs to change.
Mr. Manfredi’s previous administration budget of
listed in 2020 to be $3.5 million
while the change in the figure
represents amounts not charged back to other
departments, which I agree with ( though a reference
to the department it would be charged back to is important
- so as to note all legal exppenses, all vehicle expenses
etc ) but there are huge concerns in the Manager's budget that
he refuses to clarify - such as the "contingency expense "
which used to be $150K but in 2020 balloons up to $485 K .
This would seem to be funds used at the Manager's discretion -
so there is no reason that residents should have a problem
getting information on that . But the Manager himself refuses to
clarify as of this writing. The GIS
system should be an IT expense - not an Admin expense. With his wish list items (a
few - very few - of which are in red above) taking a
huge chunk of funds to administer, we need to be able to define
the details of this budget. And that has not been possible.
(falsely ) told the giant tax hike was to prevent cutting
You were told that by Commissioners even though they knew, or
should have known that 3 monster departments were to
be consolidated into one (Code, Engineering and Public
Works) without any visible increase in personnel and with
an overt statement by Manager Manfredi that when someone
is fired they won't be replaced.
John Spiegelman said in
his email that if you lose personnel you lose services. Then
tried to convince you that's what the tax hike was for - to
preserve personnel and services. Well
folks, we are losing personnel ---- There
is only ONE fewer on the chart - but let me give you an example
- if all things had remained the same and Mr Manfredi was
the only person that was gone - and all the other employees
remained..... would you get the same result. That's
the bill of goods you're being sold here. Unless the Manager's
secretary or everyone in Engineering can answer Engineering
Dept Head style questions and everyone in Public Works can
answer Public Works Dept Head questions .... and the Finance Office doesn't need an assistant
and you're OK with a Public Works guy running Parks (
bulldozed down an entire Nature Preserve with no regard to
the animals and wildlife there click here to see ) then you
are NOT getting the same services. Since Manager Manfredi
joined together the Code and Engineering departments last year --- it's
been clear the department head is
already on overload and
has zero time (except on an infrequent occasion ) to answer
questions for residents. I waited forever one day for a very
simple question to be answered and was told to put in a Right to
Know ( ultimately it was answered without one) That department
is also not doing an adequate job by any measure of
tending to the code violations that
abound in Abington.
Mr. Manfredi’s decision,
in the face of all that, has been to add Public Works to that
workload, to fail to hire a trained Parks professional
and apparently to reduce the Finance leadership. Those are
big salaries. For a reason.
please don't get me started on the Drop Program which has
also been abused to our financial detriment
by hiring BACK people after they
finished their drop program - so they are collecting retirement
AND salary. This just causes people who are not ready to retire
, to retire early and to double dip - at our expense. He
hired back ( surprise) 2 Public Works guys ( our manager
himself who brags of his Public Works background )
There is clearly a method to this madness
- as he ……and solicitor Michael Clarke .... appear to be running the show in this
Township without a lot of other "interfering voices".
services that you used to have were personal services by people
who knew your name and knew your house and knew the history of
the various systems in the Township, and knew the Parks , and
most of them lived here.
That is about to be the way of the past. And I fear it is about to
services“ farmed out by ---
guess who ? Yes, sir
--- the management…… the
tip top where the reins are controlled pretty tightly and
no one else can interfere.
If you think this course of action is into your
interests, then hold on to your wallet. Tight.
Remember the appraisals
where people felt confident bidding nearly $3000 for something
that should cost more like $500. Guess who's gonna be in charge
of RFP's and bids.....When more and more decisions are made at
the top …. I mean can
one gal really make all the same decisions three Directors did
before? .... then there is simply no good path
to oversight ...... in fact, the question of oversight
is an interesting one because at the Dec 4th meeting...
In November 2019 , Manager Manfredi declared that the Commissioners job is not
oversight (of him and the management), their job is policy and
managing the Township is his job alone.
I beg your pardon, sir. That is completely not the
case. The Commissioners are supposed to be overseeing the
Manager's work such that it is in the interest of the residents.
If it’s not, they are supposed
to remove him. Or get him
to make a correction. They are the only
ones that can do it - so they are the only ones that
DO have oversight.
kind of false declaration leads citizens away from understanding
how their government is supposed to work . It dupes them, one
could say .... and encourages them away from petitiong the body
that does have oversight.
Would that they would exercise it once in a
while. It is sad they all sat silent while Mr Manfredi
Your commissioners are complicit in allowing the largest
tax increase based on a giant wish list
by a manager who
has decreased speaking rights, decreased transparency,
refused to set up a
system where residents questions are answered promptly and
politely and substantively. He has allowed our website to take
giant leaps backward - and it is now as difficult to navigate as his 533 page budget ---
and he doesn't care .
This manager has
overseen the firing or departure of multiple department heads in
a bizarre way that seemed almost designed to enable lawsuits
against the Township …
(more than one of which has already been filed and that’s
on the heels of, as you know the giant slew of lawsuits
that was caused by the
solicitor's MOU .
) Who moves a finance Director to head up
Public Works - and who Puts a Code Director there too. And
puts a Public Works guy with no Parks and Rec training in the
Parks Director's job ?
dreamed up everything he wanted and in
the next two years you will pay for it.