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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 2020 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.

  WHERE TO FIND THE PROPOSED 2020 BUDGET
 We have asked to have a link directly to the page so you don't have to hunt around on a general page first  - no accommodation . Sorry
Find the Budget pdf  here:    https://www.abingtonpa.gov/departments/finance/final-and-proposed-budget-documents 
                                    or    here:    www.abingtonPA.gov/budget 
11-13-19  video of  1st presentation

                   
https://abingtonpa.viebit.com/player.php?hash=VxFfITG8wB0m
11-20-19
 video  of 2nd Presentation & Approval to Advertise it  5 working days later
                 https://abingtonpa.viebit.com/player.php?hash=6EL1ur82w5nz
 
12-12-19 Budget Approval
 Passed 
13-2 - right down party lines.  
                 A disgrace because of the way residents were kept uninformed
                 and how their rights removed in ways that were even violations of the law
.


     THE 2020 BUDGET :
 
ONE THAT WILL CHANGE ABINGTON FOR YEARS  TO COME

On December 12 the Abington Township board of commissioners is likely to pass a budget that literally a handful of people, if that, understand.

In the next two years, Abington residents are likely to receive the largest increase that any have ever seen in their  entire history  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.

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 realities

9.9% INCREASE TO EVERY HOME

DOUBLE THAT AS A POSSIBILITY NEXT YEAR

OUR TOWNSHIP AND YOUR WALLETS  OPEN FOR BUSINESS

A MANAGER CONCENTRATING POWER 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 ServiceNonsense. 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 Firehouse
 -- an Economic Development Corporation
(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)
---a 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 used)
--  a brand-new “Inclusive Park “ (again- not vetted  with the public) 
-- Open Gov Software that produces charts and graphs of financial information etc  ( not vetted with the public
-- Contigency Expense -  was $150,000 - gifted $485,000 in 2020


These - and many, many more like these - are the reasons for your tax increase - not the reasons cited.
These are all  things that they are not obligated
  to provide.
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 "ships".....  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 increases.   


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,  canceled meetings,  meetings moved up with no overt notice (even on the opening webpage)   

A BUDGET WITHHELD FROM THE PUBLIC  UNTIL 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 that- 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 "fund 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 continues on.

OTHER POST EMPLOYMENT BENEFITS  (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 not right?

TOO MANY 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  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.  Very 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.  The 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.  That's why.  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 double that depending on what happens in the economy year.  Did your commissioners even tell you about that?
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 extra tax.  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 .... it will fund the Manager's wish list a for code personnel.  My 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  $1.8 million  is 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.   

       Were you (falsely ) told the giant tax hike was to prevent cutting services  ?

        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 ( he just 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.

          And 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".  

     
The 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 be  replaced  by “professional 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 , Manager Manfredi declared that the Commissioners job is not oversight (of hiim 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.
This 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 said that.

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 ?

Richard Manfredi  dreamed up everything he wanted and in the next two years you will pay for it.  

              We have a $32 million unfunded pension liability .  We have $19 million still of an OPEB liability . These liabilities built up to this degree because the obligations of the Township were being ignored while the wish lists of the Township were being satisfied.  But they were miniscule compared to the wish list we see here - and the burgeoning bill  that has billowed in the 2 years Mr Manfredi has been with us.  Our Manager wants to convince you the tax hike is for them. It is not. It is for his wish list  alone. The vast majority of these things were not vetted in public and Mr Manfredi seems to think he doesn't have to do that. (per our phone conversation 12-12-19)

           If you sit quietly through it……  don’t complain when you wonder where the services went or why everything got so dang expensive. Your time to speak up is now.   But did you even know what there was to speak up about -----in time..... ?  So OK- it appears that's part of the plan.

Corrections :
The Admin  budget that went from $1.8M to $3.5M has been explained by saying that the old way of making chargebacks to the departments  was causing the increase.  That seems incredulous - that 93 % of the Dept was chargebacks -  We will  review  and comment further

The  Manager and Secretary budget line that went up $500K ...was also due to chargebacks - but still of concern in the  Manager and Admin areas is  a Contingency expense that went up More than 3 fold from $150,000 to $485,000 .


CHRONOLOGICALLY  

11-9-19  The Budget was apparently first posted. Who knew. You see no news about what's posted when you open the website.

11-13-19  Usually the budget is out in early October . The residents participate in the workshops where recommendations are made for what to cut. This manager took that all away --- and we can see why. Because no one would have been happy with what was happening .
Ponight was the first presentation of a budget with a record breaking 9.9 increase in 2020 and a possible  increase that is over $100 in 2021
video  https://abingtonpa.viebit.com/player.php?hash=VxFfITG8wB0m 

11-20-19  Adoption of the Proposed Budget  --what???  7 DAYS AFTER THE PRESENTATION OF IT FOR THE FIRST TIME????
- Clearly the  Commissioners themselves don't even  understood what was being proposed - yet they were coming to the meeting to approve it . And varieties of options were being offered and they weren't even clear on which had been chosen .  This budget approval came  literally 6 days after the first presentation of the 500+ page budget  to the public.  An outrageously unfair process  and it is impossible to assess something that is a continual moving target.   
      Manfredi  has also separated the narrative and the details  in the budget so you have to flip back and forth from the beginning to the end  - something that makes it much more difficult to put together
 The final budget will then be adopted Dec 12 . A Blitz - put together by a manager who has redesigned and curtailed our speaking rights - created  anti-resident measures like the "consent agenda" and put some  of the most controversial items on it so they would get no more discussion  and could blitzed past the residents;  he tried to get an ordinance that was not even yet written  passed before anyone even knew it was happening for the Economic Development Corporation. He spent far past his budget amounts in 2018 - perhaps as much as $6M more than budgeted - on whose authority?  He has allowed multiple  employees to take the drop programs- getting a portion of retirement while also collecting salary .  And then to also come back and work after the drop was over. He will not divulge if they are fully double dipping taking both retirement and salary - but I think we have a right to know - don't you?
    The Solicitor's office is $80,000 over budget - and their budget is quite generaous -(  no doubt the overages are  because of the ongoing Steve Kline/Colonade/100 Old YorkRd-Old York LLC  lawsuits  and the fact that instead of turning over required Right to Know Documents they chose to make legal filing after legal filing fleecing the taxpayers while they line their own pockets. ) 

There was no mention anywhere of the still 19 million in debt we were from earlier OPEB misdeeds ,,,,

There is soooooo much more to say about this really bad budget  following on a lot of really bad things .....
The amount of the raise is argued at 15-20 minutes in on the video  https://abingtonpa.viebit.com/player.php?hash=6EL1ur82w5nz

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