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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 2021 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. Budgets are complicated- and this one has been purposefully complicated  to remove transparency. 

  The Proposed 2021 Budget 
 Find it  here       https://www.abingtonpa.gov/departments/finance/final-and-proposed-budget-documents    
         or here:    www.abingtonPA.gov/budget 


    The  good news.... no tax  increase.  Last year they raised your taxes nearly 10% and that was to have been one THIRD of what this Manager wanted over a 2 year period to fund his wish list.   The other  TWO THIRDS were to come this year.  Then Covid hit....... So the "wish list" we were protesting  is  impacted more than our actual general services.  

   Next Meeting --Zoom - Nov 12th, 2020  at 6 pm
               It is expected to be passed on to be advertised for a Dec 10th, 2020  vote.
               Between now and  Dec 10th you can get up to speed. 
               Here is the Zoom link for Nov 12 at 6 pm https://www.abingtonpa.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/5617/18


  The bad news ... more Budget Shenanigans than you can shake a stick at.        
             
These tactics and "manoeuvers" should concern you greatly. They are designed to prevent oversight. Manager Richard Manfredi has changed the entire budget process to include many elements contrary to our interests.  From the removal of workshops that gave us an early view and ample opportunity for input, to the refusal to answer questions ( even those he promised publicly he would answer), to the withholding of the actual budget document until AFTER the first opportunity to speak on it. Add to all that what I call "Manfredi's War and Peace", where some of the budget line item explanations are buried in 100 solid pages that include  every little detail of  Township trivia that you can name from every department, like actual police arrest details, awards, volunteer work and....you name it . That is all wonderful to know - and would be great if it wasn't where the important budget details were hidden.   What could be something good  is just a distraction that makes the budget less transparent when you use that to hide the imprtant details.

       All of  this Manager's  actions are  designed for you to know less about what is going on with your dollars, and to have less say than you had in the past. So Yes. That should be of concern. 

           Last year, many projects residents might have been averse to were approved simply because he put them in the huge  4-500 page budget  which was approved with little more than a few minutes comment from residents who hadn't had any ample opportunity to even read it, let alone have questions answered. A new Township Building? He included the study for it.  Construction services ( a "slush fund" in effect)? $100 K approved with no plans for the projects.  Manor Woods Park development ? Another $100K - and voila ..... approved without any need to bring the project further before the public. This manner of getting projects approved is easy as pie. No annoying input from the pesky residents - there isn't time.  Such tactics  remove our voices from the crafting of our own community and any meaningful oversight of our dollars.  There was a nearly 10 % tax hike to accommodate this giant wish list that was thus approved-- but, as noted above, that was only 1/3 of what Manager Manfredi wanted. The other 2/3 was supposed to be this year ------ until Covid hit.  
       
             But this  year again, the Budget itself was withheld -- this time until AFTER the first presentation of it.  And no further sessions were to be held until Nov 12 when it is expected to be approved for advertizing.  If residents accept this behavior....you will be sure to get more of it. 


. The salaries that we will be paying on for years
when these employees retire are stunning.    The distressing part is that because this Manager  has modified the methods of the budget presentation every year since he came (2017)  the effect has been to remove  the  the simple ability to see what an employee made last year versus what they are making this year. The % increase. The Manager has this information, and  COULD have accommodated the rrequest of it , but apparently will  not - and  now - less than 24 hours before the  meeting , this has succeeded ikeeping from us what should have been easily found and reported in the budget pages.
 
        Manfredi's  own salary is over $193,000, to manage a $70 Million budget in a town with 56,000 residents . It is the same as the Governor of PA  who manages a $36 Billion  budget and whose salary is paid by the  12 Million Pennsylvanians he serves.  Our Manager makes far more than the Auditor General and the Attorney General of PA.

           But he is also beginning to create salaries for others that are above and beyond what you might ever expect.  It is important that we get our budget laid out so that such things as salaries are easily overseen.  This Manager has removed the information we previously had  that allowed our oversight of salaries and budget matters.  In a year of Covid - where the Township is $5 Million down in revenues and had to raid the Fund Balance to avoid a tax increase on a community that has felt the effects of Covid like all others,  why do we have salary increases for some that are outrageous?  In some cases they are not putting in any commensurate increase in hours - but their salaries have been upped simply via a change in title.  Others employees or 3rd Parties  will have to have picked up the excess.  And it is sad that we are unable to verify the figures properly or ascertain the exact % .

       Some of the Commissioners allowing the Manager to do this are the same Commissioners,   that the  Commonwealth, after the Grand Jury investigation,
declared to be "part of the problem" in the Colonade debacle -----   and who, Commissioner Luker explained, had decided they didn't want to know about the wrongdoing.  Commissioners Spiegelman and Hecker are among those  in that group - and not surprisingly did not require the Manager's cooperation here.  If they are allowing the Manager to operate in this fashion, they are , again, part of the problem.
We need to have oversight accommodated.

       In addition, it almost appears as if our Manager is freeing up his own schedule, have some report to his Secretary/ Assistant instead of to him and putting Engineer Amy Montgomery first in charge of both Code and Engineering and now adding a third huge Department, Public Works to her "Directorship". Wasn't "Engineer" a full time job?  Does she have Public Works experience?  I think those are reasonable questions . How is the extra load being doled out so it is manageble?    Others will have to take over. Or third party outsource agencies. Why it is a concern to me,  is because Manager Manfredi wanted to offer his time FREE to be the Executive Director of the  Economic Development Corporation --- the one that completed it's project while allowing hte Commissioners to distance themselves from the pesky  oversight of residents  and to avoid annoying things like bids.

     So, OK -- a lot to unpack.  But in government there is always a LOT going on behind the scenes..........    
       

 A Few Miscellaneous Financial Tidbits for 2021 

____ All operating and capital funds = $67 million.
-------- general fund 44 471 763.
-------- All other operating funds, $16 million,
-------- general permanent improvement fun $16.67M
-------- capital fund is $3.4 million
-------- general fund expenditures are $80,000 less than fiscal year 2020
-------- All other operating funds are $1 M less than 2020
-------- page 9 there is a projected $5.3 million loss of revenue for 2021.
-------- Property tax will generate 16,000,016.8 million
--------earned income tax generates 6.6 million.
--------Mercantile taxes and business privilege taxes 5.2 million.
--------The value of all Township real estate in 2020 is 3.45 billion
------- -In 2021 all real estate is expected to be just $857,000 less- still about 3.45 billion (p12
)

))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))


  Chronologically speaking  ( some repeat here from the summaries above )

 10-22-20  Manager Richard Manfredi,  held a Zoom meeting. The Commissioners had JUST received the Budget documents - but he held the presentation BEFORE the public was allowed to have them making their participation virtually meaningless.  
gave  a summary of some general budget points- an overview.
 
        
Though Commissioners received a copy ( just prior to the presentation) -- the public was not even  afforded
so much as a  look at the budget  before this presentation - making the opportunity to question or comment  largely meaningless, since,in regard to budgets, the devil is always in the details. 
 Manager Manfredi had for many months refused
 to acknowledge requests to have budget workshop days announced, so schedules could be cleared.
Apparently that is because he hasn't actually planned any -  nor afforded any meaningful time for
significant changes to the budget to be addresed.
           
        His intent was, apparently,  that on 10-23-20  residents would have access to the 545 page document . Cetainly that is prior to the meeting where he hopes to garner approval - but he provided for no  proper presentation and  question/answer  session  where we   learn from one another.  When  the matter went  before the Board on November 12  it would be approved for advertizing  the same day our questions were asked and our comments made. He removed the October and November Committee meetings as well  - and likely will remove the December ones. Thos also provide opportunites for understanding and comment. The final hearing and approval is anticipated to be on December 10.

     And of course any problems would cause the "over the holiday " crunch as well.  Is that Mr. Manfredi's plan? Who wants to set multiple meetings over the  holidays - or attend them?  


            Our manager promised on 10-22-20   to answer questions but so far ( by 11-8-20   with 4 days left before the meeting where he wants approval- has completely failed to do that. The only question  that he attempted to answer was answered with completely false information, so that went back to square one.    

           While the super huge tax  increase that he was intending to bestow upon you  this coming year (right on the heels of the nearly 10 % he raised it in 2020)  is no longer on the table  due to COVID and $5M less in revenue,  the budget is, nonetheless, a massive mess of  employee positions that have been “switched  around” ... which breaks continuity so increases and changes in salary are not visible. He has put people, again,  in charge of areas where they have no expertise yet they command  impressive salaries.  One full time position, “Engineer” now seems to convey that the Engineer didn’t really have a full time job despite the large salary- because she can now also add on the work of  oversight 3 or 4 other major departments or areas.  And you should be very concerned about the removal of the comparative salary information – because it took years building that important information up so it was visible.  We were able to see, for instance, that one staff member had his salary bumped way up right before his retirement -- a gift he will have for life that was out of the range of the reasonable raises. Some salaries now, we believe, have been bumped up way out of proportion – especially for current economic times.

      Mr Manfredi continues his habit of filling the pages of the budget with thousands upon thousands of irrelevant material (“War and Peace” in effect) that are completely unrelated to the budget and merely distract from finding and understanding the things that explain increases and decreases in the numbers.  Buried inside the endless paragraphs is the reason, for instance, that the police  canine budget was decreased But you would have to wade through endless pages unrelated to any line item. 
 
      This, in my opinion, is “mismanagement” that should not be allowed to continue.  We cannot simply express concern… if we want Abington to stay fiscally sound and have proper oversight, we need to get residents involved in overseeing the budget operations and in REQUIRING your Commissioners to see that proper oversight mechanisms are INSTALLED – not REMOVED as this Manager is doing.   Keep in mind, if you read the Colonade testimony filed in the courts ... the Commissioners chose not to  know about the details of the wrong-doing of the Solicitor and the Commissioner who was Vice President of the Board.  One option was to charge them . But instead that Solicitor is still at his job - and the Commissioner is at the County now . You cannot protect your constiuents if you close your eyes and ears to wrong-doing This manager has  also removed speaking rights and is closing down transparency, even via the lack of access to various areas of  the Township Building.   If your Commissioner condones this, the trend will continue.

     There is need for attention to these processes …. and for voices that will reverse such a course.  There is a need to watch where our money is going in this non-transparent way.

 

See the budget here: 
https://www.abingtonpa.gov/departments/finance/final-and-proposed-budget-documents

Stay tuned for more on the 2021 Proposed Budget.

 

 

 

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