Tredyffrin’s Financial Workshop . . . How to Close 2011 Budget Gaps

This Saturday, September 18, 8:30 AM at the township building, there will be a public Board of Supervisors financial workshop.  The agenda includes:

  • 2010 Review
  • 2010 year-to-date revenue/expense review and end-of-year projection – Tim Klarich, Finance Director
  •  Budget Advisory Working Group implementation update – Mimi Gleason, Township Manager
  • Five-Year Capital Plan (2011 – 2015) – Mimi Gleason, Township Manager
  • Public input about priorities for 2011 budget

We know from the TESD finance committee that the school board is planning a public meeting to discuss an EIT in October.  How does the township intend to address what could be a looming 2011 financial deficit in the township budget?  Hold the line on a tax increase because it’s election year?  Or, as the supervisors did last year, will the decision be to continue to cut jobs and services.

Is it possible that the same supervisors who cut the fire funding in the 2010 budget will restore the fire funding in the 2011 budget?  Can the township function with further cuts?  Is it possible that the band-aid solutions of 2010 will continue to work in 2011?  Perhaps the new finance director will offer some creative approaches to cost reduction. At least one of the newly elected supervisors ran on the platform not to raise taxes . . . the 2011 budget will be her first to review.  I look forward to her budget analysis and recommendations.

Devon resident Bill Bellew offered the following letter to the supervisors that appears in this week’s Main Line Suburban newspaper:

Message for Tredyffrin board

To the Editor:

The following letter was delivered to the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

On Sept. 18 you are conducting an open meeting for financial planning as you put together the 2011 budget for Tredyffrin Township. I do not envy you the task at hand as more potential cuts appear to be coming.

The stepping-off point for 2011 is the removal from the Sewer Budget of anything to do with streetlights and signage. Before I go another word: this has a tax-increase impact, and some politicians do not like to say they raise taxes. Well, for a number of years this has worked and we who pay into the sewer fund have borne the brunt of “no tax increases.” Once you get the streetlights/signage line item out for all to see, then you can do real budget preparation.

I have paid into the sewer fund each year since it was first established. The fee hardly ever changed since the ’80s until recently because it was well planned up front. That changed “x” number of years ago, about the time the board decided to put streetlights and signage in the sewer-fund budget. It has gone up and down a few times this decade.

The change in the sewer budget is needed for two reasons: first, lights and street signs have absolutely nothing to do with sewers; and second, only those hooked up to the sewers are paying for lights and signs for every household in the township. For sure, everyone north of the turnpike is not hooked up and that is not of the residents’ doing but rather the BOS.

Our sewer fund stipulates that any dollars collected for the fund can’t be transferred to another budget item. The fund is meant to provide the reserves necessary to keep the sewer infrastructure strong year after year. This year’s Board of Supervisors needs to make a resolution to return the fund to its original state of sewer-related items only.

Start with this, and then deal with the consequences of a tax increase. Try this on: return the sewer fees to the original amount and offset it with a tax increase if necessary. You did the opposite last year, so why not make it right this year?

Sincerely

William F. Bellew, Devon

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8 Comments

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  1. I don’t quite think that everything done last year was a band-aid solution.

    It’s pretty apparent by now that the township has not crumbled to the ground from the cutting of staff, etc.

    No one likes what had to be done — that’s what makes them “hard decisions” and not “easy decisions” — but they seem to have worked.

    As for the sewer fund/general fund issue: didn’t the solicitor say this was legal? Hasn’t it been done this way for longer than probably anyone on this board has been there?

    Things are working pretty well in Tredyffrin from a fiscal standpoint, especially if you compare us with other local municipalities.

    I just wish we could all stop with the “sky is falling” mentality and at least admit that Tredyffrin is way ahead of the curve.

    As for it being an election year, it’s always an election year — or just before an election year. Pattye — you usually don’t inject politics into this, and I don’t know why you are doing it now.

    You were one of the people who called for this type of workshop and now you got it. Why go in with a combatitve attitude?

    1. Certainly didn’t mean to perpetuate any kind of ‘sky is falling’ sentiment. I want to fully understand where the township stands financially and I look forward to finding out the information on Saturday. Although typically measured on most issues, certain things trouble me. I had real problems with the fire funding cuts (as well as Surrey Services and library) and the aftermath of supervisor fundraising. As a resident I would prefer to not witness that circus again — Tredyffrin doesn’t need that kind of publicity. Personally, I wouldn’t put the fire funding cut decision in the ‘hard’ category, I’d put it in the ‘wrong’ category.

      1. This workshop should provide the forum to answer the citizens’ questions and concerns. And even before the election – so much for the Kampf conspiracy theory. Thanks to the BOS and Township management.

        To Pattye’s point, in my opinion, while I support Surrey Service’s and other local charities’ mission, the Township should not be passing through our tax dollars to 501(c)3 organizations. Before 2009, the Township was making contributions to Surrey, Wharton Esherick Museum and a few other local charities – probably 8 or 10 groups out of the dozens locally. Who within the Township decides to what charities and how much? What makes the chosen organizations more worthy than those that did not get money? For example, why would Jenkins Arboretum get a contribution rather than T&E Care or REACT. This is our small scale version of the earmark nonsense in Washington. Let these worthy organizations articulate their vision to the community and individuals can decide how to divide their own charitable dollars.

        1. To Pattye’s point, in my opinion, while I support Surrey Service’s and other local charities’ mission, the Township should not be passing through our tax dollars to 501(c)3 organizations.

          The Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization, has never received a contribution from the township. As president of this historic preservation organization, unfortunately I understand all too well the township’s level of support. But the fire companies, a different issue. Many local governments have fully funded fire companies and are not served by volunteers as Tredyffrin Twp. One can only wonder what the cost would be to the taxpayers if the twp budget had the additional cost of a non-volunteer fire company, equipment and staff.

          As for the township making one organization more worthy than another, I would obviously think that the Trust should be at the top of the list (and I accept that will never happen in Tredyffrin) But the volunteer fire company funding — that trumps historic preservation (and all other 501c3 organizations as far as I’m concerned), and should return to a fully funded budget item for the 2011 budget.

    2. election year – drucker vs kampf.

      Kampf is state house candidate and twp supervisor so see how much politics plays in to his decisions (remember the sewer funding issue)

      1. I am not referring to the Fire Companies, simply local charities. Pattye’s experience with the Trust illustrates the point – why would tax dollars go to some charitable organizations and not others?

  2. Unfortunately I will be away on a student college delivery this week-end and so not able to attend. Maybe that’s just as well, though, because I would only get frustrated if the Agenda items listed above were the only things discussed.

    How about coming with some “business-as-usual” projections for 2011 (not a budget!): something that outlines revenues and expenses at current activity levels but at next year’s wage and price levels? Then we could get a sense of what the issues are likely to be, and how big they are.

    That might inform the consideration of whether we want to restore some of this year’s lost services: park upkeep, right-of-way mowing, traffic light repair, permit processing effectiveness, etc.

  3. Just because the sewer fund has contained non-sewer related expenses for as long as anyone can remember, doesn’t make it right to continue such accounting tricks.

    The truth however, is that those of us in the northwestern end of the township have had neither sewer service nor much in the way of township lighing all thse years. That may have been part of the rationale for tacking lighting and signage expense onto the Sewer Fund – i.e. the same people who use sewer services have township lighting in their neighborhoods.

    But whatever is done should be fair to the residents and transparent..

    Re budget priorities, I would like a clear picture of which township -provided services are being contracted out, the cost compared to the cost of township employees doing the work, and what the liabilities to the township are in using outside contractors.

    It recently came to light that the service provider contracted to mow a portion of township-owned Country Gate Park doesn’t have the kind of liability coverage that would indemnify the township in cases of injury or negligence. What are taxpayers saving and what additional risk are we assuming to cut costs?

    Are we penny-wise and pound-foolish in Tredyffrin? I don’t know the answer, but I think the budget should be laid out for all to see. No doubt, it is a huge pain in the neck for township supervisors and employees charged with crafting and passing a balanced budget by the end of the year.

    Even so, Tredyffrin taxpayers are owed a full and fair airing, and nothing less.

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