Tredyffrin’s Public Finance Workshop Meeting . . . Notes from Two Residents

Yesterday’s financial workshop was the first step in 2011 township budget discussions. This was a public meeting and agenda for the meeting was as follows:

  • 2010 Review
  • 2010 year-to-date revenue/expense review and end-of-year projection
  •  Budget Advisory Working Group implementation update
  • Five-Year Capital Plan (2011 – 2015)
  • Public input about priorities for 2011 budget
  • Unfortunately I was unable to attend the meeting but I understand that it there was a successful open exchange of township financial information between the supervisors, staff and residents.  Knowing the importance of this finance workshop, I asked a couple of friends to provide notes/remarks/comments.  Because I did not attend the workshop, I do not feel comfortable combining the comments of the 2 individuals in to one document . . . therefore, I am providing both sets of comments from Resident #1 Notes and Resident #2.  I appreciate the effort these 2 individuals expended on writing these notes and thank them both!  This is important financial information and I hope that you will take the time to read their notes thoroughly.

    Resident #1 Notes:

    I attended the Financial Workshop held on Saturday at the Township building.  In attendance were all 7 Supervisors, the full complement of Township managers  (Mimi Gleason, Tim Klarich(the new Finance Director), Police Chief Chambers, Tom Scott, Steve Norcini, and Steve Burgo) and 25-30 citizens.  The Township provided a set of handouts, with substantial detail, that hopefully will be available on the Township website.  I’ll try to hit the high points, as the meeting lasted 2 1/2 hours. There were several main topics discussed:

    1.  2010 YTD review and end-of-year projection (Tim Klarich):  The General Fund is projected to finish the year with a small surplus.  On the revenue side, Real Estate and Transfer Taxes are right on target, while licenses and permits are well above budget (building and Aqua America projects).  Unfavorable to budget are the Local Service Tax ($52/worker) and Investment Earnings, which is much lower than had been budgeted ($16,700  projected vs. $131,000 budget).  On the expense side, the largest variance was employee benefits projected at $169,700 less than budget – several expense categories were $30-50,000 unfavorable to budget – specifically mentioned were supplies which were impacted by additional road salt of $60,000.  Mimi did comment that they had budgeted for a lean year and expense control was a priority.
         There was also a review of the Sewer Utility Fund and the Valley Creek Fund (my understanding is that this is the “regional sewer authority”, of which Tredyffrin is the steward).  Sewer fees are right on target, but again, Investment Earnings fell significantly short of budget.  There were large transfers between our Sewer Utility and Valley Creek, which, frankly, I did not fully grasp.  This created an unfavorable deficit for the Sewer Fund and a larger favorable surplus for Valley Creek.  Finally, the discussion revealed that the expenses for streetlights and traffic signals within the Sewer Fund is about $600k annually.
         As for reserves, the total of cash and investments are $50mm+, $17mm of which are unrestricted.  The breakdown of bonds issued is $21mm for the Township and an additional $7mm in Municipal Authorities (presumably Sewer?).
         JD raised the good point that municipal financial statements are difficult to follow and that more traditional corporate-style financial statements (income statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement) would be helpful in decision-making, especially for the Supervisors.  Sounded like Tim may work toward adding those type of reports.

    2.   BAWG update (Mimi Gleason):  A handout was provided listing all of the roughly 130 individual BAWG recommendations.   Next to each was listed its status – a large number of recommendations have been completed and it was noted when, some have been considered and will not be implemented, and a number (maybe 1/3 of the recommendations) which either have not been completed or will be considered in the future.  During this section, in response to a citizen’s question, Chief Chambers gave an update of his Department’s work this year and indicated that they have been able to maintain their service level  and the public’s safety very well, even in the face of the budget cuts and higher call volume.  While there was relatively little other discussion of individual recommendations, in my opinion, the thoroughness and scope of BAWG’s work and the progress made so far is impressive.

    3.  Five-Year Capital Plan (Mimi Gleason): The review of the twenty planned capital projects was divided by category – Economic Development, Infrastructure Upgrades, Quality of Life Improvements, and Property Upgrades.  The total cost of these projects is more than $102,000,000 – about $57mm in the next 5 years and the balance beyond 5 years.  These projects will be financed with a combination of capital reserves, bonds, Sewer Funds, and grants.
         By far, the biggest items are the Paoli Transportation Center ($40 million) and the Route 252 Bridge Replacement in Paoli ($25 million), followed by a new Paoli Library ($7mm), where the $1/year lease on the current building expires in 2016.  Of note, some of the sewer projects are included under the Economic Development category, as an expansion of the current system is required for redevelopment in some areas.
         Editorial comment:  At the meeting, I commented that the Paoli Transportation Center was not under the Quality of Life Improvement category, as I am not at all sure that it will improve, not diminish, the quality of life for Tredyffrin residents.  Further, understanding that the vast majority of the funding for some of these projects will come from state or federal grants, I urged the Supervisors to be equally vigilant in spending grant money, as at the end of the day, it does come from our federal and state taxes – evaluate these projects as if we are paying the entire bill.  I also questioned the Township tax revenue opportunity compared to the incremental Township costs for maintaining the infrastructure, police presence, etc. -understanding that this project is many years from completion, there wasn’t much clarity to the response.  As you might be able to tell, I’m not all that thrilled about the PTC – can’t wait for Paoli to be like 69th Street or Norristown.

    4.  Public input about priorities for 2011 budget: Open forum for public comment.  In response to a question about returning the fire funding to 2009 levels, JD and Bob Lamina updated on the joint T/E Emergency Services Board – it sounds like a positive step, they have had a presentation from Berwyn Fire and a Paoli presentation is scheduled – my impression was that the Township funding will be restored.  One citizen urged that the “Officer Friendly” program in the schools be restored.  Dariel Jamieson urged that the streetlight and traffic signals be removed from the Sewer Fund and be included in the 2011 Township budget.

    All in all, a very constructive session.  A great deal of information was offered, the citizens had opportunity to learn and ask questions, and there was none of the animus that has sometimes been present at BOS meetings.

    The following notes were provided by another resident who attended yesterday’s finance workshop.

    Resident #2 Notes:

    The meeting covered a lot of ground in 2 1/2 hours. All supervisors, Mimi Gleason, Tom Scott, Steve Burgo, Steve Norcini, and Chief Chambers were all in attendance.

    I. 2010 Year-to-date Review of revenues and expenses

    First on the agenda, new Finance Director Tim Klarich reviewed a 7-page summary of revenues and expenses up to 8/31/2010, with projections for the final months of the year.

    He reported that:

    •  The Township Is set to end the year with a projected operating surplus of $175,400.
    •  Real estate taxes collected as of 8/31/2010 are 98% of budget.
    • Transfer tax receipts are $200,000 ahead of last year’s but still about $500,000 unfavorable to budget so far.
    •  Large transfer tax collection to date is $177,000 with $211,000 projected by year-end. This total – $388,000 – has been budgeted to be transferred to the reserve fund at year-end.
    • Local services tax collections are projected to be $82,500 below budget. Why off?  Is the collections rate lower, or has the number of employees paying the LST dropped more than anticipated?
    • Spending for salaries, insurance, supplies and professional services went over budget this year.
    • Employee benefits were less than budgeted by $169,700- due to employee changes in plan options.

     
    Supervisors made comments and asked numerous questions:

    • Bob Lamina asked that more effort be made to keep supply and professional service  within budget in 2011
    • John Di Buonaventuro questioned the accuracy of a projected $395,000 surplus in the sewer fund revenue. Though the Township received a 1-time unexpected refund of $667,800, it has a projected operating deficit of $201,100.
    • Mimi explained that streetlight expenses are included in the sewer fund, including $140,000 for a new traffic light and $600,000 for maintenance of street lights.
    • Phil Donahue asked why salary expense was more than budgeted. Mimi explained the $38,500 difference was due to overtime for “unanticipated weather events”. FEMA has agreed to reimburse $85-90,000 for storm-related expenses but has not yet done so.
    • Phil also asked about real estate tax collections, projected to be $61,700 below budget. Mimi explained that current R.E. taxes were on budget but that past year taxes due and penalties were below budget.
    • Bob Lamina thought the $600,000 in transfer tax projected for the final quarter of 22010 was too optimistic.
    • Mimi commented that “we will not need to tap our reserve fund if we end the year as projected.
    • The year-end position: $17 million in unrestricted funds.
    • Investment returns were budgeted for $131,000 but are now forecast to be only $16,600. Why the big discrepancy?  The twp. kept its money in “safe, secure investments” that virtually earned nothing. However, the Township is restricted in how these funds can be invested.
    • Did the Township budget incorrectly? According to Tim Klarich, no one could have anticipated the drop in returns at the time the budget was prepared last year.

    II. BAWG Review – presented by Mimi Gleason

    The township has implemented more than half of the BAWG recommendations.

    • HR changes – personnel evaluations are being done though budget constraints prevent merit pay from being awarded.
    • The township has been more diligent in its  tax collections; it hired a consultant to look for businesses that are not in compliance re the LST.
    • There will be more efficient tax collections system by mid 2011. The Twp. Is still using an older system and needs to update software.
    • Bob Lamina suggested organizing a “purchasing summit” with area townships and school districts. Mimi replied that TT is already a member of several co-ops e.g. they buy salt at a discount.
    • The Twp. Is looking to combine service contracts with other municipalities; however, according to Steve Norcini, some areas like paving do not provide the same savings opportunities bc of timing differences
    • Coordinating purchasing with other entities will “take several years to fully get in place.”
    • TT belongs to a number of professional organizations and municipal groups; cost-sharing is discussed regularly.
    • Changes take more time bc of reduced staff and restricted overtime. Staff workload is high, and in some cases, extremely high.
    • Chief Chambers reported that there were 3000 more police calls in 2009 than in 2008;  from July 2009 to July 29, 2010 there has been an additional increase of 4,600 calls over the 12-month period before.
    • Budget cuts eliminated the  DARE and Officer Friendly programs; this allowed two more officers to be put on the street full time.
    • Police overtime is not entirely predictable. Chairman Lamina assured residents that there was no restriction on OT when needed by PD.
    • Property crimes and domestic disturbance calls up. In other areas, crimes are down over years past.

     
    III. Five-Year Capital Plan (Mimi Gleason)

    • An important consideration: How many projects can the Township handle and manage well given limited personnel.  The Twp. may need to hire consultants and/or contractors.
    • Projects  are categorized as 1) Providing economic development, 2) Infrastructure Upgrades, 3) Quality of Life Improvements, and 4)Property Upgrades
    • $4,606,355 is forecast to be spent on capital projects in 2010. (Only 1.3 million was spent in 2009).
    • $10,226,500 is scheduled for  capital projects in 2011 including:

    –         $437,500 for a feasibility study for widening of Rte 252, and design for reconstruction of the bridge in future years; to be funded by bonds and grants

    –         $505,000 for planning and design  for Paoli transportation center

    –         $1,500,000 to upgrade Wilson Rd sewer pump station

    –         $308,000 to increase capacity of sewer line in Berwyn area

    –         $4,200,000 for Sewer treatment plant upgrade

    –         $600,000 for 4 miles of road resurfacing in twp.

    –         $120,000  for street light upgrade to LED

    –         $100,000  for storm water management improvements at Trout Creek

    –         $150,000 for storm sewer replacements/drainage improvements

    –         $120,000  to replace lining of sewer pipes in Valley Creek and twp sewer system

    –         $2,000,000 for Tredyffrin Library renovations including new roof and HVAC

    –         $186,000  to complete HVAC controls and ductwork in TWP Building

    • Primary source of funding for capital projects:

    –         Capital Reserve Fund

    –         Bond funds

    –         Grants

    Supervisor DiBuonaventuro asked that township reporting change to reflect standard accounting practices i.e. provide monthly profit & loss statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement. Reporting for capital spending should show depreciation schedule, gain/loss on sale of asset etc.

    • Note: the lease of the Paoli Library expires in 2016. Plans for a new library are preliminary; $7,000,000 is budgeted from 2013 – 2015. A capital campaign will be organized to raise at least half of the funds.
    • Willistown will share in costs; currently they account for 22% of library usage.

    IV. Community comments

    • Mike Heaberg questioned planned spending for Paoli Redevelopment project.  JD noted that much of it would come from state and federal sources. Bob Lamina expressed  his view that the project would be a net gain for Paoli and the township.
    • Bill Schwarze asked why street lights and traffic lights are carried in the sewer fund and not the general fund. No one answered. In the past, it has been “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”
    • Paving miles are not expensed from taxes; spending is equal to the liquid fuels reimbursement from the state  since those funds  have declined in recent years, fewer miles are being paved annually. However, Steve Norcini believes nothing essential has been put off. The Twp uses guidelines to decide where to pave: FHWA guidelines, the number of potholes a road has, and its traffic volume. Paving work is supervision- intensive and requires frequent inspections – seen as another limiting factor.
    • Radnor Fire Co, President Jim Kelly requested that the Twp. contribute $50,000 toward the purchase of an $875,000 ladder truck. Bob Lamina acknowledged that the Township had  never contributed to Radnor FD’s capital needs in the past but would  consider the request in preparing the 2011 budget..
    • Margaret VanNaerrson requested the reinstatement of the Officer Friendly program. Bob Lamina suggested that TESD would be asked to reimburse the Twp for any use of police time (estimated $20,000, according to Chambers).
    • Mike Heaberg urged the township to continue implementing the BAWG suggestions for more expense reductions. He suggested the need for a 5-year strategic plan.
    • Laurie Elliott asked that fire funding be restored at least to the 2009 levels.
    • Barbara Morose suggested that the fire companies be funded from direct private contributions; she reported she had personally increased hers and asked that others do the same.
  • Ernie Falcone asked that libraries be opened 7 days a week if transfer tax revenue increased.
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    22 Comments

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    1. Thank you both for taking such detailed notes and forwarding them to Pattye for posting! There is so much information here to digest that I am happy to have a written summary of the meeting.

      [Reply]

    2. Just from both sets of notes, it seems like the Supervisors and staff laid out a lot of information I commend all the Supervisors for agreeing to this workshop (and Phil Donahue for suggesting it.)

      It also seem as though while there are still challenges ahead, Tredyffrin is in pretty good financial shape (especially compared with other local communities) with a strong reserve in case of emergency.

      Hopefully, Pattye’s post can be used as a positive jumping off point for rational discussion that leaves out the politically-driven comments that appear far too often here.

      Great information, Pattye (and her volunteers). Thank you!

      [Reply]

      Mike in Berwyn Reply:

      From the West says, “It also seem as though while there are still challenges ahead, Tredyffrin is in pretty good financial shape (especially compared with other local communities) with a strong reserve in case of emergency.” And how!

      This week’s Suburban reviews 2010 Finances for Tredyffrin, Radnor, and Easttown:

      – As discussed at Saturday’s budget workshop, Tredyffrin is projected to end 2010 with a modest operating surplus and unrestricted reserves of $17,000,000.

      – The numbers presented for Radnor are not totally clear, but they will “chew into its cash balance by almost $3 million this year” (operating loss?) and are expected to end the year with only $1,800,000 of reserves in their general fund. For reference, Radnor’s and Tredyffrin’s annual budgets are both in the low $30 millions.

      – Easttown is expected to end the year with only $300-400,000 in reserves – this is after having raised real estate taxes by 12% for 2010, partly to build a reserve. No specific figures are offered on the operating results though transfer taxes are above budget and it’s noted by the assistant Township Manager that “expenses naturally are growing”.

      [Reply]

    3. I would encourage everyone to review the three reports prepared for Saturday’s meeting: the 2010 Summary of Revenue and Expenses, the status of the BAWG recommendations, and Tredyffrin’s 5-yr Capital Plan. They should by available on the township website in the next day or so.

      There’s no question that the Township has been prudent in their spending this year, holding off on some spending until year’s end. And for the most part, the reduction in services has not caused too much inconvenience.- last year’s debacle with the fire funding notwithstanding.

      However, going forward, I am concerned that both police and fire/EMT budgets be given the highest priority. Our safety is the #1 responsibility of the BOS, and this fact should be reflected in their budget allocations for 2011.

      Most residents probably don’t know that we are down to 46 full-time members of the police force. That is five less than last year ,even though police calls have increased by 4600 over the same 12 month period in 2008-9.

      I was surprised to learn that our police force was significantly larger 10-15 years ago when there were fewer residents, fewer workers coming to Tredfyfrin to work, and less traffic on all of our roads. Though I know the PD does a terrific job and enjoys strong leadership under Chief Chambers, it’s hard not to conclude that the police force is streched to the limit and probably understaffed for some of the important jobs they need to do.

      Likewise, our fire departments should not have to beg to stay afloat financially. NOT ONE MORE YEAR! They save lives, and they do it as volunteers, for the most part. How can anyone take that for granted?

      At Saturday’s Finance meeting, TTRC Vice-Chair Barbara Morose recommended that people step up their charitable giving to the fire companies, but she felt strongly that tax dollars not be allocated to the fire companies. Say what? In my view, she could not be more WRONG.

      Charitable giving will always be optional and subject to many factors. But a vital service to all taxpayers should be reliably funded by all taxpayers. There should be no debate about that!

      I really hope we don’t have to argue about adequate funding for our fire cos. amd EMT’s again this year. Berwyn F.C needs additional funding for their ALS- advanced life support services. The township-hired consultant recommended it three years ago. B.F.C is the only township fire company trained to do it. Also, their fire house is in serious need of replacement. Does the community care?

      And Radnor Fire Co. has surely gotten the short end of the stick from Tredyffrin. Tredyffrin has never contributed to their capital fund – not one dime – even though R.F.C. protects the eastern end of the township. It’s indefensible! Now Chief Kelly asks that Tredyffrin contribute $50,000 toward an $875,000 ladder truck.. That’s about 5% of the cost of a vital piece of life-saving equipment. I for one will be watching to see what happens with this modest request.

      What’s most important to residents? What contributes most to their peace of mind and quality of life?

      Our safety. We take it for granted around here, because our police and fire protection has been excellent. But it’s not guaranteed.

      I hope our supervisors keep this front and center when they wrestle with the 2011 budget.

      This time, residents will organize to do more than sign a last-minute petition in support of our fire companies. Also residents are aware of the township’s decision to go to arbitration on the police contract – and the township lost. Our police officers need our support as well. They absorbed a $1,000,000 cut last year. The police budget is down to bare bones now. No more cutting.

      I hope residents learn what is at stake and unite in support of adequate police and fire funding this year.

      [Reply]

    4. Where will the paoli library move to when the lease expires in 2016? They should build next to the wachovia bank seeing how those buildings are for sale.

      [Reply]

    5. I would like to suggest that Barbara Morose and anyone else locally who believes that municipal funding not be provided to the fire companies and that we rely solely on donations to contact me at firepolicecaptain@berwynfirecompany.org before propagating support for this idea again.

      As a 10 year Board of Director of the Berwyn Fire Company and former fund raising coordinator for many years, I believe there are many aspects of this thought process that are seriously flawed.

      You should understand why, so please feel free to contact me.

      [Reply]

      Charles from Strafford Reply:

      The Tredyffrin Republican Party line is that donations should fund the fire companies and NOT tax dollars. Go figure, tax dollars being used the right way for a change. Maybe we can put fire funding in the sewer budget because that would make sense. We could call it another FEE increase and not a tax increase. If everything was good for the fire companies then why do they keep speaking up and going to meetings we here about to solve funding problems? Those of us who go to a meeting or watch at home all hear this. I want these men and women to focus on why they signed up – to protect me and you.

      If funding wasn’t CUT last year I am all ears for a correction! I would suggest that the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Republican party face the facts. This is Tredyffrin…your home, your family, your community, your life. Think before you speak.

      The public statements in public and in private by those who have and have not identified themselves as official committee members of the Republican party, minus a select few who can think for themselves and not be afraid of reprisal, are politics at its best. I want to see the REAL Republicans step-up! Stop embarrassing me and the moderates of your Party. Democrats in the Committee IDENTIFY yourselves. You are just as bad when you mask who you are. If ALL of us can’t get together on this issue then we are lost as a community.

      Changing gears does anyone have any additional information on the Paoli Library project? It would be great to see a new library there.

      [Reply]

    6. Mr. Baskin:

      I was at the meeting and that’s not what she said. She urged the community to increase their voluntary financial support of the fire companies, to supplement what the Township provides. Ms. Morose specifically suggested that citizens increase the amount they have given in the past – a great idea, which I have also personally done.

      [Reply]

      Kate Reply:

      Mike, I know you were at the Budget Meeting and heard what Ms. Morose said. So was I. My notes say that she reported she’d increased the amount of her contribution to the fire company this year and encouraged residents to step up their contributio amounts as well.

      Anyone who cares about our community would say the same thing.. But It’s what Ms. Morose said after that – tthat she supported money going “directly to the fire companies” instead of coming indirectly through our tax dollars. She made another comment along the line of “so we can have more control over how the money is spent.”.

      That’s not just an opinion. That’s an ideologiical predisposition. One that many Tredyffrinites do not share.

      Too bad the meeting wasn’t televised.

      But Monday’s BOS meeting was. At it, Paoli Fire Company president, John Beatty reported that the average contribution is $75.00 – received from only 25% of residents and a pathetic 16% of local businesses. Despite twice-annual mailings, the community’s response has not changed much. In the past, Berwyn Fire Co. has reported the same.

      In hard times, I’m sure many families are less likely to increase their giving, regardless of anyone’s well-meaning suggestion. There are too many bills competing for the same dollars these days.

      How can any reasonable person argue that one of the township’s most important responsibilities is to protect its residents and to ensure propoer delivery, these vital services should be funded by our taxes?

      [Reply]

      Mike in Berwyn Reply:

      Kate:

      Whatever your notes say, Ms. Morose did not say that “she felt strongly that tax dollars not be allocated to the fire companies.” That is pure fiction. While you use this myth for political advantage – see the responses above by Mike Baskin and Charles from Strafford – does it bother you at all that you have fabricated this as the position of the Republicans? Ms. Morose (BTW, I did not know she was TTRC vice-Chair) encouraged private donations and, as an advantage over coming indirectly through tax dollars, noted that contributions to the Fire Companies are tax-deductible (actually, if one itemizes deductions, charitable contributions and real estate taxes are both deductible – her comment indicated that she is not clear on that aspect of the tax code).

      You and I agree that private support for the Fire Companies is embarrassingly low, as indicated by Mr. Beatty’s figures. If anything good has come out of the fire funding discussion of the past year, it is that the public should be more aware of the vital importance of their donations. This message needs to continue. As discussed at the meeting, the joint Tredyffrin and Easttown Emergency Services Board is engaged in extensive discussions with the fire companies. JD is quoted in today’s Suburban, “We will be considering strongly going back to 2009 funding levels and all fire departments have requested that. We are making very good progress”.

      [Reply]

      Vallon Reply:

      Does Bill Dehaven have to put you in your place, again? ;)

      And, how comical that you claim ‘not’ to have know Morose’s position as TTRC Vice-Chair.

      Kate Reply:

      Mike,

      I wanted to review my notes and talk to someone who attended Saturday’s meeting before I responded.

      First, I did not claim Ms. Morose said “tax dollars not be allocated to the fire companies.” Read my words. I didn’t say that and didn’t imply it. Neither did I suggest that this is the position of the TTRC. I have no idea what different members of the TTRC think about the township’s obligation to fund our fire/EMT services. – although I do know that last fall several newly elected Republican supervisors publicly supported maintaining 2010 fire funding at the 2009 level, along with Mr. DiBuonaventuro.

      And that Mr. Kampf, then BOS chair, Mr. Lamina and Mr. Olson defended their position that the VOLUNTEER fire companies should have to take a “haircut” just like every other NON-volunteer department in the township.

      And I remember the month-long clamor from supporters of the fire companies, a petition signed by over 500 residents, and the saga of the cardboard check.

      Yes, I do have a strong opinion re our fire companies. In my view, they should not have to spend any additional hours beyond the ones they generously give as volunteers to beg for money from residents and businesses.

      Not one hour.

      Contributions currently make up about 20% of their operating budget but it took many hours and considerable expense to collect them. And the township provides the same amount – 20%.in their annual budget.

      Something’s wrong with this level of taxpayer funding

      Bill De Haven was right. A portion of our property tax should be dedicated for fire/EMT services. It should not be subject to the annual whims of sitting supervisors.

    7. Berwyn Fire Company sends 2 residential fund raising mailers out annually. They receive about a 25% return rate from each. Annually about 30% of all homes donates once. Our average contribution is similar to Paoli’s average. We also send out one business mailer fund drive and receive about 5% return.

      These numbers have been fairly static for the last decade with the exception of late 2001 and early 2002 when 9/11 concepts of emergency services were fresh on people’s minds. This is not a surprise as the noticeable trend is that large scale national and world-wide catastrophic incidents attract people’s wallets. Over the years the fire companies and other local based fund raising has had to compete with the tsunami, hurricane Katrina, earth quakes & oil spills.

      There is certainly no criticism towards anyone who donates to these causes, but the concept is that local fund raising takes a back seat at that time. But if you look at the last decade, almost every other year there is something major pulling at philanthropist minded people. Tie that together with a recessive economy and it’s not a good environment to be relying on donations.

      This is one of the primary reasons I urge people NOT to become focused on donations as a primary point of fire company funding. I view donated money as an unstable, unidentified revenue stream. This not to say it isn’t appreciated, however we are forced to consider this revenue stream as 20% of our annual operating budget. Over 50% of the budget revenue comes from EMS billing which is also unstable and varies based on call volume, pay rates of Medicare and private insurance, etc. 20% comes from two municipal funding sources combined and roughly 10% comes from grants and rental income from our communications tower.

      Our operational budget is $1.5 Million annually to respond to roughly 3000 calls. This does not include the capital required to replace apparatus. This year we will replace our 20+ year old Tower truck at a cost exceeding $900,000. It is very difficult to save for purchases like this, meaning we can not get by with only generating $1.5 million revenue per year as you can’t save for Apparatus replacement with out putting a lot of money away. Most people replace their own cars within 6-8 years because they become unreliable, but we need to keep our fire apparatus for 15-20 years. If we did not receive state relief funding, purchases like this would not be possible.

      These numbers are fact, not fiction. Our books are audited annually. I urge anyone with questions them to learn more about what we do and how we are funded.

      Our annual Open House & Fire Prevention is scheduled for October 15th from 6:30-9:00pm.

      I can be reached at FirePoliceCaptain@BerwynFireCompany.org. You can also find other contact information at our website.

      [Reply]

      Mike in Berwyn Reply:

      Kate:

      Not to quibble, but reread the first sentence of the seventh paragraph of your post on September 20 at 12:28. Referring to Ms. Morose, and identifying her as Vice-Chair of TTRC, you state that, “she felt strongly that tax dollars not be allocated to the fire companies”. That’s a direct quote. And, at least one poster, Charles of Strafford,apparently inferred that is the position of the TTRC.

      Beyond that, Mr. Baskin provides a very useful overview of Berwyn Fire Company’s finances. He states that their fundraising response has been “static for the last decade”, which indicates that it is somewhat consistent and predictable, albeit at a level that, at least in my opinion, could be better. It’s been +/- $300,000/ year from private contributions. And roughly $300,000 from the Townships.

      So I understand, your position is that the Township contribution should be raised to ______? In order to raise the Township’s contribution, the revenue will have to come from somewhere, either higher property taxes or Mr. DeHaven’s dedicated fire tax. Higher taxes on everyone in the Township, including those where, as you describe, “there are too many bills competing for the same dollars these days”?

      My personal choice would be to raise the Township’s contribution back to 2009 levels. That appears likely, based on the comments Saturday from members of the joint Emergency Services Board. That Board has apparently provided a forum for regular communication between the Supervisors and the Fire Companies. The Fire Companies articulate their plans and what they need, and the Board works together to figure out how to make it happen. Beyond that, those who are able, and there are many of us, need to increase our contributions. Finally, we need to continue to educate the public – obviously 70-75% presently don’t contribute and within that group there are many that are able – I firmly believe there are many in the community who still do not understand the vital importance of private contributions.

      [Reply]

      MIke Baskin Reply:

      The % numbers above were rounded for ease of comprehention:

      The budgeted/anticipated mail solicitation income is actually just under $200,000 for 2010. When you add some events and other private contributions, it totals an anticipated $225,000 in fund raising revenue with an approximate $25,000 cost. (cost = postage, printing, event expense) (actually 17% of operational budget)

      Tredyffrin’s operational contribution is $178,724 and Easttown’s is $103,136 for a total of $281,860 for 2010. (actually 19% of operational budget)

      Although I could comment all day on some of the above comments, I refuse to engage in political banter. The only reason this issue is political in nature or partisan in nature is because the community allows it to be. But I think that many of you need to think outside the box. This history dates back a long time.

      When thinking about this, you actually need to REMOVE the financial aspect from this issue to truly understand it. Although this is counter-intuitive to this discussion, things will become much more clear when you do.

      [Reply]

      Andrea Reply:

      To both Mikes — thanks for your thoughts.

      I wonder if some of this isn’t because we consider the funding from the townships to be a “contribution.” Is it possible to shift the concept to a “cost” of services — and that the townships be billed in some way — what is the reference to a “fire tax?” I consider emergency services comparable to police protection (it’s called police and fire protection where I first paid taxes in Dallas). It was a municipal tax based on experience rates….I don’t know, but in reading these comments, I really don’t believe that fire protection and emergency services are something anyone should “contribute” to to keep alive. Pay for the service level required. The concept of Volunteer Fire Companies is probably where the problem starts…just because people donate their time doesn’t mean the service is dependent on generosity. (And this from someone who worked –without any knowledge for sure — with the Plymouth Ambulance embezzler….so I know what the volunteer vs. for profit mentality is)

      [Reply]

      Mike in Berwyn Reply:

      My word choice, “contribution”, might be poor – not intended to imply that the Township’s funding is an act of charity. Maybe, Mike Baskin’s “revenue streams” is a better phrase for the Townships’ funding.

      Kate Reply:

      Mike,
      You are correct regarding my quote, which is missing a word I it thought I included – directly- and misrepresents what Morose said. I believe she mentioned that there are administrative costs when the township budgets for the fire companies, but not when the money is given DIRECTLY to the fire companies. I dispute that. There are administrative expenses in both cases. And as you mentioned. both property taxes and charitable contributions are tax deductibe

      Berwyn Fire Co’s Fire Police Captain Mike Baskin focuses the discussion where it needs to be. It’s not about how much comes form which source. It’s about how we think about our community’s essential services. What value do they have? Who benefits and who is responsible for making sure ithey can operate safely?

      From that perspective, it should never be a matter of bargaining (begging) each year or expecting the fire companies to put together annual budgets based on multiple, unpredictable revenue streams.

      [Reply]

      Mike in Berwyn Reply:

      Kate:

      I appreciate you being big enough to admit your error. Further, while I agree with Ms. Morose’s basic premise, encouraging private donations, her supporting points re administrative expenses and deductibility were weak.

      Not suggesting that the Fire Companies beg, or bargain, and hopefully the joint T/E Emergency Services Board, which includes Supervisors and representatives of the Fire Companies, provides a forum for mutual understanding.

    8. Thank you for the additional detail, Mike – that is helpful. Understanding that there are many non-financial aspects to the Fire Companies matter, the discussion here has been as a followup to the Budget Workshop and Tredyffrin finances. Within that realm, my first response to a financial need is not a tax increase – others here apparently differ.

      [Reply]

    9. I am not familiar with Mr. DeHaven’s suggestion — but I personally would like to see a new “fee” imposed on property owners — independent of the property value — for Emergency Services. Then include the cost of fire protection and emergency services and the police….that way, the fee would rise in direct proportion to the costs of that service. They are largely “negotiated” (police) and fixed based on volume. Every resident is equally in need — and every resident expects a call to 911 to result in a response. I would hope that it would be tax deductible like taxes….and forego any fundraising for the EMT services…what would it take to get this into the discussion?

      [Reply]

    10. Mike, Mike, Sarah & Kate,

      As an outsider to this discussion who came into it late, I find one thing very interesting. You all agree in one way or another that higher, more secure funding is deserved by the fire company. You simply disagree with the method.

      I will add another thought. Perhaps our tax money is already enough to adequately fund the fire company, but it is just a matter of how the tax money is currently distributed. I might argue that if priorities changed the allocation of the tax dollars, then this issue would change.

      Then, you reach a point where vital services are adequately funded. And things like parks and recreation and libraries that are NICE to have can bear the burden of debates over higher taxes rather then things that we NEED to have like fire, police, infrastructure.

      [Reply]

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