As a taxpayer and an audience member at last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, I expected to have a copy of the final 2013 budget prior to the vote. According to BOS Chair Michelle Kichline and Township Manager Bill Martin, they were working on the final budget until the last minutes and ran out of time to have copies available.
The proposed budget for 2013 had indicated a 5.5% tax increase – the final version brought the tax increase down to 3.1%. Without a copy of the revised budget, it was difficult to know where the changes had occurred. The Finance Director Tim Klarich explained that differences from the proposed to final budget was due to a variety of adjustments. Martin ran through the changes quickly, making it hard to follow without a copy of the budget. One adjustment in the 2013 budget has the elimination of one full-time library position. It was offered that the changes in the final budget were minor from the proposed budget – if they were ‘minor’, then I really do not understand why copies of the changes could not have been available.
Prior to casting their vote, each supervisor offered a statement. Mike Heaberg, Phil Donohue, Michelle Kichline and Kristen Mayock voted in favor of the budget with the tax increase, explaining that it was fiscally responsible. Although the average increase to taxpayers in the 2013 budget, according to Kichline, is about $16, EJ Richter stated the increase would be $35 and would not vote for the budget with a tax increase. Paul Olson also voted against the budget, citing the tax increase. John DiBuonaventuro’s vote against the budget but his reason was specific to the decreased staffing of the police department.
Tredyffrin Township Police Department currently has 40 uniformed police officers, although there were 47 officers listed in the 2012 budget. The police operations study by ICMA ($49K consulting contract) indicated a minimum of 43 uniformed officers were required maintain the safety of the community. At the December 3 BOS meeting, Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo had requested that the Board consider reinstating ‘47’ officers in the 2013 budget. However, there are only 42 uniformed officers listed in the 2013 budget.
Again, I have to ask, what was the value of the $49K consulting study? The most important element of the report would be how many officers are required to maintain safety in the community. According to the consultants report the absolute minimum is 43 uniformed officers to maintain current safety levels – actually the 43 number assumed scheduling changes. Without the scheduling changes, the consultants recommended 45 uniformed officers.
Bottom line, why spend $49K to have consultants do a study if you are not going to use the results? How much more per taxpayer would it cost to add a few more police? If the average tax increase is $16 for 2013, I think most of us would gladly pay a few more dollars to maintain the level of safety. In light of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy, the last area of the budget that needs to be cut is the police department. I am all for being fiscally responsible, but the police department needs to be adequately staff. To be clear, the 2013 township budget cuts police staffing from 47 uniformed police officers to 42 officers. And just think, it wasn’t that long ago that Tredyffrin Township had 50+ uniformed officers!
It should also be noted that those two additional uniformed police officers in the 2013 budget will not be hired until there is a contract settlement between the township and the police union. As of now, the arbitration continues without any indication of a settlement date!
The Board of Supervisors passed the 2013 township budget, 4-3 with a 3.1% tax increase (and a decrease in the number of uniformed police officers.)