John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Budget Category

Supervisors Weigh in on Tax Increase

"It's never popular to raise taxes."

That’s how Newtown Township Supervisor Jen Dix prefaced her comments regarding the passage of the 2018 Budget at the January 24, 2018, Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting.

The budget includes two new taxes: 0.55 mills for fire hydrant maintenance and 0.45 mills for the Newtown Ambulance Rescue Squad (read “Newtown Ambulance Squad Seeks Additional Funding”). That brings the total millage to 4.5 for 2018.

The chart above compares the 2018 property tax millage of Newtown Township to several other local municipalities each of which - like Newtown - has a 1% Earned Income Tax (EIT).

“I think our goal going forward is to keep our property taxes as low as possible,” said Ms. Dix, “but also use common sense about how we are spending our money and investing in the community.”

Kyle Davis, who cast the single nay vote, commented that “we need to keep vigilant and fight extra hard to keep it were it is and not catch up with our neighbors.”

Speaking of catching up, Supervisor John Mack stated that he was “very appreciative of the fact that we are giving more money to the Newtown Ambulance Squad [NAS], which is something we really do need to do in order to catch up with our neighbors.” Evan Resnikoff, NAS Chief of Operations, said the Squad’s paramedics on average earn $3.75 per hour below market rate for Bucks County and EMTs average $4.00 per hour below market rate. Mack pointed out that NAS “must be competitive to survive. For me that’s a no-brainer.”

Putting a Bandaid on a Bullet Hole

Chairman Phil Calabro gave the audience a bit of a history lesson. “A budget does not go bad over night,” said Calabro. He pointed out that for the past eleven years the budget has been dwindling and at one point the reserve fund was almost empty. He spoke of assets that had to be sold to balance the budget even though the assets generated income every year. He spoke of occasions when the Township could not make payroll!

“For the past 10 or 12 years they [the previous Board majority members] have been putting a bandaid on a bullet hole!,” Calabro said. 

Calabro noted that by having dedicated taxes for the ambulance squad and fire hydrant fund, the Township will be getting back about $300,000 into the General Fund to be used for much needed projects and maintenance, such as the purchase of a new dump truck for snow plowing, repair of the Police station roof, upgrading Veterans Park, and other improvements.

“If we don’t stop the bleeding,” said Calabro, some day will be forced to “catch up” with other local municipalities with much higher Millage rates.

You can listen to all the comments made by Supervisors by viewing the video below:

Posted on 01 Feb 2018, 01:57 - Category: Budget

Newtown Ambulance Squad Seeks Additional Funding

Asks for Return to EMS Millage

Evan Resnikoff, Chief of Operations, Newtown Ambulance Squad, presented the Squad’s Annual Report at the October 11, 2017 Newtown Township Board of Supervisors meeting.

Resnikoff compared funding of the Newtown Squad to funding of neighboring municipality ambulance squads. Lower Makefield Township, for example, provides $248,000 in annual funding for its ambulance squad, which averages 1500 calls per year compared to an estimated 2600 for Newtown’s Squad. Currently, the Newtown squad receives 25% of Local Services Taxes, which for 2017 is estimated to be $490,000 – the squad would receive about $123,000 of that.

About 90% of the squad’s revenue comes from fee for services (see Figure 1, below). Resnikoff reported that the Squad has $74,000 in collectibles for the period of January through August, 2017, due to the fact that patients are not turning over checks they receive from insurance companies. In general, the squad collects only about 60 cents of every dollar billed.

Figure 1. 2016 Revenue Sources for Newtown Ambulance Squad

When Resnikoff revealed that the response to opioid calls was up 58% in the first 8 months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, the audience let out an audible gasp! This adds a significant cost to the healthcare system including EMS because greater than 80% of these patients have no insurance and cannot pay the fees.

Resnikoff said the Squad’s Paramedics on average earn $3.75 per hour below market rate for Bucks County and EMTs average $4.00 per hour below market rate. These first responders have not been given base hourly rate raises since December 2015. These hourly wage levels have made it challenging to recruit for open positions, resulting in more overtime hours to fill open shifts.

Resnikoff suggested “going back to the EMS millage” instead of a percentage of the Local Services tax, which varies from year to year. The maximum allowable would be 0.5 mill. That would generate about $172,000 of funding for the squad in 2018.

[Updated on 14 December 2017] Mr. Evan Resnikoff re-iterated his plea for an EMS tax millage at the December 13, 2017 Newtown Township Board of Supervisors meeting. The proposed 2018 budget was the main issue before the board at this meeting (read "BOS Approves Publication of Preliminary 2018 Budget"). See video below.


Posted on 14 Dec 2017, 14:08 - Category: Budget

BOS Approves Publication of Preliminary 2018 Budget

On November 21, 2017, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved the publication of the Preliminary 2018 Budget. You can find a PDF version of this budget here.

The budget does NOT include a 2 mill property tax increase for the general fund proposed in the version presented to the BOS on 16 October 2017 by Township Manager, Kurt Ferguson (read "Newtown Township Manager Proposes Tax Increase").

It does include, however, a 0.45 mill new tax specifically earmarked for the ambulance squad and a 0.55 mill new tax specifically for fire hydrant maintenance.

The estimated new income from these taxes is $147,239 and $185,000, respectively. In the previous version, these expenses were paid through the general fund. By implementing new taxes to cover these expenses the Township will save approximately $305,000 (previously, $120,000 from the general fund was allocated to the Ambulance Squad and $185,000 for fire hydrants).

Note that with the new tax, the ambulance squad will receive approximately $27,000 in additional funding to cover increasing expenses due to increased call volume. It will also help the squad maintain staff with competitive salaries. The Squad had sought a 0.5 mill tax increase to cover these expenses. For more about that, read “Newtown Ambulance Squad Seeks Additional Funding”.

October 17, 2017, Budget Meeting Video


Also read this article:

 

Posted on 01 Dec 2017, 12:40 - Category: Budget

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