John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Residents Propose Cuts to the 2022 Budget

The Hung Budget

The Preliminary 2022 Budget has been "hung"; i.e., advertised to the public, which has 20 days to review the details.

In this revised version of the previously "recommended" budget, the 1.5 mill tax increase has been eliminated and money reallocated from the General Fund reserve will go into the Fire Protection Fund.  As a result, the reserve fund will drop to an historic low of 8.6% of expenditures.

Cuts to this budget can still be made in order to get the reserve fund up to a reasonable level to cover unanticipated expenses

This survey asks respondents to select the cuts they would support in order to maintain fire protection while ensuring an adequate reserve fund for unanticipated expenses without dipping further into the General Fund. The list of items to cut in this survey includes many – but NOT all – of the expenditures in the preliminary budget. 

Your opinion matters!

After taking the survey, you'll be able to see a real-time summary of the results collected to date. To protect the anonymity of respondents, open-ended responses (i.e., comments) are not included.

A summary of the survey results - including comments - as of November 3, 2021, is presented below. 

DISCLAIMER: This is not an official Newtown Township Survey. It’s purpose is solely to inform John Mack, a Newtown Supervisor, of your opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.

The Questions & Responses

To get a better idea of what is in the recommended budget, see Summary of the 2022 Budget Presentation and 18 October 2021 Meet Mack Monday Zoom Meeting. For each category you can choose "Make none of the above cuts" or "I have no opinion one way or the other."

Personnel Cuts
  • Eliminate hiring a new Deputy Fire Chief (annual salary = $75,000, not including benefits; see Miscellaneous Cuts)
  • Eliminate hiring a consultant to provide part-time zoning & code enforcement services (save $51,000, page 8 of budget)
  • Eliminate hiring of 1 additional police officer (save $65,874, not including benefits)
  • No promotion of supervisors within the Police Department (save $12,882, not including benefits)
Personnel Cuts: Results as of November 19, 2021. N = 82
Some Comments Regarding Personnel

If not done within the last 5 years, initiate an organizational and staffing study to benchmark Newtown Township's organizational structure, staffing levels, compensation (salary, benefits, bonus compensation) levels and strategy to similar-sized public entities in similar market areas to establish market reference points that Township leadership can use to drive organization, staffing and compensation discussions and budget planning. If a study like this has been done within the last 5 years, then determine current market reference points for salaries/compensation are and use those to determine salary adjustments.

Why eliminate only cut 1 police officer position. We a a sleepy bedroom community, not inner city Philadelphia. Crime is near non existent fortunately. Why do we feel we need more personnel. What are the stats to back it up? Also, are new trucks and cars truly needed? Maintenance is much less expensive option if available.

I'm not educated enough to make this decision at this moment, as I'm sure most people are not. I would have to know why these expenditures are not offset by the new taxes being brought in from all the new businesses in Newtown.

I am a senior who will be 90 in a few months. I cannot afford an increase in my real estate tax.

Cut, cut, then go back and cut some more head count. Administration is bloated. Time to pink slip some people in that building, particularly those that don't live hear, pay taxes here or spend their money here. No salary increases period until spending is under control. Replace the township manager with a smarter, more fiscally responsible, more tax resistant option. Cut spending across the board and lower taxes! This township spends well beyond our means and the solution is always "Let's raise taxes!". We need their money more than they do. Meanwhile the taxpayers are footing the bill for all of this waste and abuse. It's got to end and the sooner the better. We deserve better, more responsible leadership, that understands the importance of low taxes and minimal head count. Those salaries and benefits are killing the budget more than anything else.

It might also make sense to limit non-union salary increases to 1% for 2022; not sure what impact that would have on the budget—or on the employees.

Do not use surrounding townships tax structure nor spending plans to try and justify increasing taxes and spending in Newtown Twp.

Capital Spending Cuts
  • Reduce number of new police vehicles purchased (currently, 3 are proposed; save $182,000 if all are eliminated)
  • Eliminate Financed purchase of police body cameras* (save $50,000 per year over 5 years)
  • Eliminate two new truck purchases for Public Works Department (saves $39,327 per year over 4-5 years if both eliminated)
  • Eliminate purchase of one Parks and Recreation pickup truck (saves $9,200 per year over 4 years)
  • Eliminate Police Department Facilities Study to assess current and future building needs; save $20,000)
  • Eliminate purchase of new Admin/Finance/Codes Software (save $31,650 per quarter over 12 quarters)
Capital Spending Cuts: Results as of November 19, 2021. N = 82
Some Comments Regarding Capital Spending

How about one new truck for Public Works vs 2?

An overarching question: Do we utilize a Capital Planning process that ranks and prioritizes proposed purchased like those on the list above and then fits those into an overall budget that prioritizes essential services, maintenance of critical infrastructure and discretionary spending (parks, recreation, etc.) and fits within our current funding (tax) strategy? Are the items above considered discretionary spending while other, potentially lower-priority items involving parks and recreation, etc. might avoid scrutiny? Based on the answer to this and the preceding questions, I would hold off on the addition of capital items that will bring along future (and possibly perpetual) operating and maintenance costs, lest we just continue to add to the revenue requirements that lead to higher taxes.

Suggest reducing to 2 police cars and 1 Public works truck for savings of 60,000 and 15,000 roughly

Park and rec doesn’t need a pickup truck when you have an extra Dodge Charger collecting dust in the fire department. Codes doesn’t need new software.

With inflation hitting all taxpayers, it’s important to see what we can postpone vs essential. Some items in the budget are “nice to haves” but in the current economic climate I think we need to be realistic.

Cut everything. No new spending and cut spending from last year's bloated mess of a budget.

Could we cut the PW trucks to one instead of 2? Are we getting good, long life out of the vehicles? And can we find a software platform that costs less than $380K? Because you know it will be obsolete in three years....

I also feel that elimination of the multitude of new vehicle purchases is necessary. The mils increase needs to be eliminated. We've had increases for several years now. Everyone is feeling the pinch of higher prices and the board of supervisors must restrain themselves with spending.

See November 10, 2021, Bills List, Page 5: PLATELOGIQ for POLICE VEHICLE CAMERAS: $ 8,400.00. If we have vehicle cameras, why also body cameras? Also, before committing to spend this money, perhaps the township should first apply for a Department of Justice grant. This is what Doylestown did five years ago.

Miscellaneous Cuts

NOTE: The following cuts were part of the survey prior to the hanging of the preliminary budget, which no longer includes the 1.5 Mill tax increase. Consequently, these iems were removed from the current version of the survey.

  • Reduce the 2022 road program funding (budget anticipates $530,000 liquid fuels contribution, plus $300,000 from the General Fund; in 2020 2.8 miles of roads were repaved, 2.07 miles in 2021, 3.56 miles in 2022; we need to pave 3.6 miles per year just to preserve the status quo condition of our 71 miles of roads)
  • Eliminate or reduce the tax increase of 1.5 mills proposed in the Fire Protection Fund most of which will go to pay $330,000 to the Newtown Fire Association with the "anticipation that the NFA will enhance their volunteer incentive program to ensure adequate volunteer coverage for weekends and holidays." 
Miscellaneous Cuts: Preliminary Results as of November 7, 2021. N = 75
Some Comments Regarding Miscellaneous Items

Maintaining our roads, along with police and fire protection, seems like some of the most key 'essential services' (assuming repaving every foot of road every 20 years on average is a legitimate planning metric for our area) and should be funded accordingly--if not exactly annually, then at least on a 5 year rolling average basis) The second bullet reads like paying for a 'volunteer' fire department. Is that where we are now? Seems like a slippery slope. If we don't do it, will we lose our volunteers? Is there evidence to support that vs. some other less costly way to recognize our volunteers to retain them?

Would like to reduce the tax increase related to NFA but not eliminate.

Sounds like you need more details in the Fire Protection Fund item before a recommendation can be made

We don't need any more services if it means more taxes. In fact, reduce services and reduce taxes. People don't move here for more services or for higher taxes. They move here because we had a good school system, a history of low taxes and responsible spending. Unfortunately we lost those virtues with bad appointments and poor representation on the boards.

I know we desperately need firefighter volunteers, but am not sure it's a problem we can throw money at...

Additional Comments

Please do not make any budget cuts to the parks & rec. The restroom facilities need to remain open. What occurred during COVID having them locked while events where held at our parks was unacceptable. Whoever thought it was a great idea to put a porta potty as healthier / safer COVID solution has apparently never used one.

Police should charge business for more then 2 visits per quarter.

Some of the numbers (for vehicles, consulting, software) seemed very high. Are vendors taking advantage because a municipality is writing the check? Are we doing competitive bidding to get the best value?

There needs to be government consolidation between Newtown Towship and Borough. The overlaps are not sustainable over time and other municipalities have solved for these challenges in PA and NJ where similar situations exist in these postage stamp communities.

The proposed tax increase is not large, maybe $50 for the average home. The Township is affluent and provides services I am unwilling to cut. I am willing to pay for these services. Look around at what people are already paying for- this is less than a haircut or a pizza every few weeks. And I resent strongly painting a picture of a large tax increase of 18% which gives the impression that our overall tax (Town, County and School) will be 18% higher. In truth, our Township fire tax will go up.

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The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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