22 June 2021 Finance Committee Meeting
On June 22, 2021, the Newtown Township Finance Committee (NTFC) had its first LIVE meeting at the Newtown Township public meeting room in over a year! Aside from the Committee members (Shelley Howland, Dick Weaver, Vince Alferi, and Matthew McCullough), residents George Sklandany (a member of the Economic Development Committee) and Elen Snyder, who is also a candidate for Newtown Supervisor this year (2021).
Agenda items discussed include:
- Report from Township Supervisor liaison Dennis Fisher: American Rescue Plan. A discussion on the possible uses for the COVID-19 Relief funds, which will total over $2 million. (Background: How Should Newtown Spend COVID-19 Relief Money?)
- Budget Process: A lively discussion on the roles of the Finance Committee in determining how and when it will be able to advise on 2022 budgeting priorities.
- Other items discussed include: Accounting software update, Cable Franchise Agreement, and upgrading the public meeting room audio visual equipment and communications technology. These all speak to adding budget items or spending COVID-19 Relief funds.
The following short edited audio snippets from the meeting are what I consider a good representation of the major points made during the two-hour meeting.
COVID-19 Relief Fund Discussion
The NTFC continued its discussion of possible uses for the $2.005 million in American Rescue Plan's COVID-19 Relief Funds the township expects to receive over the next two years. Various suggestions were put forward. In the end, the consensus was that no decision on spending this month should be made in 2021 so that there is time to do adequate research and so as not to complicate the 2022 budget process, which was also discussed at this meeting.
Uses of PEG Grant Money
The NTFC also continued its discussion of possible uses for PEG (Public, Educational, and Governmental) grants from cable companies. Under federal law, PEG Fees may only be used for capital costs associated with PEG access facilities and equipment. One possible use is to upgrade the "antiquated" equipment used by the township. Also discussed was the possibility of competitive bidding to find a new contractor to provide cable AND streaming video of important public meetings.
Starting Budget Process Earlier
The last 70-80 minutes of the meeting was consumed by a discussion of how the NTFC can advise the township on budget priorities. A major issue discussed was the fact that the FC cannot see the preliminary budget before September at which time it is too late to change priorities. A case was also made to have department heads discuss THEIR priorities in a public forum with input from the FC very early in the process before the preliminary budget is presented to the Board of Supervisors. This is just a shortened snippet from the rather contentious discussion.