John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
What Residents Would Cut From Proposed 2021 Budget

Many Newtown Township residents were understandably upset about the proposed Newtown Township Preliminary 2021 Budget, which includes a 133% increase in municipal property tax. For the average Newtown Twp homeowner that translates to an ADDITIONAL $200 to $300 per year paid in taxes to the township [calculate your increase here] .

That version of the budget included many new and increased expenditures for personnel, services, and capital improvements. The chart below attached shows a list of new expenditures in the budget that could have been cut in order to reduce the tax increase.

Survey Results

John Mack's "Budget Cut Survey" asked respondents to select items in the preliminary budget they would be willing to cut in order to reduce or eliminate the proposed tax increase. The list of items to cut includes many – but NOT all – of the expenditures in the originally proposed preliminary budget. A total of 128 responses were collected. 

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

NOTE: A final budget that included a few of the above cuts to spending was approved by a 3-2 vote at the 22 December 2020, Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting. Voting for this budget were Dennis Fisher, John Mack, and David Oxley. Voting against were Phil Calabro and Kyle Davis. See "What Expenses Were Actually Cut" at the end of this post for the list of cuts that were made in final approved budget.

Personnel Cuts

Many respondents felt it is not appropriate to increase salaries and add new personnel given the current situation where many people have been furloughed, laid off, or taken pay cuts.

Selected* Comments Regarding Personnel
  • “A 3% salary increase should not happen. If the budget is that tight people will understand that there is no money.”
  • “Eliminate hire of 2 out of 3 new police officers. Hire an assistant TWP Manager to do economic development, especially grants.”
  • “During this Covid pandemic I believe there should be an even lower salary increase to staff of 1 1/2 % Police and firefighters should remain at 3%.”
  • “Other municipalities are NOT raising taxes in this difficult year with many unemployed and not receiving usual bonuses and raises. Why should Newtown be different while not considering how we will be able to pay our taxes?”
  • “This budget is for only one year. It’s been like no other years in our life time. We don’t know what will come next year. So wait a year. Food prices are up, auto and homeowners insurance are up. It not about a cup of coffee price. That is disrespectful. There Are lot of people are without jobs. This seems more political than a justification. You all know there is a big Bill coming to pay for the effects of Wuhan Covid 19 down this road.”
  • “You did not include the choice of not hiring 1 of the 3 additional police officers. I would vote for that.”
  • “If the police force in Newtown covers more than the town of Newtown , those others should bear the burden. Newtown township has been growing since the 1980’s and this jump is way too much.”
  • “Limit pay increase of Township Manager to 5%.”
  • “I'm ok with small raises across the board but feel there does not need to be any new hires in this budget year. If things improve by next fiscal year, I'm onboard to reevaluate need. In addition, no issue per se with supporting promotion(s) within the Police department however if that creates a situation that additional officer positions are needed to backfill than again I'd say please hold off this fiscal year and reconconsider need in FY2021.”
  • “Freeze everything until pandemic ends. Institute a one time increase of $100 per property until economy strengthens.”
  • “Everyone MUST tighten our belts, the Township must scale everything back. No new hires unless as a replacement for key personnel. Take a deep breath and the property tax increase must not be anymore than 3% if that is what we are raising taxes to for raises.”
  • “How can you even consider hiring an assistant township manager. If he feels overworked I'm certain there would be many in line to take his place. Likewise- no need for another zoning director when we are financially under stress.”
  • “I don't think it's appropriate to continue increasing the tax burden when revenue is down. We should be looking for cuts at this time not spending more.”
  • “All employees should start contributing to their health benefits. If they're not all ready if they are we should raise the amount. If not we should start with 1.5% of their salary going towards their health plan.”
  • “Is our police force overworked? Are we paying a lot of overtime?”
  • “This is an usual year. Limiting raises and a hiring freeze for new positions is responsible economics. Promotions should continue, but not with a back fill. Hopefully it is a 1 year issue allowing for income taxes to come back.”
  • “3% is generous since retries, only got 1.5%, Why not freeze salaries for on year.? Promotion freeze for all employees for one year.”
  • “Limit staff salary increases to 1%. Many residents have taken salary cuts this year.”
  • “3% raises are very fair in todays environment in my view. Overall recommend no hiring of new position(s) for assistant township manager, FT Director of Zoning and police officers at this time. We appear to be adequately staffed especially in the police officer ranks with 26 full time officers. There is the salary concern but also significant benefits costs for these positions that personally I question are needed at this time.”
  • “Replacement of retiring officers should continue to maintain the size of our force. Look to combine Borough and Township officers.”
  • “What is the justification for more police officer? The crime blotter says it all drunk drivers, and shoplifting( start charging businesses for more the 10 calls a year).”
  • “Limit all salary increases to the rate of inflation for 2020. Hire no one for anything, promote by title only without pay bump, no increase in spending whatsoever except that required contractually or due to extreme emergency.”
  • “Salary increases in the this current time is unacceptable when there are people furloughed and down sized due to the pandemic. Do with what you have for at least the time being. The next few years we’ll be better able to ascertain what’s really needed to keep the township afloat and sustainable. Now is definitely not the time to increase taxes!”
  • “We have all had to tighten our belts considerably during the pandemic. The least our township leaders can do is the same. Maybe have a look at Middletown Township’s budget. They don’t seem to have the same problems... Newtown Township Supervisors better realize this is not an inner city location and stop the fear-mongering when it comes to police protection.”
  • “Eliminate the pay increase and tax mileage associated with the fire chief who already collects a police pension. Eliminate the asst Twp manager and code enforcement jobs. Want to protect your citizens? Eliminating needed public safety jobs is not the way to do it! And stop listening to Rob Ciervo whose past solution was to lay off staff.”
  • “I feel we need to see how our spending is and see how we can balance the budget better then trying to find away to spend more and tax the people of Newtown township.”

Find more comments from residents here...

Cuts to Services

I was surprised that many respondents were OK with cutting parks & rec and road paving services, but NOT public works services (e.g., fixing potholes). However, a significant percentage did not agree with any of the proposed cuts in services.

Selected* Comments Related to Cuts in Services
  • “Road paving and repairs need to be done. It's an expense that only grows if you don't keep up with it. Consider hard evaluation of the Parks and Rec programs and trim where you can (e.g. if the programs are not self sustaining then I feel should consider reductions).”
  • “The roads need to be taken care of I personally spent over $600 on potholes that have been there forever.”
  • “Road repairs should be increased.”
  • “Since we are in a pandemic the situation should be handled similar to the private sector. Freeze spending and approve funding for mission critical priorities. The board seems to have the belief that the pandemic should their means to grow the tax burden on its constituents.”
  • “In addition think about ways to raise revenue through use fees - eg parking, etc.”
  • “Increase cost to participants of summer programs so that it covers costs.”
  • “Only maintenance and repair no large projects.”
  • “Maintenance needs and should be done annually. By delaying it just causes greater expenses down the line therefore I prefer we not cut road repavement or Public works projects in general. Parks and Rec expenses should be tied to participation of residents to the programs so that will work itself out.”
  • “Now is not the time to increase expenses in non-important items (to me at least and a majority of taxpayers as I’ve seen) like Parks and Recreation expenses. A year or 2 from now would be a better time for review of the non-essential items.”
  • “Look line item by line item keeping only the most essential. Summer programs should be less subsidized and sized to break even or make money instead of paid from taxes when monies are tight.”
  • “One year freeze on expenses for parks, except where necessary for safety.”
  • “Reduce as much spending as possible. All of these things can wait until the economy is on a steady footing.”
  • “Summer camps may still suffer the affects of the pandemic. Indoor programs will be difficult to run. Staff will not be needed like in years past.”

Find more comments from residents here...

Cuts Related to Capital Spending

No surprise that so many respondents felt the police building study was not necessary at this time, although that cut saves only $20,000. But every little bit helps!

Selected* Comments Related to Capital Spending
  • “$20,000 for a survey to see if you need a new building is absolutely absurd. Is proper maintenance performed on all current vehicles.”
  • “Look, we’re in a pandemic. Spending on “new” anything needs to be halted. Vehicles, computers, surveys about new buildings. No. Not this year.”
  • “Assuming computers are needed that usually gets additional efficiencies along with it. I'd support that part. Regarding new vehicles (truck and police vehicles), let's pay necessary maintenance to keep current vehicles operational vs. having a new capital outlay. I would be shocked if the maintenance would exceed $20,000 vs. capital outlay of $125,300 as proposed.”
  • “Purchase of 1-2 vehicles instead of three. New police building not needed.”
  • “I think the township can survive without new vehicles or new anything for a yr or two.”
  • “Replace one police vehicle for 2021.”
  • “These are all unnecessary until we see what is available from grants.”
  • “Not to many years ago essentially the entire Township offices fit into one facility including the police dept offices. Now there's talk of another new police office. Don't see how that can happen.”
  • “Look for low hanging fruit. A lot of little items that get cut will add up to big savings that can be passed along to the Newtown residents by decreasing this ridiculously high increase.”
  • “Technology and cloud virtualization -so technology investments that reduce or automation that reduce cost should be explored.”
  • “Learning the impact of delayed capital purchases for trucks, computers and police cars. Are these truly approaching end of life or can the delay be handled? Pragmatic approach of what is needed not just what is ideal.”
  • “Unless vehicles in place currently are falling apart, pay necessary repair/maintenance as need which has to be far less than new purchases. I've held many a car for 5-8 years and with proper maintenance I've never had an issue. Regarding police vehicles, why only reduce 1 of 3 proposed. Why a need for any at all if we already have some and they can be kept up and maintained versus large capital expenditure for new. Also is lease an option. Why a need to own?”
  • “Vehicles can be maintained at performance levels needed. The new police car purchase’s would be an expensive item (s) that the township doesn’t necessarily need at this time. We are in a fairly peaceful environment whereby there should not be a lot of wear and tear on the police vehicles due to high speed chases, violent car stops, etc.”
  • “Putting off 1 year will not cause any harm to our community. We are all doing this in our homes and we wish we could purchase these items, but our incomes have gone down.”
  • “Cut everything, lock, stock, and barrel.”

Find more comments from residents here...

Selected* General Comments

This is a year where we need to be frugal with our resources. Invest in needed roads, public works, parks, and a community festival perhaps (July 4th, next Christmas time?). Although many of us in Newtown have been lucky to keep our jobs and livelihoods, we cannot forget those in our community for which this has been a tough year. I hope we all practice a frugal generosity in turn. Hope the Board will be privy to the wishes of all residents. Thank you for this survey and opportunity to voice our opinions. 

What the township supervisors need to do ( which I'm pretty confident they have) is to sit down. Look at all the different expenditures and see how much they are spending. Then see if you need a little more for this program compared to this other problem. Pull some funding from one area and put it in another program. That way you eliminate raising taxes but still find what you need funded. Make sure your not spending more then your necessary means.

Reserve should be maintained at 8% or above by reducing discretionary expense increases. The proposed 6.8% reserve is too low and will be difficult to replenish in future years if the cost base is increased in 2021 as proposed.

The expenditures in total should not grow faster than the cost of living index, particularly because of the pandemic driven impact on small businesses and taxpayers in the township. To increase expenditures faster than COL at this moment in time is irresponsible and has the appearance of being self serving to township staff, particularly leadership.

The tax increase could have been framed better. Most people in Newtown understand money so you just need to be reasonable when asking for an increase.

Most people do not realize most of the taxes paid go to the Council Rock School District. They need to look at their staffing, programs and overall expenditures. They have too many administrative non teaching positions which have no impact on student learning.

People need to understand that the Township tax is a small part of their overall property tax bill - which is made up mostly of school taxes. Overall this will be a small percentage increase in the tax. Unfortunately, Republican administrations went for years without increasing the tax, taking money out of reserves, and failing to keep up with rising costs. Now we must do what is necessary to maintain the quality of life and quality of services in Newtown.

You are in a rough situation. I don't believe reserves should be used to cover additional purchases

The new proposed tax increase of 178% is totally absurd how is that even possible. That should never ever be allowed is criminally ripping people off. Never heard of such a high high increase. Why is it all of a sudden happening now? At the worst time in wrong !!

MS4 requirement of seeding is not a deductable expense unless you want to have fines assessed for every year that you do not seed. Also, police salaries, bonuses etc, have to be negotiated with the police unions, so this question is not transparent. Also, we lost a former township manager to another township that paid more in salary. Yet we are asking our township manager to, in effect, over more jobs than he should be, such as zoning enforcement, parks and rec director and former assistant mgr duties. It is not stressed to the public that they might lose this twp mgr if they continue to overburden job expectations and would have to hire three or four people to do the jobs he is now doing!

We have a wonderful state park located in the township and a county park very close by. Do we really need to spend so much money on township parks? Just a thought. If times are as tough as the Democrats say they were in 2020, perhaps we should be tightening the belt across the board to align better with revenues.

Why on earth would our local departments be considering new vehicles, new buildings, hiring more staff...when we are in an economic slump, A PANDEMIC, where spending is not an option for many people at this time. Delaying things for at least a year, maybe longer, is the responsible thing to do. Can we get a few more years out of the current vehicles, computers and buildings?? Are they unsafe for anyone? Please be responsible with our tax dollars. Frivolous spending right now would be unwise.

This is a time of belt tightening for many in the township and across the country. Limited new hires unless critically needed and justified along with maintenance vs. capital purchases/leases make alot of sense to me. As the local economy improves in the coming year, there will be time to review and add if needed.

NO new hires period. No new equipment unless absolutely necessary. I do not care what Kirk said if necessary take money from rainy day fund. If it ain't rain in your home, it sure as hell it is pouring down. Get creative until the sun comes back.

We all are making sacrifices during these hard times and it only makes sense to freeze all township spending during reduced revenue yrs like this one. The companies I work with are laying off and cutting coast anyway they can not spending more. Revenue will return and sensible spending can continue at that time.

I do not oppose the tax hike. I support the township staff increase and services and understand the need for the increase. I feel that the additional $240 that the 158% increase will cost me is worth the additional positions the township will provide. I feel the residents are still under the impression that increase is imposed on their entire property tax bill as well as their school tax bill and need to be educated.

I would like for the township to concentrate on needed services like police, fire, EMT, road repair, etc., not necessarily parks and recreation programs and hiring of new staff and expensive equipment which can wait for a more healthy, normal environment and time. Deal with the essentials for now, not the fairytales and Unicorns!

What world do these people operate in that they believe it makes sense to increase the tax burden on residents when households are afraid of losing their jobs.

The new proposed tax increase of 178% is totally absurd how is that even possible. That should never ever be allowed is criminally ripping people off. Never heard of such a high high increase. Why is it all of a sudden happening now? At the worst time in wrong !!

1. In the proposed budget letter, there was claims stating that township has suffered from lower income tax revenue which leads to shortage of funds and the need to increase tax. However, it was also stated in March, April and May the income tax fell below the projected, which was in fact due to township allowing residents to defer the tax payment until later in the year. And in September the taxes have been historical high. Therefore, there was no evidence to support the assumption that the income taxes will be lower for next year and to justify the increase of property tax. 2. What's the park& recreation budget for 2019, 2020 and 2021? What portion of this is funded by the grant contribution and how much was from the township?

Similar to those who experience financial issues the township should not continuing with business as usual. Possible capital outlays and increases for salaries, similar to the commercial world, have to be considered not just say taxes increased when the populace is facing an unusually tough year.

Our opposition to this spending is not to say that these things are not important, but 178% increase when our incomes have decreased is a hard pill to swallow. If our healthcare is cut due to Supreme Court Affordable Care Act reversal, I don’t know how we will make ends meet.

I have repeatedly asked for, and not received, an explanation as to why we need a new dump truck, and why we need more police officers and more police equipment. No explanation was ever offered. Instead, supervisors said these weren't large components of the tax increase. As a baseline position, Newtown supervisors should not be raising taxes in the middle of a global pandemic which affects every citizen in the township. Any request for increase should be accompanied by clear justification as to why the money needs to be sent in the short term.

This proposed budget is absolute insanity. Democrats already have a reputation for raising taxes, deserved or undeserved. Don't raise taxes and play into the republican narrative. It took a long time to get control of the board and I guarantee you that if taxes are raised, we will lose, and the voters will have no one to blame but those who vote for it. I have never voted for an R for anything in my life, but if someone runs on the basis of not raising my property taxes, (the SALT deduction for which is now extremely limited to $10,000), I will vote for them regardless of party affiliation. Thanks for surveying our the opinions of the average citizen John, my best as always.

Reserve should be maintained at 8% or above by reducing discretionary expense increases. The proposed 6.8% reserve is too low and will be difficult to replenish in future years if the cost base is increased in 2021 as proposed.

It’s ridiculous that an increase is even being proposed. I look forward to voting against each BOS in their next elections.

Find more comments from residents here...

*Some redundant comments are not included in the lists.

What Expenses Were Actually Cut

The final APPROVED budget includes a 3.99 mill increase in Newtown property taxes, which is a decrease of 2 mills from the preliminary budget. That works out to be about $160 per year increase for the average homeowner. The total 2021 Newtown property tax will be 8.49 mills or about $340 per year for the average homeowner. [calculate your increase here]

The following expenses were cut:

Eliminate hiring of new Director of Zoning & Code Enforcement. 65% of survey respondents chose that as an item to cut. Estimated savings: $40,000

Reduce the Road Program by $50,000. Although a high percentage (47%) of survey respondents were happy with cutting $280,000 from the road program. The majority of supervisors felt it was important to continue to pave at least 3-4 miles of roads every year.

Eliminate New police building study. This was "no-brainer."  84% of survey respondents chose that as an item to cut. Estimated savings: $20,000

Reduce new police vehicles from 3 to 2.  73% of survey respondents chose that as an item to cut. Estimated savings: $56,667


Note: The budget is just a plan for spending. The township will still have the option to spend money on any of the following items with, however, approval of the Board of Supervisors at a public meeting.

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