Duly advertised in The Pottstown Mercury and posted at www.schuylkilltwp.com
The Schuylkill Township Board of Supervisors held their first budget workshop on October 24, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. at the Township hall. Members of the Board present were Mr. Mark Donovan, Ms. Susan Guerette, Ms. Martha Majewski, Mr. James Morrisson and Mr. Fred Parry. Also present were the Township Manager, Mr. E.J. Mentry, the Township Secretary, Ms. Madeline Harbison, the Township Accounting Administrator, Ms. Susan Foster, and the Schuylkill Township Chief of Police, Mr. James Fetterman. Ms. Majewski chaired the meeting.
The budget workshop was called to order at 6:35 p.m.
Supervisor Majewski asked the Township Manager to present the draft 2020 budget.
2020 Budget Overview – Mr. Mentry presented the Board with a first draft of a balanced budget. The budget is very conservative and at present has a $900,000 carryover. The purpose of tonight’s review is to solicit input from the Board on certain items in order to present a final draft proposed budget at the November 6, 2019 Board meeting for approval to advertise. Supervisor Morrisson questioned whether changes could be made after advertising the budget. Mr. Mentry reminded the Board that adjustments of up to 10% of the total budget may be made after advertising.
The overall 2020 General Fund draft budget is $8,066,053.47. This is a significant increase from 2019 due to a number of grant awards the Township is projecting to receive in 2020 as well as increased costs for the Township’s traffic impact study, major MS4/NPDES mandates, vehicle replacements and fire company support.
Receipts: Discussion ensued regarding franchise fees, bank interest income and escrow accounts. Supervisor Donovan expressed concern about the carryover line item amount and questioned what tax increase percentage would be needed to bring the carryover to zero. Mr. Mentry responded that it would be about a 47% increase in Township property taxes.
Expenditures: Discussion ensued regarding newsletter and event postcard mailings. Supervisor Guerette requested that the line items for newsletters and event postcards be cut, stating that with the Township’s new Facebook presence and website, these were no longer needed. Supervisor Guerette asked for an explanation of the Act 537 Plan Update line item. Mr. Mentry advised the Board that under the 1966 Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act (Act 537, as amended), municipalities are required to develop and implement comprehensive official sewage plans that address existing sewage disposal needs or problems; account for future land development; and provide for future sewage disposal needs of the entire municipality. The township’s 537 Plan is in need of updating and grants will be pursued to fund the process. Supervisor Donovan suggested that reserve funds might be tapped for this project as well rather than using General Fund monies. The Trails and Sidewalks Construction line item indicates an expenditure of $1,113,464. This will not be expended until the Township receives word that the grant currently being pursued for this project has been awarded. Discussion ensued regarding the Police Department expenditures budget. Supervisor Guerette suggested that savings could be made by reducing shift coverage and achieving officer staffing reduction by attrition. Several minor Police Department line items cuts were requested by Supervisors Guerette and Donovan. The Board questioned the 40% increase to the Township’s contribution to the fire company operating expenses. The Township Manager explained this was the amount requested by the Valley Forge Volunteer Fire Company which is citing increased costs and lack of sufficient volunteer resources. The Board agreed that a major increase in operations funding could not be made until the Township reviewed the fire company’s audited financial statements, and requested the fire company operations contribution amount in the draft 2020 budget be reduced to $220,000, which still represents a ten percent (10%) increase in the Township’s contribution from the 2019 appropriation. Supervisor Majewski questioned the General Fund contributions to the Municipal Complex Fund and the Capital Roads Fund and suggested that these contributions cease. The Township Manager explained that significant repairs are anticipated for the municipal building as well as major road/stormwater projects along with Roads Department equipment replacement and advised that these contributions continue for 2020. The Board agreed to continue these contributions for 2020.
The Township Manager advised the Board that they may want to consider a property tax increase to offset increased fire protection costs, acknowledging that the cost of a volunteer fire department is still substantially less than a paid department with career firefighters. Discussion ensued and the Board agreed that a 0.3 mill increase to the Township’s property tax would be levied to account for the increase in fire protection costs.
An executive session was called at 9:45 p.m.
The workshop was called to order at 10:35 p.m. Supervisor Majewski reported that an Executive Session was held to discuss personnel, contract negotiations, and potential litigation.
Supervisor Morrisson requested to provide an update to the Board on his proposed Valley Park Park Trolley Rail Project. He explained that since the October 2, 2019 Board of Supervisors meeting, he has presented to the Township’s Historical Commission and Environmental Advisory Council. The Historical Commission voted in favor of his presentation while the EAC tabled a vote until some of their concerns were addressed. Specifically, the EAC wanted the location of the proposed rails changed so that no trees would have to be removed and to be further away from Valley Park Road for safety reasons. Supervisor Morrisson explained that he was able to find a suitable location at to satisfy all of the EAC’s concerns and invited the Board to visit the park to review the new location, which is staked out. Supervisor Guerette asked for a map or sketch showing the new location. Supervisor Morrisson stated that he will send it to the entire Board and requested to be placed on the November 6, 2019 Board agenda for a vote on the project. He expressed confidence that the project could be completed by the beginning of December if the Board grants approval at its November 6 meeting.
There being no further business before the Board of Supervisors, the budget workshop was adjourned at 10:45 p.m.
Next Board of Supervisors Meeting
Regular Board of Supervisors Business Meeting: ........... Wednesday, November 6, 2019 at 7:30 PM