Salisbury Press

Sunday, July 5, 2020

SALISBURY TOWNSHIP BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS The big divide

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Local News

Hiring two police officers not in 2013 budget; increased expenses, stagnant revenue cited

Salisbury Township Police Chief Allen W. Stiles won't get his Christmas wish from Salisbury Township Manager Randy Soriano.

Stiles would like a vacancy for a police officer in the township police department to be filled and one new police officer to be hired.

Soriano said adding two, or even one, police officer can only happen if taxes are increased, a prospect he's unwilling to back.

However, Soriano said township Board of Commissioners could vote to raise taxes to provide the revenue for the two police officers.

Funding could also be provided from the township reserve fund. However, Soriano has urged taking a minimal amount from the fund, which he says is being steadily depleted because of annual withdrawals to balance the township budget.

"Expenses go up. Revenue stays the same. It's the big divide," Soriano said.

Soriano submitted the 2013 proposed budget to commissioners at the Nov. 15 township meeting. The board is expected to discuss the budget again at its 7 p.m. Nov. 29 meeting.

Meanwhile, a motion to ratify a new township contract with the Salisbury Township Police Officers Association was tabled at the meeting. The contract expires this year.

The proposed 2013 budget calls for $11,859,708 for all funds, which is a $489,281, or 4.3 percent, increase over the projected 2012 budget.

Nonoperating expenditures are $1,333,100, bringing the total for 2013 to $13,192,808.

The 2013 budget maintains the township property tax at 2012 levels. However, the final millage will reflect the new assessment values set by Lehigh County.

The property tax for 2012 is 3.82 mills, or $856.82 for a property valued at $224,300, which is the median housing value in the township.

The 3.82 mills includes 3.09, general fund; .55 mill, fire fund; and .18 mill, library fund.

Soriano reviewed the 2013 budget during a one-hour presentation Nov. 15.

"The one thing about our revenue is that it's very stagnant," Soriano told commissioners and administrators. "For the last three to four years, we've relied on a healthy fund balance."

"We don't see the revenue stream coming up. Meanwhile, your budget expenses have gone up," Soriano said.

Noting the township has been balancing its budget by taking money from its reserve fund, Soriano predicted, "It's very evident that we will run out of money if we do this [every year]."

Under the General Fund Budget, the township expects to receive $5,816,300 in revenues for 2013, which is a $207,000, or 3.4 percent, decrease from 2012 projections.

Also under the General Fund Budget, township expenditures for 2013 are proposed at $6,098,608. which is a 4.1 percent increase from 2012 projections.

In his budget report, Soriano stated, "Initially, department heads and staff presented a budget that contained a $443,807 shortfall.

"The manager's recommended budget reflects cuts predominantly to [the] public safety budget, which had requested two additional police officers. If the board will reinstate those positions, a tax increase will be necessary to sustain that action."

In his report, Soriano said, "Over the years, the township has reduced taxes to compensate for healthy fund balances accumulated over the years.

"Real estate transfer and interest accounted for approximately $900,000 per year in revenue.

"With the economic downturn starting in 2008, the township has seen a considerable reduction of revenue derived from these two sources. In 2011, the township collected only $315,000 from these two sources.

"Consistently over the last four years, the township had to make up approximately $600,000 per year from fund balances.

"From 2008 to 2011, the fund balance of the township has been reduced by approximately $3.2 million.

"It is evident that the township for the past five years has weathered the storm caused by the economic downturn by reducing its fund balance to sustain yearly shortfalls. This, in the long run, cannot be sustainable and there will come a need to make up the loss of revenues or cut substantially in the departments."

The fund balance at the end of 2013 is projected to be $1,570,643.

Following is an overview of proposed 2013 township budget expenditures.

General Government - $939,303

This represents a $123,800 increase from the projected 2012 budget.

Projected salaries for non-uniformed administrative employees are budgeted at 3.75 percent, whereby non-union employees receive the same percent increases as Public Works employees. Department heads proposed raises are 2.5 percent.

The administrative staff pays a higher health reimbursement of 5 percent versus 2.5 percent for Public Works employees.

The budget includes funds for computer hardware and software upgrades, facilities maintenance, security camera upgrades, alarm system and audio-visual system for the Municipal Building meeting room.

Public Safety - $2,011,803

The department budget, which is a 5.25 percent increase, will reflect a contractural increase in wages.

Also budgeted are funds for two new Dodge Charger police vehicles, rehab of the Incident Command Unit, supplies for the Quick Response Service Vehicle and K-9 program and funding for the Municipal Emergency Response Team.

Public Works - $1,155,401

The department budget, which is a $55,000, or 5 percent, increase, includes funds for a new dump truck, a chipper, the Maumee Avenue Stormwater Project, road materials and micro-surfacing.

The department has been downsized by six full-time employees, mostly because of retirements. The budget anticipates adding one full-time employee.

Culture & Recreation - $78,201

The department budget is a decrease of 53 percent, mostly because of the completion of the Lindberg Park Master Site Plan, which was budgeted in 2012.

The budget includes funds for a new restroom at Green Acres, new windows at the Franko Farm farmhouse, geese eradication program, lighting, surveillance and a new restroom roof at Laubach, and the summer playground program at Laubach, Lindberg, Green Acres and Devonshire parks.

Insurance & Benefits - $1,621,200

Budget increases are expected to be $23,190 or 1.4 percent for insurance and benefits.

The cost of Pension Plans are expected to increase $164,810 or 125 percent, but the state aid has only increased $38,323 or 29 percent.

Contributions & Miscellaneous - $141,500

Environmental Advisory Council expenses are expected to remain the same.

Interfund Transfers - $151,200

Fire Protection Fund

Revenue is projected at $321,250. There is a $24,800 deficit. Nonoperating expenses include the $362,200 purchase of a rescue truck for Eastern Salisbury Fire Department.

Library Tax Fund

The operating expenditures are $81,900.

A $3,700 shortfall is to be made up by the fund balance.

Water Fund

The township doesn't anticipate a water rate increase in 2013.

The Water Fund budget includes funds for a new employee, with the cost shared with funds from the Sewer Fund.

The capital budget includes municipal buildings up- grades and the Ellsworth Water Line replacement.

A $141,800 shortfall is to be made up by the fund balance.

Sewer Fund

Rates are expected to be maintained at 2012 levels.

The Sewer Fund budget includes funds for a new employee, with the cost shared with funds from the Water Fund.

The capital budget includes municipal building system upgrades and rehabilitation of the Riverside Drive Pumping Station.

A $302,800 shortfall is to be made up by the fund balance.

Refuse and Recycling Fund

Rates are expected to remain at 2012 levels, or $340 per year, with a $51,600 shortfall to be made up by the fund balance.