Powered by Scoop.it
After less than 15 minutes of discussion, the board of supervisors approved the final $13,002,335 general fund operating budget for the 2019 fiscal year beginning Jan. 1.
The proposed package, which was approved in a 5-0 vote at the Dec. 12 meeting, is a little more than three percent higher than the 2018 budget but includes no property or other tax hike.
According to the budget, Newtown will end the 2018 fiscal year on Dec. 31 with an estimated budget surplus of $2,538,208, which is about what was earlier projected.
However, Supervisors Davis and Mack questioned whether this so called ‘net fund balance’ is adequate to ensure the township’s future financial stability, of if a higher amount is needed on the books to ensure a healthy fiscal picture for township auditors.
“It’s a concern, it’s getting lower and lower every year,” stated Mack.
Last year at this time, the township ended fiscal year 2017 with a $3.14 million net fund balance.
Like many municipalities, Newtown relies mostly on the Earned Income Tax for most its revenues instead of traditional property taxes, as some local governments impose, such as neighboring Lower Makefield and Middletown Townships.
Newtown’s EIT accounts for more than half of all revenue collections.
In 2019, the EIT is expected to haul in about $7 million, which is slightly higher than the year-end projected numbers for 2018.
The Earned Income Tax is by far the largest revenue generator in the budget and is collected on the wages of residents, whether they work in or outside the township, as well as those non-residents who are employed in Newtown Township.
Under state law, the tax cannot exceed one percent of a person’s pay. Newtown Township’s EIT is one percent, and if a non-resident’s home municipality doesn’t have one, then Newtown gets the entire amount which it splits with the Council Rock School District.
If a non-resident’s home municipality does impose an EIT, then Newtown must split it with that local government.
However, over the years more Bucks County municipalities have enacted an EIT, which has affected Newtown’s collections.
Another substantial revenue generator is the real estate transfer tax which property buyers and sellers must pay. The township splits those collections with the state.
That tax is expected to generate about $800,000 in 2019, up slightly from this fiscal year’s anticipated collection of $719,250 by Dec. 31.
But the township’s total real estate transfer tax collections will be about $22,000 lower than original expectations for the current budget year because of lagging home sales.
During his budget presentation to the supervisors in October, Lewis had stated that anticipated future shortfalls in revenues “will become more evident with capital expenditures that are needed.”
The township’s seven-member finance committee is already targeting what areas to look at for increasing revenues and cutting costs.
Sit. Stay. has the township zoning hearing board’s approval to continue offering doggie day care and boarding services at the Roberts family farm in Newtown Township.
The dogs — and their watchers — have had their day before township zoners, and a Newtown Township kennel that came under scrutiny earlier this year can stay.
At its latest meeting, the township zoning hearing board voted 4-1 to issue doggie day care and boarding business Sit. Stay. two variances from local code, allowing it to continue operations as a permitted local business on the Roberts family farm off Washington Crossing Road.
Sit. Stay. opened its doors 15 years ago on a client-by-client basis and grew over time into a larger business servicing an average of 50 dogs each weekday between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., owner Heather Roberts said.
Roberts said she learned earlier this year that Sit. Stay. was not grandfathered in under the property’s agricultural uses, but rather the 18.8-acre farm property was shy of a 25-acre minimum space requirement for kennels. A building used for sheltering dogs was also 95 feet short of a required 300-foot setback from offsite homes.
A few others neighbors opposed the variances, saying barking dogs on the property were a nuisance and could negatively impact resale value for their homes. Roberts said it was a noise complaint to the township’s zoning office that led her to learn Sit. Stay. would need zoning relief for the separate space and setback matters.
Resident Clara Bonavita, a neighbor who opposed the variances, said she could hear the barking “incessantly” starting this April.
Township supervisors opted this fall to cut several sections from local code governing “excessive and unnecessary” noise, including from animals or birds making continuous noise longer than 15 minutes if it is deemed to have “annoyed” people (Supervisor Mack voted "nay" - for more on that, read “
Board of Supervisors Decimates Noise Ordinance”). Officials described the section as “subjective” and difficult to enforce, in that dogs often would stop barking between the time they got a call and arrived on the scene.
Taking the lead of Bucks County and other state, county and local governments, the board of supervisors voted 4-1 to approve filing a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry for manufacturing, distributing and promoting opioids.
At the Dec. 12 meeting, Chairman Phil Calabro, joined by fellow Democrats John Mack, Linda Bobrin and Dennis Fisher voted to approve hiring the New York City-based law firm of Marc J. Bern & Partners, LLP to file the civil action in Bucks County Common Pleas Court.
Republican Supervisors Kyle Davis cast the dissenting vote.
The law firm, which specializes in national personal injury and mass tort cases, will be assisted by attorneys from Cordisco & Saile, LLC, which is based in Doylestown.
“Basically Newtown is making a stand in principle against these manufacturers,” exclaimed Chairman Calabro. “We’re making a statement.”
Newtown Township will not be charged any attorney fees for filing the action, and the law firms will work on a 25% contingency basis.
According to township solicitor David Sander, that fee could be as high as 50-percent of any eventual damages awarded, but is usually around 30-35 percent.
He explained that the suit is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.
“The action is based on the current opioid crises that not only Newtown Township but the rest of the county finds itself in the grasp of,” Sander noted.
“Newtown should stand up and take its place among the many, many other large cities, including Pittsburgh,” he added.
In this area, Philadelphia, as well as Bucks and Delaware counties, have already filed separate lawsuits against the pharmaceutical companies that make and promote prescription opioid drugs.
Meanwhile, Bensalem Township became the first local government in the region to file a similar civil action relating to the crises. More on that here.
These suits allege that manufacturers misled the public about the dangers of prescription opioids and that the drug companies have disregarded their obligation to monitor distribution in the communities and halt any suspicious sales.
“The pharmaceutical industry lied when they said [these drugs] were not habit forming,” claimed Supervisor Mack before Newtown Township’s vote.
Although several supervisors acknowledged that any damages which could eventually come to Newtown Township might be minuscule, the money could be used for treatment.
“Whatever we get, we’ll put it to good use,” Calabro pointed out, “I don’t see a downside to this [lawsuit].”
On November 28, 2018, Newtown Township became the FIRST Township in Bucks County to pass an Ordinance Definition prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Specifically, the ordinance, a copy of which you can download
here, safeguards the right of citizens to obtain and hold employment and public accommodation and to secure housing accommodation and commercial property "without regard to actual or perceived race, color, gender, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids, and to have equal access to postsecondary educational institutions."
The Ordinance becomes effective immediately upon the appointment of a Human Relations Commission by the Newtown Board of Supervisors. The Commission will handle complaints through a fact-finding conference with the parties of the dispute in order to resolve the dispute without the need to hire lawyers or go to court.
The Commission will consist of no fewer than three and no more than five members, who will serve overlapping terms of three years each. Members must be residents of the Township or individuals who work full-time within Newtown Township. No voting member of the Newtown Township Human Relations Commission can hold any office in any political party.
Members of the Newtown Township Human Relations Commission serve without salary but may be paid expenses incurred in the performance of their duties, as approved by the Board of Supervisors.Members of the Commission must attend training and education seminars or sessions to acquaint themselves with the functioning of the Commission under the ordinance, as well as the terms, conditions and provisions of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, and the operation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
If you are interested in serving on the Commission, please submit a letter of interest and your resume (or short bio) by December 24, 2018. Send to Olivia Kivenko, Newtown Township, 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown, PA 18940. Or by email to oliviak@newtownpa.gov, or by fax to (215) 968-5368.
2018 © John Mack
If you no longer want to receive emails from us, you can unsubscribe.