Tis’ the season for finalizing municipal budgets

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East Marlborough OKs 2015 budget;  fire tax increases by .10 mils, other rates hold steady

By Karen Cresta, Correspondent, The Times

BudgetEAST MARLBOROUGH – The Township Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Monday night was held with a successful outcome of an approved budget for 2015.  The good news for township residents – the real estate (1.05 mils), library (.183 mils) and open space (.2 mils) taxes remain the same from 2014.  The fire tax for Po-Mar-Lin and Longwood fire companies will increase from .65 mils to .75 mils. It will generate $512,956 for 2015, an increase from $451,750 for 2014.

The roundabout topic – workman’s compensation insurance for fire fighters – preempted the approval of the final budget.   Supervior Robert Weer, a long-time advocate of the fire company, voiced his concerns that it was still an open-ended action item from the previous month’s discussions on where the cost of the workman’s compensation insurance should be paid – from the General Fund or the fire tax.

Weer indicated that there is a line item for the insurance expenditure in the General Fund and would like to have it paid directly from it.  When neighboring townships pay their portion (sometimes it takes some townships into the next year or two to pay and the onus falls onto the township to budget for it in full), it gets reimbursed to the township.

Weer said he wants Emergency Services to get 100 percent of the revenue from the fire tax to go directly to the fire companies – exclusive of the insurance costs.

“It would be a lot simpler and a lot cleaner to do it through the General Fund,” Weer argued.

Weer said he thought that in 2013, the township may have been reimbursed by neighboring townships and if so, it would be owed back to Emergency Services.

“Bob, you are certainly consistent,” Cuyler Walker, Township Chairman, added.

Walker acknowledged Weer’s concerns but indicated, as he has previously, that the residents of the township are under the assumption that all Emergency Service costs come directly from the fire tax itself and workman’s compensation is associated with those costs.

“There is no question that under state law we are required to pay for workman’s compensation. The question is if that payment is coming out of the General Fund or the dedicated fire tax,” Walker added.

Jane Laslo, Township Secretary and Manager, reiterated she believed workman’s compensation insurance came out of the fire tax in 2013 and would verify the reconciliation and report back to the board.

“Bob is certainly entitled to ask that we reconsider that… I look at it as not so much an issue of what we have done in the past or what is required or not required, I think it’s a conceptual issue we have to work through. To me, the fire tax is something we ask the residents of this township to pay to cover fire protection that they receive,” Walker summarized.

Board Supervisors, John Sarro and Richard “Buzz” Hannum, agreed with Walker’s view that residents should know where related monies come from and that’s from a dedicated fire tax.

John Weer, Po-Mar-Lin Trustee and Bob Weer’s son, was in attendance and expressed his concerns.

“All township money since 1978 was used to buy fire trucks, nothing else.  Everything else comes from the fund drive like rising costs of utilities and maintenance.  The budget and spending builds up then we purchase equipment and it goes down.”

Walker noted that the township does not enforce Po-Mar-Lin’s budget.

In 2013, the fire tax generated approximately $344,000; in 2014, it generated $452,000; and in 2015, it will generate $513,000. Workman’s compensation insurance will cost $19,000 for Po-Mar-Lin and $4,000 for Longwood.

The board members each expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the firefighters’ service but suggested that they must protect the General Fund and if Po-Mar-Lin needs more money, then fire fighters are urged to propose their case to the board.

“We need to establish our obligation to the fire companies and what amount. If three quarters of a mil is not enough, then we need to find other ways from an operating viewpoint,” Walker concluded.

In the end, it was a 3 to 1 vote with only Weer in opposition that the cost of workman’s compensation should not be taken from the fire tax.  The debate will continue again – next fall.

The board reviewed a request from Po-Mar-Lin to continue the $18,000 yearly payment from the township as compensation for loss of a leased cell tower.  The township compensated the fire company for the loss over the last two years but omitted it from the budget for 2015.

“We are not looking to put the fire company in a financial bind,” Walker insisted.

The younger Weer, the Po-Mar-Lin Trustee added, “I wish our other three townships were as cooperative as East Marlborough.”

He then reminded the board that, “the demand for the services is leaning toward paid firefighters….at $100,000 each per year.”

The board recognized that the residents get an enormous benefit from volunteers and need further discussions about finances.

The issue still remains and talks of a yearly audit of the fire companies’ financial statements (at the township’s expense) were brought to the table. The board expressed that a budget would be helpful to the township in September.

In summary of the 2015 budget, the General Fund will increase from $1,799,480 to $2,055,257 – about a $2 million increase. The fund includes a balance carryover from 2014 in the amount of $125,564. Real Estate taxes will generate $717,213 to the township and another heavy hitter such as property transfer taxes will generate $225,000.

The new Unionville Park that opened in September was budgeted $25,000 for maintenance in 2015.  Weer was concerned that the November preliminary amount of $96,000 was listed on the budget with a drastic cut.

Laslo didn’t know where the additional $70,000 would come from and voiced her dissatisfaction about the high cost of maintenance to the park.

Weer conceded to keep it at $25,000 for the sake of moving forward to approve the budget.  Laslo added that additional open space funds could be dedicated to park maintenance if needed.

The snow and ice removal budget was approved for $90,000.  If sufficient for the winter season, the probable excess becomes a cushion.  This cushion could be used, if needed, for an additional police vehicle. The approved 2015 budget includes one replacement police car for $45,000.

Some minor updates such as corrections to the text for the budgeted amount in each sewer district would be made and all supervisors were in favor to approve the 2015 budget.

In other business, planner Ray Ott, sought approval for an ordinance amendment for the Cluster and Lot Averaging section to increase the number of single family dwellings to be placed on smaller lots if open space was increased.  Concerns about the amount of impervious coverage, such as concrete patios, and the need for proper storm water drainage were addressed by the board.  A public hearing is set for January 5.

A new hair salon at an existing building on 111 West Street Road also raised concerns about storm water run-off onto Route 926 once the existing driveway is expanded.  Winslow Associates reviewed plans to avoid such problems.  The board approved a waiver for a preliminary final request with conditions based upon Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT’s) approval and satisfying Engineer, Jim Hatfield’s, documented issues.

The board had a moment of silence for Earl Freeman, 97 years old, who passed away on November 10.  Freeman was a resident of Unionville and a 1936 graduate of Unionville High School.  He previously served the East Marlborough Township as a Supervisor.

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Robert Detweiiler
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I have a question for the Supervisors of East Marlborough . Apparently there is a police department for East Marlborough , However, you never see them on patrol . There are numerous accidents at 926 and School House Road. PSP is always the ones who answer the calls. You may see a Police presence of a vehicle at the entrance of Longwood Gardens manned by an person not in uniform. Is the Police Department paid extra for these details . Should something happen does the Township take liability. This does not look very professional nor acceptable for those who pay… Read more »
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