The 2018 Tabernacle Township Budget

2018 BudgetThe 2018 budget was introduced at the March 26 township meeting. The budget hearing will be held at the April 23 meeting.

Township taxes are approximately 15% of the total tax bill. The largest share of real estate taxes is spent on education. Regional and local school takes are approximately 70% of the total tax bill. County taxes are about 15%.

Township budget information can be obtained from town hall and on the Township’s website.

Here are the key items in the 2018 township budget.

  • The proposed total budget is $4,354,026. Total township revenues are anticipated to be $1,490,961. The amount to be raised through property taxes is $2,863,065.
  • The amount to be raised through property taxes ($2,863,065 ) will require a tax increase of one cent. That works out to a $26 increase for the average home assessed at $263,744.
  • The committee is recommending a 2% increase in employee salaries.
  • The top three segments of the proposed township budget are administration, which is 24%; public works, which is 20%; and total debt service, which is 19% (5% for the emergency services building and 14% for capital improvements).

The Township’s 2018 budget message says that:

due to previous years of zero tax increases it has been recommended that the township have small tax increases over the next few years to continue growing our surplus.

Since 2016, after the 2015 township budget produced a perilously small surplus of $43,000, the committee has increased taxes and its surplus every year. The 2016 budget produced a surplus of $138,000; the 2017 budget produced a surplus of $275,000.

Because the committee has adopted the recommendation to increase its surplus, it needs to determine how large a surplus it needs for its $4 million budgets? The committee also needs to examine if all or part of the annual surplus can be generated by reducing expenditures and increasing revenues, instead of through tax increases.

Here are a few measures that would decrease expenditures:

  • Tighten line item amounts to bring them closer to actual expenditures, instead of over-budgeting line items to produce a surplus.
  • Eliminate the cash contribution to the Tabernacle Rescue Squad for uncollected billings. The TRS should write off the expense after a good faith effort to collect the fee.  That’s how other township’s do it.

Here are a few measures that would increase revenues:

  • Sell excess land.
  • Ensure that permit fees cover administrative costs.
  • Charge rent for the Emergency Services Building.
  • Have the TRS reimburse the township for insurance and other related costs.

TRS members may see these recommendations as anti-Squad. They’re not. They would bring fairness to a relationship which has enabled TRS to build its own surplus at the expense of township taxpayers.

Budgeting is one of the most important governmental activities undertaken by the committee. It involves complex choices. I don’t expect committee members to have all of the questions or all of the answers at the beginning of the process when Administrator Cramer presents the draft budget. The public hasn’t had time to digest the draft budget and formulate its questions at that time either.

But by the time the budget ordinance was introduced at first reading on March 26, there had been time for everyone to think about the budget. Unfortunately, most committee members had no questions. And there wasn’t an opportunity for public comment, except for the general opportunity to comment on agenda items.  But those questions and comments rarely get answered.

The budget process would be improved if the committee took questions and gave answers throughout the budget process. This would give committee members and staff an opportunity to consider issues that may not have crossed their minds.

Instead, as happens too often, all of the questions are pushed to the public hearing. By that time, there’s little incentive for the committee to consider questions or new ideas because of the looming statutory deadline to approve the budget.

The next township meeting is Monday, April 9, at 7:30 PM, at town hall.