Board Votes to Advertise Township Budget for 2022
On November 10, I voted to adopt and advertise the Township Budget for the 2022 fiscal year. The total appropriation for all operating funds for 2022 is $63,175,497 representing a 3.3% increase over the current budget. To balance Township revenues and expenses, the budget proposes an increase in the property tax rate of 1.071 mills. The final vote on the budget will occur at the Board of Commissioners meeting on December 9 starting at 6:30. You can review the township budget here.
The average property assessment in Abington is $150,000. If the budget is approved on December 9, homeowners with an average assessment should expect their property tax bill to increase by approximately $160. Note that many properties in Ward 12 have an assessment below $150,000. For example, my house is assessed at $135,540, and my property tax bill will increase by $145. You can calculate your tax increase by finding your assessment here and multiplying it by .001071. Remember that your assessment will be far less than the market value of your home.
The main driver of the budget increase is Township personnel costs. At its core, the Township is a service organization, and it provides its services through dedicated and hard working employees. From the police officer who responds to your 911 call to the public work employee who collects your trash, the Township's complement of 281 employees ensure that Abington residents receive the services they expect and deserve. 84% of the $42.5 million general fund budget goes to salaries, wages and employee insurance related expenses. These expenses will inevitably increase year over year. It is simply not an option to freeze salaries and wages while remaining competitive with neighboring municipalities and compliant with the binding collective bargaining agreements. Further, the Township cannot reduce the number of employees without a similar reduction in the level of service provided.
In light of the extreme economic hardships caused by the pandemic, we worked hard to avoid a tax increase in the 2021 budget. We achieved this by terminating and furloughing several employees and by dipping into the Township's rainy day fund. For background, I encourage you to read my analysis of the 2021 budget here. These were drastic measures that I do not support implementing for the 2022 budget. First, the terminations and furloughs had a noticeably negative impact on the delivery of Township services. Based on this experience, I believe that the Township is appropriately staffed and that further cuts would result in a significant curtailment in Township services. Second, dipping into the rainy day fund was a risky move, but one that I thought was justified under the circumstances. Raiding these coffers for a second year in a row will not resolve increasing personnel costs. Instead, we would only deplete these necessary reserves, and we would be faced with the same or even larger tax increase next year.
Finally, Abington was very fortunate to receive over $19 million in the American Recovery Plan Act. Federal Law prohibits using these funds to balance our budget, and in any event, I would not support using this one time infusion of funds to support ongoing operating expenses. Instead, we are using these funds to make overdue improvements to our parks and sewer systems and to make important health and safety improvements to the Township building. A breakdown of how we plan to spend the first half of the ARPA funds can be found here.
I believe that adopting the proposed budget is in the best interest of the Township. It would be irresponsible to simply oppose a tax increase without also identifying expenditures to cut, and I do not support any cuts.
I encourage you to review the budget for yourself here. We are using new software to publish the budget, and I believe the 2022 budget is more accessible and transparent than ever before.