Get our newsletters

Latest budget draft calls for 3-mill tax hike in Newtown Township


At an October meeting, Newtown Township Manager Micah Lewis presented the draft 2024 budget to the board of supervisors. If adopted, taxpayers will see a 3-mill increase in municipal taxes to help fund township personnel and services. This includes the hiring of one full-time police officer and four full-time firefighters.

Lewis said, “Capital purchases for all departments and tax increases are proposed for the fire protection fund (2-mill increase) and the debt service fund (1-mill increase). No other tax increases are proposed as far as the general fund goes. The general fund is what pays for the operation and most personnel costs and general expenditures in 2024.”

With the new budget and tax increase, the township’s millage rate would rise to 13.115 mills. This equates to an annual municipal tax bill of $511.10 based on a house with an average assessment of $38,971. Even with the increase, Newtown Township would still have one of the lowest municipal tax rates in the area.

The proposed budget has revenues projected to increase from $13.6 million to $14.3 million. This includes the roughly $500,000 that the township recently acquired via a federal SAFER Grant that awards municipalities money to help fund emergency services.

The township’s estimated fund balance forward is $4.116 million at the end of 2023 and budgeted real estate transfer taxes are expected to increase slightly from $700,000 to $800,000. Budgeted parks and recreation revenues are expected to reach $665,000 by the end of 2023 and budget expenditures are expected to rise from $14.8 million to $16 million.

According to Lewis, expenditures are largely driven by personnel-related costs and operational expenses impacted by inflation and one-time capital purchases. If adopted with the five new township employees (four firefighters, one police officer), 78 township employees would be on the payroll in 2024.

Newtown Fire Chief Glenn Forsyth said the firefighters are needed to extend service to seven days a week and offset a lack of volunteers.

“Our county is in desperate need of volunteer firefighters, so it’s necessary for us to figure out a way to continue and provide the service that we should be providing,” the chief said.

When the SAFER Grant expires in three years, the township will be responsible for paying the firefighters’ salaries out of the general fund. Forsyth added he only sees the problem of low numbers of volunteer firefighters getting worse, so this is a necessary step for the township to take.

Lewis explained that, historically, Newtown Township has relied on a positive fund balance to offset budget deficits.

“The budget proposes a contribution to the Newtown Fire Association of $250,000,” Lewis said. The fund also anticipates a contribution to the capital fund of $660,000 to set aside funds for future capital purchases.”

A diverse range of projects and upgrades are being funded by the budget, including an LED street light conversion project, building lighting upgrades, a new proposed pedestrian signal, computer and technology updates, police vehicles, a roof replacement, several mowers, and tire mounting and balancing equipment.

Funds will also be allocated for tree removal at Clark Nature Center, backstop repair at Helen Randall Park and matching grant funds for the Newtown Business Commons sidewalk project.

The township’s road paving projects would be funded with $755,000 from the Highway Aid, American Rescue, and general funds.

While some supervisors questioned the tax increase, Lewis clarified that Newtown is still comfortably in the lower half of townships in Bucks County regarding municipal tax rates.

Supervisor Phil Calabro, a supporter of the proposed budget, noted that the annual $511.10 tax bill gets Newtown residents some worthwhile benefits, including funds for police services, fire services, parks and recreation, and public works. He added that hiring additional police officers would make the township safer as well.

Elen Snyder, another supervisor in support of the draft budget, spoke of the importance of fully funding the township’s emergency services.

“Previous boards have neglected our emergency services, so it is incumbent upon us to make that right,” she said. “We need to make sure that our homes and businesses are secure as far as police and fire are concerned.”

Ultimately, the budget’s approval will be handled by the board in short order as the supervisors consider adoption over the next few weeks. Preliminary adoption is scheduled for Nov. 8 with final adoption on Dec. 6.

Join our readers whose generous donations are making it possible for you to read our news coverage. Help keep local journalism alive and our community strong. Donate today.