At their December meeting, Newtown supervisors okayed the township budget for 2023. The budget contains projected revenues of $11.05 million and projected expenditures of $11.3 million, necessitating a tax rate hike of 1.625 mills.
The projected 2023 fund balance clocks in at roughly $1.3 million, equating to 8.16% of expenditures. The deficit for the year will rise to over $2.6 million.
The tax hike relates to a $1 million designated fire tax, a $500,000 designated ambulance squad tax which was passed by voter referendum this past election. The tax will support the Newtown Fire Department and emergency services, which according to the board, are in desperate need of additional funds. and $125,000 set aside for township debt service.
The 1.625-mill increase amounts to roughly $75 per year of additional tax per township household. Some board members expressed concerns over a tax increase at a time when many residents are struggling with inflation.
Chairman Dennis Fisher explained that despite the tax increase, Newtown will still be in the lower one-third of municipal property tax rates in Bucks County.
He noted, “High-quality fire and EMS services keep insurance rates low, and without having quality fire and emergency services, we could be paying more in insurance rates and that would be comparable to the tax increase”.
Supervisor John Mack added, “On the one hand, any tax increase is unappealing, but on the other hand, the increase includes much-needed funding for first responders including the $500,000 for the Newtown Ambulance Squad. I also don’t like deficit spending. I hate to say no to this and not be able to get the funding needed for our first responders”.
Supervisor Kyle Davis had a different perspective. “I think given the number of funds we’ve received from the federal government to which we have yet to spend, I don’t think we should be raising taxes other than for the ambulance squad this year”.
Supervisor Elen Snyder clarified the intent of the tax increase. “No one wants to raise taxes, I certainly don’t want to raise taxes, but fire services are hurting, hurting big time. I wish there was another way to do it but there’s not...We can’t keep cutting fire services, we never do as much as we would want to do but now’s the time to start doing that”.
With that, the board voted 4-1 to approve the budget, with Davis being the lone dissenter.
In other news, the supervisors addressed a much-maligned crosswalk at the intersection of Newtown-Yardley Road and Tara Blvd.
Several residents had previously brought up concerns that the crosswalk was dangerous as oncoming traffic did not adhere to signage instructing drivers to slow down. Supervisors Fisher and Mack visited the intersection recently and confirmed that the residents’ concerns were very accurate.
Resident Cynthia Nutzen said, “This has been an ongoing issue for us for many years, I myself have almost been hit by several cars on both Lower Dolington Road and Newtown-Yardley Road.” She added, “The overhang lights that are on Lower Dolington Road are completely ineffective; everyone ignores them. ... A line of sight at 40 mph is a lot different than at 25 and 30 mph.”
With a posted speed limit of 35 mph, many cars passing through the intersection were observed going 45 mph or more. The crosswalk as currently placed has led to many near-miss pedestrian accidents, including several neighbors in the adjacent Newtown Walk community.
Residents requested that the township install flashing traffic signals that can be more easily seen by drivers approaching the intersection in addition to lowering the speed limit on Newtown-Yardley Road as the street bisects a residential area.
The board unanimously approved a motion to work with PennDOT to install an overhang of rectangualar rapid-flashing beacons (RRFBs) at the Newtown-Yardley Road intersection in addition to lowering the speed limit to 25 mph approaching the area.