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Newtown Township holds line on real estate tax


Once again, Newtown Township is holding the line on real estate tax.

At its most recent board meeting Dec. 11, township supervisors unanimously approved a budget that adds no new taxes in 2020.

Newtown’s real estate millage rate is among the lowest in Bucks County. “There continues to be no proposed tax increase to support the general fund or any of the other supporting funds,” said Township Manager Micah Lewis at a November meeting of the supervisors.

At a work session hosted in October by the board, Lewis had voiced his concerns over what he saw as decreasing revenues in earned income taxes.

For now, Newtown is holding its own in that arena, expecting to collect more than $7.3 million in Earned Income Tax this year. It collected a little over $6.8 million in EIT last year.

At the Nov. 13 supervisors’ meeting, Lewis announced that non-resident EIT is not living up to earlier projections. This year’s estimates for non-resident EIT collection have been reduced from $2.08 to $2 million and the 2020 budget estimate has also been lowered from 2,125,000 to $2,050,000.

On a positive note, October was a good month for delinquent EIT collections so that boosted the year-end estimate for those revenues from $225,000 to $285,000.

One additional adjustment in the budget was an increase of over $100,000 in the projected 2019 year-end fund balance, setting that number at approximately $2.4 million.

Newtown’s total expenditures for the upcoming year are $13.1 million. Total revenue is estimated at $14.4 million but that includes a transfer of over $2.3 million from the reserve in the general fund. The estimated year-end fund balance for the upcoming gudget is $1.3 million.

That equals 10.1 percent of expenditures. A minimum of 10 percent is mandated by township ordinance.

Shortly after the preliminary budget’s unveiling, Board Secretary John Mack proposed the addition of a subscription to Savvy Citizen, a mobile app that alerts users of township announcements.

“I like the presentation from Savvy Citizen; I think it’s a good product,” said board Vice Chair Linda Bobrin. “However, I don’t think it’s something we should consider at the moment. We have a lot expenditures coming up including for more police.”

When called for a vote at the mid-November board session, the supervisors voted 3-2 against adding a line in the budget for the mobile app.

Mack says he’s trying to get sponsors to absorb the cost of the app and that he will ask the board to reconsider Savvy Citizen in discussions set to take place early next year. Supervisors have until Feb. 15 to amend next year’s expenses.

The Police Department will garner the lion’s share of the 2020 budget as $5.4 million is earmarked for law enforcement. The cost for emergency services for 2020 is estimated at $1 million and public works adds another $1.6 million to the bill, though that includes the cost of snow and ice removal, traffic signals, street lights and storm sewers.

Capital expenditures for policing in 2020 are expected to approach $206,000 with the addition of three new police vehicles and some other equipment that’s needed.

Public works capital spending will surpass $171,000 with the addition of a new utility truck, a dump trailer and a milling machine. Some of that will be paid for with moneys from the liquid fuels program.

New technology expenditures are in the neighborhood of $19,000 with the addition of a police evidence computer server that will cost more than $12,000.

Township officials are also proposing the addition of a quick response vehicle to the Emergency Services department in order to replace an aging Ford Expedition with over 130,000 miles on the odometer.

And road paving in 2020 will cost more than $1.6 million as the township plans to repave more than five and a half miles of Newtown’s roadways.

The township is also anticipating construction of a new recreation trail along Lower Dolington Road. Construction of the new trail will cost $922,000 not including engineering costs of $145,000. The township recently received word it was acquiring $375,000 in grant funding from the state. The bulk of the money was delivered through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

The township’s bill for debt service is expected to top $1 million in 2020, leaving the debt service net fund balance at $63,248. A little over $200,000 is projected at year’s end and $186,284 was left in the account at the end of 2018.

At 4.50, Newtown enjoys one of the lowest real estate tax millage rates in Lower Bucks County. Only Buckingham – at 4.00 – is lower.

The bulk of Newtown’s revenue comes from Earned Income Tax. EIT collected from residents has been steady, with the township expected to collect a little over $5 million both this year and next from residents who work here.

Real estate transfer taxes have also decreased in 2019. Factors affecting the volatile housing market include diminishing supply, rising costs, interest rates and demand. In 2016, the township collected over $1 million in transfer taxes but ever since then, that revenue has been on the decline. Last year, Newtown collected just $751,689 in transfer tax. A similar figure is expected this year.

The township manager is recommending that future budgets contain revenue increases to support the diminishing general fund and offset the volatility of the current funding structure.