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Preliminary Lower Makefield budget has small tax decrease

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The Lower Makefield Township supervisors have narrowly approved a 2022 preliminary budget that proposes an ambitious road paving program, the hiring of people to fill four newly-created positions, and a half-mill property tax cut.
Board Chairwoman Suzanne Blundi and fellow members James McCartney and Fredrick Weiss voted in favor of the preliminary budget at the Nov. 17 meeting, while John Lewis and Dan Grenier voted no. During extensive questioning of township Manager Kurt Ferguson, they both expressed concerns with various areas of the document.
The $29.5 million preliminary budget is essentially the same document as Ferguson’s recommended budget presented at the Nov. 3 meeting. Grenier said during that meeting that he wished the proposed tax decrease was larger, and Lewis said at the Nov. 17 meeting that he will likely be making proposals to reduce the budget.
The preliminary budget can be viewed on the township website, lmt.org, or at the township building, 1100 Edgewood Road. Board members will vote on making it final sometime next month, possibly at the Dec. 15 meeting. The supervisors can make changes to the budget without readvertising it so long as the changes don’t increase the aggregate by more than 10% or any major category by more than 25%, Ferguson and township Solicitor David Truelove explained.
Any increases beyond those limits would require the revised preliminary budget to be reposted and readvertised and a new 20-day waiting period before a final budget can be adopted, they added. There are no such requirements for any decreases a majority of supervisors might agree on, township officials said.
Ferguson proposes in the preliminary budget to reduce property tax millage a half-mill, from 21.01 to 20.51, or a savings of about $22 for a resident with a property assessed at the township average of $43,600. That same property owner would pay $894 in 2022 municipal property taxes if the proposed millage reduction stands in the final budget.

Property taxes are the major source of local revenue for Lower Makefield, which – unlike many other Bucks County municipalities – does not have an earned income tax.
The preliminary budget proposes to create a new full-time position of fire services director, hire a full-time planner and also a full-time pool manager and administrative assistant for the parks and recreation department. Their annual salaries would range from the mid $30,000s for the administrative assistant to $100,000 for the fire services director, Ferguson estimated.
He said he believes the positions are needed to make several areas of the township’s operation and fire protection more efficient. He added the township is short-staffed in several areas, citing as one example that it has fewer people in the planning department – which would be renamed the community development department under his recommendation – than many nearby municipalities of similar size or even smaller.
The preliminary budget aims to pay off debt from the township sewer system and Makefield Highlands Golf Club with proceeds from the $53 million sale of the sewer system to Aqua Pennsylvania. That sale is awaiting approval from the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission.
Money for a proposed $3.1 million 2022 road paving program and other capital projects would come partly from Lower Makefield’s $3.43 million allotment from the federal American Rescue Plan Act and from other sources, Ferguson said.
He projects a 2022 year-end budget surplus of $3.2 million, and a surplus of about $831,000 at the Makefield Highlands Golf Club by the end of next year.


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