Even though Warminster residents should be pleased that there are no property tax increases expected with the final adoption of the 2013 township budget, Township Manager Rich Manfredi does not want to mislead the public into thinking that smooth sailing is ahead.
"To put it succinctly, things aren't good," Manfredi told the Warminster Board of Supervisors during the budget presentation Tuesday night. "But it is difficult to request a tax raise when we have more work to do to make township management more efficient and cost-effective."
Throughout the evening, Manfredi made it clear that 2012 has been considered a transition year as he worked with the various departments to analyze, realign and restructure personnel and other expenses. The plan for 2013 is to shift into a more transformational structure by making a cultural shift to more efficient policies and procedures that will allow the township to build up its cash reserves and improve its credit rating, Manfredi said.
"We need to establish a sound financial plan and fiscal policy," said Manfredi.
The supervisors will vote on accepting the final budget at the Dec. 20 meeting, where the public will be invited to make comments on the proposal.
In order to balance the $14.5 million budget, Manfredi said that hard decisions had to be made. A total of 13 township employees have been laid off, saving the township approximately $500,000 in wages and benefits. Three of those layoffs occurred earlier on Tuesday when two code inspectors and an administrative assistant in the Licensing and Inspections office were let go.
A third party company, Code Inspections, Inc., will carry out the inspection duties of that office. With the departure of Fire Marshal Dan Laurich earlier this year and the cuts in office and vehicle expenses, the marshal's office budget has been reduced from $312,193 to $161,030.
The township's tax millage will remain at the 17.07 rate set in the 2012 budget, but Manfredi has made some changes on how those funds are dispersed to the departments. A mill is a tax of $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. The most significant change reduces the Parks and Recreation rate by .75 mills and shifts the money to the general fund.
Those funds, approximately $248,000, have been earmarked for investment in stormwater management and flood prevention projects, one of the top priorities for the township in 2013.
"This a one time only change for Parks and Rec," said Manfredi. "That department is a vital part of the township, and to have that cut in place longer than one year would dramatically inhibit their ability to do business."
The other top priorities for the township in 2013 include making improvements of the traffic flow on Street Road and other congested corridors and adjusting the township's information technology infrastructure to encourage sustainable, paperless practices and more citizen participation.