Friends, Neighbors and Fellow Upper Merion Area Residents:
Last Thursday night the Board of Supervisors passed the 2019 Budget.
The Upper Merion Township budget is actually three budgets: the operating budget, the capital budget and the sewer budget. The operating budget at $42.7 million is by far the largest budget and it funds the day to day operations of the township. Our biggest source of operating revenue are Act 511 taxes – that’s the revenue we derive from businesses in our township and in 2019 we’re projecting $17.16 million (or 40.14% of our operating revenue) from Act 511 taxes. On top of that we also expect to receive about $3.3 million from commercial real estate taxes. These revenue streams are only 2 of the many reasons why a prosperous business community benefits Upper Merion residents. Other important sources of revenue includes the casino, funds from various fees and permits, grants, and real estate transactions – the latter provides huge boons to both the township and the school district when a large property is sold.
Another source of funds for Upper Merion Township is the one you’re probably most familiar with – residential real estate taxes – though only 5.82% of our budgeted revenue comes from residential real estate taxes. This Board of Supervisors is very proud of the fact that 2019 will be the 9th consecutive year without a tax increase which is the longest stretch of time on record without a tax hike. During this period we have consistently achieved budget surpluses including surpluses in excess of $1 million for 3 consecutive years. By contrast in the 25 years prior to 2011 taxes were raised 10 times including a 25% increase in 2005. It’s a simple equation: the stronger our local economy, the greater the likelihood that we can produce budget surpluses and not raise taxes while simultaneously providing a high level of services and economic opportunities for our residents.
Budgets are inherently about priorities and a major priority of this Board of Supervisors is investing in our community. The 2019 budget contains significant investments in the future of Upper Merion Township and our residents. We will initiate studies on the future needs and demands on Heuser Park and the Upper Merion Township Pool. While those studies will take time to complete and execute, in 2019 the township will be rehabbing and/or upgrading the following 10 parks: Belmont, Bob Holland, Bob White, Executive Estates, Heuser, Merrill Young, Swedesburg, Upper Merion Township Building, Valley Forge Acres and William Wall. We will also be adding a shade area at the Upper Merion Township Baby Pool. As we observed this year projects can easily be delayed due to inclement weather and park improvements which we were unable to complete in 2018 will occur in 2019. The township will also continue to advance the dog park project.
Improvements and planning aren’t just limited to parks and recreation as there will also be investments in other departments. The Upper Merion Police Department has received funding for body cameras for all on-duty police officers. The Public Information Office and the Administration will implement a new program to allow the township to internally track and determine the status of any issue brought to our attention. The township library will begin work on a conceptual plan to analyze the future needs of the library. Public works will be hiring 2 new parks maintenance employees and they will be cross-trained to serve as animal control officers and to assist with snow removal.
Much of this article is very similar to my articles about the 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 budgets. That’s because passing an economically responsible budget is always one of our most important responsibilities. We always underestimate our revenue and we always overestimate our expenses. For example starting next year 100% of electricity Upper Merion Township purchases will be from renewable sources. This move isn’t just environmentally responsible, it’s also economically responsible as it will save us approximately $750,000 in the next 4 years – savings which haven’t been factored into the 2019 Budget.
Passing a budget is fundamentally a team effort involving the Board of Supervisors, township management and staff. Upper Merion Township is known throughout the region for our economic heft and forward thinking and we are determined to continue to enhance this reputation. Additionally we must ensure that our community of opportunity is a community of opportunity for all of our residents. The extremely affordable public pool, the community center, the hiring of a full time fire chief and 6 full time firefighters, the $10 internal minimum wage, the anti-discrimination ordinance and the BCA scholarship program are just some of the actions we’ve taken to turn this mantra into a reality. However we know we need to do more and we have significant challenges ahead. Still, I’m proud to be part of a board that’s made key infrastructure investments, accrued large budget surpluses, never raised taxes, dramatically reduced litigation, maintained our AAA bond rating, lauded by Moody’s for our financial stewardship and received multiple awards for economic leadership.
If you’d like to review the 2019 budgets or the township you can check it out by clicking this link.