Friends, Neighbors and Fellow Upper Merion Area residents:
Last night the Board of Supervisors approved the 2020 Budget.
The Upper Merion Township Budget is actually three budgets: the operating budget, the capital budget and the sewer budget. The operating budget at approximately $46.57 million is by far the largest budget and it funds the day to day operations of the township. The driving force of Upper Merion’s operating budget will always be employee salaries and benefits.
Our biggest source of operating revenue originates with Act 511 taxes – that’s the revenue we derive from businesses in our township and in 2020 we’re projecting around $17.99 million (or 38.64% of our operating revenue) from Act 511 taxes. On top of that we also expect to receive about $4.2 million from commercial real estate taxes. These revenue streams are two 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 can provide a huge sum to both the township and the school district when a large property is sold.
Budgets are inherently about priorities and a major priority of this Board of Supervisors remains investing in our community. The 2020 Upper Merion Township budget substantially increases the township’s dedicated capital millage. On a raw dollar basis the dedicated capital budget is expanding from about $500,000 a year to over $915,000 a year. This $415,000+ increase breaks down to an additional $300,000 worth of millage for general capital and more than $115,000 worth of millage for fire services capital. This significant increase in dedicated capital funding is a long term move to build and maintain our infrastructure. One of the major capital purchases the township will be making is another snow removal truck. It’ll be very expensive however the township expects to recoup the cost of the truck in approximately 10 years since we will use 1 less independent contractor. Another significant capital investment will be the expansion of the child watch space at the Upper Merion Community Center which will allow kids to be separated by age with games and activities suited to each age group.
While Upper Merion is considered an affluent township the Board of Supervisors is well aware that most of our residents are not rich and some face real challenges. As part of the 2020 Upper Merion Township operating budget we will be hiring an employee to find ways to help residents who due to financial or other reasons face significant hurdles. This employee will work with organizations both public and private to ensure that vital resources get to Upper Merion residents who need them. Thankfully many of our township’s best services are free including our public park system. So Upper Merion Township will be hiring another parks maintenance employee to ensure our parks look as good as reasonably possible. There are also funds in the budget to potentially support a bond issue which would most likely be related to the expansion of Heuser Park. The Upper Merion Township Library is another great and free resource and the township is increasing the library’s dedicated funding so its budget is less reliant on budget transfers.
Recently, Moody’s re-evaluated Upper Merion Township’s fiscal health and its comments included, “the debt and pension liabilities of the township are low overall (and) are consistent with its assigned rating of AAA,” “(t)he credit position for Upper Merion Township is superior,” and “(t)he township has a strong financial position that is aligned with the assigned rating of AAA.” These quotes are affirmed by Upper Merion achieving budget surpluses the past four years including a surplus in excess of $420,000 in 2018. Just as importantly these surpluses have been accompanied by key infrastructure investments and dramatically expanded services including the extremely affordable public pool, the community center, a permanent home for the Senior Service Center, the hiring of our first-ever full time firefighters, investing millions in trails and sidewalks, the 2020 investments mentioned above and much more. However, due to operating budget pressures and our commitment to long-term infrastructure funding for the first time in a decade it’s fiscally prudent to raise taxes by about $4 a month for the average homeowner – by contrast in the 25 years prior to 2011 Upper Merion Township raised real estate taxes 10 times.
Upper Merion Township is known throughout the region for our high level of services, economic and social opportunities, innovative government and reasonable tax burden. That’s why so many people want to move in our community and these are values to which my fellow Supervisors and I remain dedicated. The 2020 Budget reinforces these values. If you’d like to review the 2020 Upper Merion Township Budget you can do so by clicking this link.