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The Exeter Township Board of Supervisors still has some decisions to make concerning the township’s budget for 2013. At the board’s Nov. 7 budget meeting, township manager Troy Bingaman told the board there is still a deficit of $230,000 (down from $400,000).
“Some of that has been accomplished by revisiting the revenue projections, refinancing of debt, ratifying the teamsters’ contract and moving some items from the general fund to the capital improvement fund,” Bingaman said. The items moved into the capital improvement fund include the administration server and 40 percent of an ambulance requested by the ambulance association. In addition, the rock salt budget for the township has been reduced slightly, according to Bingaman.
The board has a couple of options to consider if no additional spending cuts are made; including taking the funds from the township’s reserves, raising taxes for township residents by 0.2 mills, or $20 per year for each $100,000 of assessed property value, or a combination.
Bingaman told the board that covering the deficit by using funding from the reserves will leave the township in the same position for 2014, when a $300,000 deficit is projected.
“At some point we need to consider bringing in the revenues necessary to support the budget we have,” Bingaman said. “We’ve been operating our general fund budget at the same millage rate for three straight years. It’s gone up every year but the tax rate has not. We’re doing the best we can with what we have, but at some point it’s going to bite us.”
The board needs to make final decisions about addressing the deficit before voting to approve the budget at the Nov 26 meeting. The budget must be adopted by Dec. 17.
Last Monday’s meeting was well attended with discussion expected to include a request for increased funding for the library and space needs for the police and fire departments. Many of the attendees were specifically interested in discussion around funding for the police department.
What began as a discussion about how to meet the police department’s needs for additional space, turned into a discussion about the funding level within the department.
The discussion was in response to comments Supervisor Ken Smith had made earlier in the budget process that he was not opposed to reducing the number of officers.
“We’re bare bones minimum. We’ve been cutting and cutting and cutting,” Police Chief Christopher Neidert said. He then outlined several steps the department could take to reduce its budget, which included changing phone service, eliminating the “Keep Kids Alive, Drive 25” initiative, not repairing scales, not getting barricades and possibly eliminating the DARE program. “So it’s all services we’re starting to get rid of. We’ve spent 20 some years building this department up and now we’re tearing it down.”
Supervisor Dona Starr said she is not willing to cut programs or lay off any officers.
“I’m not willing to make any of these cuts here. We can adopt this budget today as it stands with all the officers that are here, and add on the $20,000 we were talking about and use some of the reserves. We can do that,” Starr said.
“You seem to think I have it out for the officers. I don’t,” Smith said. “I think you do an invaluable service. I have a problem with your contract. It was written eight years ago.”
Starr added that the health and safety of township residents is more important than anything. “If we don’t have that, it doesn’t matter what your tax rate is if you’re dead, or injured or whatever. That is the most important thing – health and safety – fire, ambulance and police.”