UPPER DARBY, PA – Mayor Tom Micozzie today welcomed Upper Darby Council's approval this week of his proposed 2019 Township Budget. The budget increases investment in ongoing municipal operations by approximately $3.5 million over 2018 with no property tax increase on property owners who are already facing an increase in school taxes. The budget was adopted by a party line vote of 6 to 5.
"Given the significant cost drivers facing Upper Darby and many other municipalities, developing a no tax increase budget was a challenge," said Mayor Micozzie. "But I know that many of our township residents are struggling under the weight of existing property taxes, so I worked with our municipal staff members to find opportunities to tighten our belt and identify new revenue sources besides property tax increases. The end result was a fiscally responsible budget proposal that continues to invest in important municipal programs and meets our pension obligations without burdening property owners with another tax hike."
Micozzie noted that the largest increases in expenditures in the now-approved 2019 budget fell under the township's fire, public works, and police departments. He said that new, innovative programs - such as hiring a collection firm to capture delinquent trash and sewer fees - will help bring in new revenues to cover the increased costs in certain areas. In addition, the budget proposes to use $2.2 million of a general fund surplus that is projected to be $6.37 million at the end of 2018.
"I could not, in good conscience, raise taxes on residents who are already overburdened while the township maintains an excess balance in our general fund," said Micozzie. The Mayor also noted that the estimated fund balance at the end of 2019 would be more than $4.1 million, an amount that fulfills the township's policy that requires a fund balance that is greater than 5 percent of proposed 2019 expenditures.
At the same time, Mayor Micozzie expressed disappointment in the partisan opposition to the budget."It is disappointing that the five Democratic members of Township Council voted in opposition to this budget and attempted to claim it was not fiscally responsible, but at no time offered any proposed amendments or alternatives," said Micozzie. "I have no problem with members of Council disagreeing with my proposed budget, but at the very least they should put in the work and offer their own alternative. They had two months to put together their own plan, but opted to criticize it and never set forth how they would address any of the issues they raised."
Micozzie disagreed with statements made by Council members who opposed the budget that the township should increase the amount of money in the budget used to fund future pension liabilities. He noted that S&P's released a rating report in 2017 that rated Upper Darby's general obligation bonds as A+. In its report, S&P said Upper Darby Township had very strong liquidity, a strong institutional framework score, and strong access to external liquidity. At the time, S&P noted that pension liabilities for the township's police (67.1 percent), firefighters (71.63 percent) and municipal employees (87 percent) could pressure future budgets. But funding of those future pension obligations has seen steady improvement since that time, with the pensions for municipal employees now funded at 101 percent, police at 68.86 percent, and fire at 75.27 percent.
"Almost every municipality faces challenges in funding its pension obligations, but we have made significant progress in this area and I believe we can continue to do so without raising property taxes in this year's budget," said Micozzie.
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