NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> The Newtown Borough Council on Nov. 12 approved a $3.7 million preliminary budget for 2020 that will boost the borough’s fire fund by a half mil and generate additional funding for the all-volunteer Newtown Fire Association.
Funding for the Newtown Fire Association has dominated borough budget discussions this fall as councilors debated how much to increase the town’s contribution to the local fire service.
With two major truck purchases looming on the horizon in the next two to eight years estimated to collectively cost about $2 million and expenses continuing to rise, council agreed to boost its fire tax mileage to support operations of the Newtown Fire Association (NFA) and for the future equipment purchases.
The increase would bring in about $23,000 a year in additional funding for the all-volunteer NFA and cost the average borough taxpayer between $10 and $40 more a year, a pretty good deal, argue councilors, for fire protection.
That will be over and above the $61,000 a year the borough is currently paying out to cover the association’s workman’s compensation insurance costs.
“We felt that if we increased the fire tax milage we would have enough to properly pay our share of the expenses,” explained Council President Kevin McDermott, of the half mill increase.
The additional milage, said councilors, would be a step toward paying the borough’s “fair share” of the cost of local fire protection, the bulk of which is paid for by the township and NFA fundraisers, including the association’s annual Beer Festival.po
“This (the increase in the milage) affords the NFA the opportunity to put money aside each year and budget for those trucks,” said Councilor Tara McLaughlin. “It also allows us to contribute to their general ongoing needs.”
The increase will boost the fire tax budget to 1.875 mills, or $148,595 a year.
While the fire tax will increase, the council is holding the line on all other taxes across the board in its 2020 budget.
The General Fund, which includes the police and administration budgets, will remain at 9.25 mills in 2020. Also remaining unchanged next year are the lighting fund at .75 mills ($47,045), Street Improvement Fund at 2.125 mills ($198,980) and the ambulance fund at .25 mills ($11,100).
On the revenue side, the spending plan anticipates collecting $950,000 in earned income taxes, $621,000 in real estate taxes, $130,000 in transfer taxes, $100,000 in Building and Zoning permit fees, $80,000 in Local Services Taxes, $70,000 in local cable franchise fees and $70,000 in motor vehicle fuels taxes.
On the expenditure side, the police department makes up the bulk of the costs at $645,207, an increase of $22,000 over 2019.
Other expenses include about $200,000 in legal and engineering services, $160,000 for administration and legislative body, $170,000 for planning and zoning and $100,000 for highways and landscaping.
In addition to boosting money for the fire service, the budget allocates money for the town’s 2020 road improvement projects, including repaving East Centre Avenue between South Congress and Lincoln Avenue, North Chancellor Street between Jefferson and the Borough line and Mercer Street from South State to South Congress Street.
The spending plan also budgets $250,000 for snow removal, $45,000 for pothole repairs, street sweeping and crosswalk painting, $28,000 for trash removal and collection and $6,000 for replacement signage at the borough’s municipal lots.
The spending plan also allots $3,000 for general maintenance and $10,000 to hire a landscape architect to assist with a grant application, develop a landscape design and to coordinate volunteers at the recently acquired Bird In Hand Lot B property on Court Street.
The budget also sets aside $2,000 toward State Street beautification, including the purchase of new holiday decorations for the business district.
A copy of the budget is available for review online at boroughofnewtown.com or at the borough offices on North State Street. Adoption of a final budget is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 10.