NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> The Newtown Borough Council voted on November 10 to advertise a preliminary budget that holds the line on taxes in 2021.
The $4,076,724 budget sets the tax rate for 2021 at 9.25 mills for the general fund, 1.25 mills for the lighting fund, 1.875 mills for the fire fund, 1.625 mills for the street improvement fund, 0.25 mills for the ambulance fund, the earned income and realty transfer tax each at one percent and the local services tax at $52.
“We will not have a tax increase next year,” said Councilor Nicole Rodowicz. “But we do have to keep in mind earlier discussions we had about the ambulance fund, which hasn’t been looked at in a few years. And there may also be more discussion with regard to the fire tax. But next year we do not have to raise taxes.”
To avoid a tax increase next year, council shifted a half mill from the street improvement fund to the lighting fund to assist in funding a lighting audit of the borough’s street lights.
The proposed budget will be available for public inspection on the borough’s website and at borough hall through Dec. 8 when Council is scheduled to vote on a final spending plan for 2021.
In related action, earlier in the meeting council voted unanimously to donate $4500 to the Newtown Ambulance Squad. The money will be earmarked for the purchase of replacement cardiac monitors.
The squad’s major capital project for 2021 will be the replacement of four cardiac monitors at a cost of $32,000 each for a total of $122,262.
The borough will use unspent money from its 2020 budget to make the donation. The money had been earmarked for the Memorial Day Parade and the borough’s holiday open house party for its volunteers, which did not take place, and other miscellaneous expenses that did not occur due to the pandemic.
The motion to make a donation toward the cardiac monitors is part of a longer term discussion about the need to increase the borough’s annual contribution. Currently the borough contributes 0.25 mills a year toward the operation of the squad, which primarily services Newtown Township and Newtown Borough.
“Working toward the future, we will need to discuss whether the money going toward the ambulance squad should be increased because it has almost remained stagnant for the last 10 years,” said Councilor Marvin Cohen. “Making this donation gives us time to work toward the longer term discussion of what the future budget should be.”
Councilor Robert Szwajkos added that not only is the squad challenged financially in a typical year, It now faces “extraordinary expenses above and beyond” due to the pandemic. “Their need is real,” he said. “This donation is appropriate.”
In other action, council voted to extend temporary guidelines and policies for the outdoor sale of food and merchandise through January 6, 2021 when council will again decide on whether to extend or end the policy.
Council initially approved the temporary guidelines and permissions in June given the restrictions placed on indoor dining service resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Council has subsequently extended the permissions to September 8 and again to December 1.
“Knowing that the restaurants have their space heaters up and are interested in continuing and the state is still allowing this to occur we’d like to extend it once again for our businesses,” said Council President Tara Grunde-McLaughlin.
“I think it’s great that we’re extending it for Thanksgiving meals that might be taking place, but there may also be holiday meals in the second half of December if happily there is mild enough weather,” said Councilor Marvin Cohen.
The policy requires that all borough restaurants and eateries taking advantage of outdoor dining permissions to abide by all CDC, state and health rules and regulations.
Under the police report, Chief James Sabath reported that during the month of October the department handled 158 calls for service, including five traffic accidents, a few internet fraud cases and a couple domestic disturbances, none of which involved arrest.
Sabath also reported a pair of “dine and dashes” at two borough restaurants, which he called “disheartening with all the challenges the restaurants are facing. We were able to apprehend one of the individuals. The other got away with it.
“In the realm of dumb criminal tricks, a group of people went into the CVS and placed a prescription order,” the Chief continued. “Prior to leaving the store they were shoplifting. Our officers were called. And when they came back to get the prescription our officers were waiting for them.
“One of the individuals, a 33 year old man from Washington, was in possession of a concealed handgun,” said the Chief. “He was placed under arrest and is in Bucks County Prison on $100,000 bail.”
Looking ahead, Mayor Charles Swartz announced that a free “Kick-Off to the Holidays” performance will take place on Saturday, Nov. 21 from 12 to 4 p.m. at Pickering Field. The rain date is Sunday, Nov. 22.
The outdoor show will be presented by students from the Newtown-based BC Discoveries Dance and Theatre Arts Company. Bring your lawn chairs for the free show.
The show will feature numerous dance teams, the Turning Out Performing Co., Twinkle Stars, ballet/tap, hip hop, lyrical and acting/voice classes and lots more performing to Christmas and Hanukkah favorites.