By John Chambless
As the Franklin Township supervisors start down the road toward forging a new township budget, board chairman John Auerbach outlined a few goals at the board's meeting on Sept. 18.
Reading from a prepared statement, Auerbach said, "I've been comparing our tax rates to surrounding townships and I believe that Franklin Township taxes are on the high side. The question is, what are we doing that justifies the higher rates? At this point, I do not know, but that's what we'll try to determine as part of the 2014 budget development process. My objective is to look for opportunities to reduce the real estate taxes by 10 percent.
"What we need to do is fund the core functions first," Auerbach said. "They are road maintenance, emergency services, traffic safety, land development and zoning, and our township facilities and salaries. The sixth one is stormwater management, which is a new, unfunded mandate that's been dropped on us. The remaining spending I'm referring to as, for lack of a better term, the other stuff.
"As a budget technique, I would propose that we fund the core functions first, then try to reduce the spending on the other stuff to fit the budget objectives. This is a different approach than we've used in the past, as we typically fund everything first except the road maintenance, then whatever's left goes to that.
"The overall intent," Auerbach said, "is to identify discretionary spending and determine if it warrants further funding. We'll be taking a more rigorous look at our budget than we have in the past."
The board discussed adjusting the amount the township pays to the West Grove Fire Company and Medic 94 in the upcoming budget. Franklin Township shares the services of the fire company and ambulance with five other townships -- London Grove, London Britain, New London, Penn, and West Grove Borough. Each township pays for fire and emergency services through an allocation formula that takes into account the number of calls made to a township in the past year, as well as population.
"You have to have some base funding for these types of services, or they won't be there," Auerbach said. "If you just pay for [emergency services] you use, then you won't have an effective service."
The township will review the fire company's budget figures on Oct. 8 to begin the 2014 township budgeting process, Auerbach said. The meetings that the townships have had with the fire company "have been very positive, the fire company was very sincere and understood our concerns," he said. "My expectation is that once we get a reviewable budget and we're comfortable with the total cost, people will be more agreeable to the allocation formula."
Supervisor Nan Latimer brought up the amount paid to Medic 94 for ambulance services by the township, noting, "Other townships don't pay what we do. The service is great, but I believe there does need to be some work towards allocating it fairly."
Auerbach noted that townships are not obligated to give any specific amount to Medic 94 for emergency services, "and some townships don't, and certainly that's not fair," he said.
In other business, the board approved a minor subdivision plan for a property at Appleton and Stricklersville roads. The current 41-acre property, which is owned by supervisor Nan Latimer, will be adding a 3.6-acre parcel and she will be taking ownership of an 11.1-acre parcel after she completes the purchase of the two plots from a neighbor.
Latimer, who recused herself from voting on the plan, will buy the larger parcel adjoining her property and leave it undeveloped. The 3.62 acre plot behind her house will also remain as it is. Latimer told the board that she wants to increase the size of her property to possibly subdivide it and pass it on to her children for housing at some point.
"I want to purchase the hayfield that is adjacent to my driveway. My intent is do absolutely nothing with it," she said. "It's a hayfield, and it will remain a hayfield. The small parcel in the back, in my opinion, always should have been part of my farm. It's this funny little wedge behind my parcel. Right now it's full of stickers and all sorts of things. I'll clear it out and leave it as trees, and it will become part of the farm."
Since there will be no development on the property, and the purchase meets all township ordinances, the approval was unanimously granted by the three other supervisors. Supervisor Paul Overton was not at the Sept. 16 meeting.
"I'm satisfied with what I've heard," Auerbach said. "I think what's being done is entirely appropriate."