On December 5, 2023, the Upper Providence Township (UPT) Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted unanimously 5-0 to adopt a 2023 operating and capital budget. The ~ $57.1 million spending plan appropriates 49% or ~$28.2 million to operating expenses and 51% or ~ $28.9 million in planned capital expenditures. Approximately 34% of this budget or $19.5 million includes anticipated federal grants for flood mitigation projects in the Mont Clare and Port Providence areas of UPT, which were devastated by the remnants of Hurricane Ida in late 2021.
Over 40 impacted residents from these neighborhoods are participating in this FEMA buyout program. The program requires the Township to acquire and raze these homes, removing them from the floodplain and restoring them to their original natural state. Once all environmental reviews are done, we expect demolition to begin in summer 2023. Upon completion we expect this project to produce several acres of new and contiguous open space, providing multiple park redevelopment opportunities in the near future.
The 2023 budget marks a milestone in UPT’s budget process because it incorporates a five-year framework. Township officials will use this model to account for all current and future financial forecasts, not only capital costs but also operational ones. Like prior budgets, we embraced a fiscally conservative approach considering rising inflation, higher interest rates and general nationwide angst over the likelihood of an economic recession within the next couple of years.
The 2023 budget entails three major components: General, Sewer and Capital. The ~ $23.9 million General Fund is UPT’s main operating engine, funding all major municipal departments such as police, emergency services, public works, administration, parks, and planning.
This pie chart shows each department’s proportional distribution. Except for one department, authorized staffing levels remain unchanged from the prior year. Emergency services was the one exception because of its transition to 24-hour fire coverage effective September 2022. Accommodating this expansion in fire coverage required hiring an additional five full-time and twelve part-time firefighter/emergency medical technicians (EMT). In October the BOS dedicated the new centralized emergency services facility, which will house these career firefighters. The new facility will also quarter a 24-hour ambulance service, provided by Friendship Ambulance. Together these enhancements required a significant funding boost, which the BOS authorized in 2022.
The Township’s ~ $4.3 million Sewer Fund serves as the billing agent for the Lower Perkiomen Valley Regional Sewer Authority (LPVRSA). While the Authority treats all UPT sewage effluent regionally, the Township is responsible for maintaining the local sewer collection system, which consists of ~115 miles of sewer pipe. On November 8, the LVPRSA Board approved a $2 monthly rate increase per EDU (Equivalent Development Unit), reflecting a ~ 13% increase, which will automatically be passed on to all residential and business ratepayers. Most homeowners are assessed one EDU, which will be billed ~ $173 semi-annually. Despite this increase, UPT still has one of the lowest sewer rates in Montgomery County.
The Township’s ~ $22.3 million Capital Budget represents a collection of different funds earmarked for specific project types, as shown on pie graph. The ~ $1.6 million Park and Open Space Fund (POSF) serves as the repository for all park-related developer contributions. It funds all major capital projects throughout UPT’s park system such as Black Rock Park’s new inclusive playground and the recent Rivercrest trail connector.
In 2023, new restroom facilities and pavilions are planned for Black Rock Park in addition to new pickleball courts. The Township has been very successful in leveraging local dollars with government grants to expand UPT’s growing trail network. These grant initiatives will continue next year.
A new capital budget feature is the establishment of a dedicated capital replacement fund (aka Internal Service Fund). Approximately $865,000 is slated for new police cars and public works equipment in 2023. Any trade-in surpluses will be deposited into this internal service fund to pay for future replacements. Each municipal department will be assessed an annual depreciation charge at 0% interest based on each vehicle’s useful life. This strategy will provide a perpetual funding source for future Township’s fleet replacements.
The $1.48 million MS4 Stormwater Fund is a new dedicated fund for all stormwater-related infrastructure projects throughout the Township. Officials earmarked $2 million in federal Covid-relief grants to seed this account and delayed until 2024 the assessment of a stormwater fee. For 2023 around ~ $1,476,000 is programmed to replace aging stormwater infrastructure, including deteriorating pipes, culverts, basins, and outfalls.
The ~$1.95 million Sewer Capital Fund is UPT’s primary financial vehicle for underwriting all major sewer capital projects. Its major funding sources derive from annual transfers from sewer operating revenues as well as tapping fees for new connections. In 2022 the Township began the Tindey Run Sewer Project, extending public sewers to UPT’s last major unsewered sector. This will be completed in 2023, along with the sewering of Greenwood Avenue from Ridge to College Avenues.
The Township continues its commitment to mill and repave an average of 4.0 miles of municipal roads per year. Using a combination of capital monies from the General Fund and a share of state gas tax revenues, the 2023 road budget includes ~ $1.3 million for paving 14 roads. Coupled with the additional paving associated with the above sewer projects, UPT has exceeded its 4.0 mile target.
One final noteworthy project involves the phased expansion to the public works facility, which will include a newly expanded salt storage dome, an upgraded fuel station and expanded garage space to meet new federal stormwater regulation. This ~ $6 million expansion project, initially planned for 2023, will be phased in over the next 5 years.
In summary the overarching goal of this new five-year budget framework was to provide a long-term fiscal blueprint that continues conservative fiscal practices, provides optimal municipal services efficiently and preserves UPT’s hard-earned AAA bond rating.