|Bethlehem Township's Board of Commissioners meets twice monthly|
This Budget is the culmination of four very crowded budget hearings that had to be moved to Town Hall because the conference room was too small. It may also have cost Republican Commissioners Marty Zawarski and Phil Barnard their jobs. They were defeated in the November 3 election by Democrats Malissa Davis and Kim Jenkins, who had unlikely allies in tea party conservatives.
The Budget adopted for approval decreases the fund balance by $500,000, and Freda warned before the meeting that a second hike might be necessary next year.
During budget hearings, Commissioners slashed $336,000 in spending, mostly by putting off the purchase of a $160,000 radial-arm mower and leaving unfilled a wage permit tech position. They also voted to slash the annual $40,000 allotment to The Bethlehem Township Athletic Association, more commonly known as the Bulldogs, in half. This is because the Bulldogs had built up savings of $113,000 from fundraising and donations.
A nonprofit organization, the Bulldogs consist entirely of volunteers and have had a contractual relationship with the Township that goes back to 1969. The sports group offers recreational cheerleading, football, soccer, basketball, wrestling, softball, and lacrosse to all Township residents. Under the terms of its contract, it must maintain liability insurance, and the Township has agreed to subsidize the organization. Over 1,500 children participate in one or more of these sports. Bulldogs did receive an annual subsidy of $60,000, which was reduced to $40,000 during the Great Recession.
|The Bulldogs provide organized sports for 1,500 children a year.|
According to Bulldogs president Frank Grillo, "[T]he commissioners and the township manager asked our organization to do extra fundraising or saving to show good faith and put some money toward the restrooms." Those are projected to cost somewhere around $350,000, although they also include an equipment storage room. "Now that our organization did what the township asked, the BTAA is going to be penalized," Grillo complained.
Grillo and Mike Beck, another Bulldog, asked Commissioners to restore the $40,000 in funding. Noting that the Bulldogs "get blamed for a lot of things," he asked "where taking $20,000 away from the kids is going to get us."
Michael Hudak stated the cut is the result of an "outcry from the public," and that he found it "personally offensive" that Grillo would bring up kids in what is, after all, a youth sports program.'Take $20,000 out of savings and spend it on the kids," he told Grillo. "I would hope we don't back out on this," Hudak told fellow Commissioners. The public spoke at the election as well."
But that's exactly what happened. Commissioner Tom Nolan proposed restoring the $20,000 taken away from the Bulldogs, and with only Hudak voting No, this budget amendment was adopted.
Then the budget itself was approved for advertising by the same 4 to 1 vote.
Hudak, on both his Facebook page and at the meeting, derided the "lame ducks" who voted to restore funding. "We need to stand up for our decisions and have a spine."
Kim Jenkins, who is replacing "lame duck" Phil Barnard next year, is a member of the Bulldogs Board.
As the meeting ended, Pat Breslin stated he talked to several hundred people during the budget process and has several legal ads full of notes. He'd like to form what he calls a citizen's self audit committee to review the budget throughout the year.
"Obviously, we have a spending problem," he said.