One of Borough Council’s most important duties is to develop a budget every year. It includes everything from police cars to office supplies and must be balanced. It is a constant give and take process, balancing what we need and want with what we can afford. This short article is to give a brief overview of what goes into the Borough’s budget so you can better understand the process. This article is not intended to be a comprehensive explanation of this complex document; rather, it is a simplified overview to give you the basics for further research and discussion. You can view the 2024 approved budget at https://newcumberlandborough.com/government/budget/.
As with any budget, there are 2 main columns: money we bring in (revenue) and money we pay out (expenditures). The Borough’s budget is also comprised of two primary sections: the Operating budget and Capital Improvements budget. Each of these sections has its own revenue and expenditures columns. We’ll start with the Operating budget.
The Operating budget is what it takes to run the Borough and comprises about 68 percent of the total budget. It is divided into ten categories. In total there are 85-line items in the Operating Budget.
- General Government – includes office staff salaries, legal fees, office supplies, utilities, etc.
- Public Safety (Police) – police, fire police and crossing guard salaries; gas and maintenance for the patrol cars, radios, traffic lights, etc.
- Public Safety (Fire) – Chief and Deputy Chief stipends, communications, fire vehicle maintenance, gas and repairs, etc.
- Code Enforcement and Zoning – the salary of the Codes Enforcement Officer and engineering fees, etc.
- Trash/Recycling – This service is contracted to a trash hauler. The Borough passes this fee along to the residents.
- Public Works – salaries of the work crews, maintenance and repair of buildings, snow and leaf removal, street lights, gas and maintenance of vehicles, street repairs, etc.
- Library – New Cumberland is one of the few PA municipalities that actually owns the library. Although the library is part of the Cumberland County Library System, the building and grounds are owned and maintained by the Borough. The library receives funding and support primarily from the County, Borough, and State.
- Parks and Recreation – maintenance and repair of parks, summer worker salaries, park utilities, etc. New Cumberland joins five other local municipalities to support the West Shore Recreation Commission. We pay a per capita fee to West Shore Rec to provide recreation opportunities for our residents.
- Senior Center – maintenance and repairs to the West Shore Senior Center
- Benefits, Withholding and Insurance – Unemployment and Workers compensation, retirement, Social Security payments and insurance, etc.
The Capital Improvement Budget includes replacing police cars on a regular basis; Borough Office renovations; emergency radio upgrades; replacing dump trucks, fire trucks and backhoes when needed; sidewalk ramps for wheelchairs; improvements to the downtown area and the Borough’s parks; and consultant and engineering fees for master development plans. There are 48-line items in the Capital Improvement budget.
The revenue for the Operating budget comes from two main sources: the Real Estate tax (40%) and the Earned Income tax (20%). We share the Earned Income Tax revenue with the school district. Other revenue comes from fees, fines, rentals, grants, and investments.
The revenue for the Capital Improvement budget comes from grants (which we often must match), interest from investments, cell tower rental income and transferring funds from the Borough’s Capital Reserve. Most of the current Capital reserve is from the sale of the sewage treatment plant in 2016.
In general, the Operating Budget is rather rigid. Over the years the staff has grown or shrunk to accommodate workload or budget constraints. Sometimes a position will go from part-time to full-time, or vice-versa. Building or equipment upgrades can be delayed, if necessary, but this is what it takes to run the Borough. The Capital Improvement Budget can be more discretionary, perhaps, but one can only put off replacing a police car or fire truck, or repairing a park pavilion or garage roof, for so long. Many of the projects in the Capital Improvement Budget are funded by county, state, and federal grants, although the Borough often has to match the grant. The good news is that for every dollar we spend in a matching grant, we generate two and sometimes three dollars’ worth of purchasing power.
Keep an eye out for upcoming articles pertaining to budget, strategies for implementing some of the recommendations of the comprehensive plans that we developed, and other related topics.