John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

The Other Cost of the Opioid Epidemic: Increased Taxes

According to an article in today's Intelligencer,  Bucks County property taxes will go up 5.4 percent in 2018 to cover a $10 million budget deficit that commissioners say is due to the expenditure increases related to the ongoing fight against the opioid epidemic (see summary below).

We've seen the impact on EMS costs right here in Newtown when Evan Resnikoff, Chief of Operations, Newtown Ambulance Squad, asked the Town for the reinstatement of a 0.5 mill tax to cover increased costs mostly due to a 58% increase in opioid calls in the first 8 months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016 (for more on that, read "Newtown Ambulance Squad Seeks Additional Funding"). This adds a significant cost to the healthcare system including EMS because greater than 80% of these patients have no insurance and cannot pay the fees.


The increase in County tax would mean a typical Bucks County homeowner would pay about $45 extra in real estate taxes in 2018. If Newtown adds its own EMS tax, a typical Newtown Township homeowner could pay an additional $40 in taxes above that amount or a total of $85 per year.

The County tax increase would have been even higher if Emergency services did not tap into $2 million of state funding.

Meanwhile, where's the money from the federal government as a result of declaring this a "National Emergency?" Trump said "The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I am saying, officially, right now, it is an emergency. It's a national emergency. We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis,” Trump told reporters at his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

 

Posted on 26 Dec 2017, 13:17 - Category: Opioid Epidemic



No New Tax Hike Does Not Indicate a Stable Local Economy

According to an analysis prublished in the Bucks County Courier Times this morning, more than half of Bucks towns will not raise taxes in 2018. However, that does not mean that these towns will not face a financial crisis down the road (see clip below). File this under "Don't ever believe a politician who says 'Read my lips. No new taxes!' or the equivalent."

Newtown Township may soon be added to the list. At a contentious public meeting on December 13, 2017, the Board of Supervisors debated whether to cut spending for essential services (again) or to approve the 2018 budget with new taxes to pay for Emergency Medical Services and Fire Hydrant Maintenance. In the end, they were unable to reach a consensus. Read "Newtown's Looming 2018 Budget Crisis." 

According to the BCCT, perhaps a quarter of Bucks County towns have not seen a tax increase since 2013 (see the following table).

Note that Newtown Twp raised taxes by 1 mill in 2017 for debt service, which allowed the Township to borrow $1 million for roadway improvement every three years. If another tax increase is necessary down the road, at least that road is likely to be in good condition!

Posted on 18 Dec 2017, 01:16 - Category: Taxes



Newtown Has a 24/7 Drug Drop Box - Sort Of

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the December 13, 2017, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting. Well, not really funny, but gratifying! The following notice was - and hopefully still is - posted to the front door of the Municipal Building telling people that they now can drop off their unused drugs - including opioid pain medications - at police headquarters even when the office is closed after 4:30 PM, before 8:00 AM and on the WEEKENDS!

Notice posted on door to Municipal Building

All you have to do is use the red call box on the front porch of police headquarters and an officer will respond to give you access to the drop off box. Hopefully, the response will be as quick as possible. Whatever you do, do not leave unattended drugs on the front porch of police headquarters!

Although this is not as convenient as a 24/7 drug drop-off box that I advocated when campaigning for Supervisor, it is probably the best option for now. It's gratifying because my comments to the Board of Supervisors and discussions with Police Chief Henry Pasqualini have paid off. Thank you Chief!

Posted on 17 Dec 2017, 01:33 - Category: Opioid Epidemic



Newtown Ambulance Squad Seeks Additional Funding

Asks for Return to EMS Millage

Evan Resnikoff, Chief of Operations, Newtown Ambulance Squad, presented the Squad’s Annual Report at the October 11, 2017 Newtown Township Board of Supervisors meeting.

Resnikoff compared funding of the Newtown Squad to funding of neighboring municipality ambulance squads. Lower Makefield Township, for example, provides $248,000 in annual funding for its ambulance squad, which averages 1500 calls per year compared to an estimated 2600 for Newtown’s Squad. Currently, the Newtown squad receives 25% of Local Services Taxes, which for 2017 is estimated to be $490,000 – the squad would receive about $123,000 of that.

About 90% of the squad’s revenue comes from fee for services (see Figure 1, below). Resnikoff reported that the Squad has $74,000 in collectibles for the period of January through August, 2017, due to the fact that patients are not turning over checks they receive from insurance companies. In general, the squad collects only about 60 cents of every dollar billed.

Figure 1. 2016 Revenue Sources for Newtown Ambulance Squad

When Resnikoff revealed that the response to opioid calls was up 58% in the first 8 months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, the audience let out an audible gasp! This adds a significant cost to the healthcare system including EMS because greater than 80% of these patients have no insurance and cannot pay the fees.

Resnikoff said the Squad’s Paramedics on average earn $3.75 per hour below market rate for Bucks County and EMTs average $4.00 per hour below market rate. These first responders have not been given base hourly rate raises since December 2015. These hourly wage levels have made it challenging to recruit for open positions, resulting in more overtime hours to fill open shifts.

Resnikoff suggested “going back to the EMS millage” instead of a percentage of the Local Services tax, which varies from year to year. The maximum allowable would be 0.5 mill. That would generate about $172,000 of funding for the squad in 2018.

[Updated on 14 December 2017] Mr. Evan Resnikoff re-iterated his plea for an EMS tax millage at the December 13, 2017 Newtown Township Board of Supervisors meeting. The proposed 2018 budget was the main issue before the board at this meeting (read "BOS Approves Publication of Preliminary 2018 Budget"). See video below.


Posted on 14 Dec 2017, 14:08 - Category: Budget



The 2017 Newtown Holiday Parade

The Newtown Dems participated in this annula event. My wife and I enjoyed it very much. Here are just a few photos I took and posted to my Instagram account.

 

 

The 2017 Newtown Holiday Parade

A post shared by John Mack (@johnmacknewtown) on

 

Posted on 12 Dec 2017, 10:12 - Category: Newtown



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