John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Summary of November 26, 2019, Newtown Township BOS Public Meeting

The following is a brief summary of the November 26, 2019, Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) meeting based upon the official minutes of that meeting, which you can find here. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Phillip Calabro, Vice Chairman Linda Bobrin, Secretary John Mack, and member Dennis Fisher. Also in attendance were: Township Manager Micah Lewis and Township Solicitor David Sander. Member Kyle Davis was absent.


Durham Partners Group LLC, 413 Durham Road: The applicant is seeking zoning relief in connection with the proposed development of a five-acre lot with one existing single-family home into a 27 -lot town home community. The application was previously presented to the BOS who opposed the project. The Commission has concerns with the density issues and wetness of the area. There was discussion of other options for the area including a 24,000 square foot medical office building. The Commission opposed this application.

Mr. Mack stated he attended the PC meeting and heard some comments from PC that reflected the BOS feelings about the Durham Road application. He suggested, since all oppose this application, to motion withdrawing the ZHB application. Mr. Calabro said it was a good suggestion, however it is up to the applicant to withdraw. Mr. Calabro added he is still in favor of sending the solicitor to the meeting to oppose the application.


Five-Year Financial Plan: Jack Brod reported on behalf of the Finance Committee that Newtown Township was awarded a matching grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to hire a consultant to perform financial analysis and develop a five-year plan to help improve the Township's fiscal position. An RFP was developed, advertised and sent directly to a list of recommended consultants. The response was less than anticipated due to timing factors and other RFP's in progress, however one proposal was received from Econsult Solutions, a firm in Philadelphia with experience in developing five-year plans for municipalities. Mr. Brod shared additional information about the company and said their proposal was in line with the requirements and within the allocated budget. He said the recommendation of the Finance Committee is to select a date between now and year end to interview consultants from Econsult Solutions.

Mr. Calabro asked Mr. Brod for his input on the budget. Mr. Brod offered his observation that the current budget reflects why the Finance Committee and the BOS are moving forward to look for a long-term plan, as the budget continues to be challenging. He said revenue continues to be less than expenses resulting in the need to tap into the dwindling general fund.

[Also view this 3-minute video: "Thoughts on Newtown Township's Deficit Spending".]


Ratification of Opt-Out of Opioid Litigation Class Settlement: Mr. Sander explained the ratification of the Township opting out of a class action litigation settlement based on the opioid epidemic. The Federal Class was certified out of the northern district of Ohio and every municipality in the country was sent a notice to become a member of the class. The recommendation from the Township's outside counsel is to opt out of the federal class so the Township may pursue their own suit.

Mr. Mack asked if this means we gave up on pursing companies in court ourselves and Mr. Sander said quite the contrary, this decision enables the Township to pursue the companies on our own. Mr. Mack cited a Wall Street Journal article and generated some discussion on this topic and Mr. Sander confirmed that this was not related to the Township's case.

[From Mack's Notes prepared prior to meeting:  WSJ Reports That Federal Prosecutors Open Criminal Probe of Opioid Makers and Distributors, many of whom are part of this lawsuit. What impact does this have on our case if we ratify this opt-out of the federal class action case? “Companies including Teva, McKesson, Mallinckrodt, AmerisourceBergen, Johnson & Johnson and Amneal Pharmaceuticals have received subpoenas, the Journal reported. More subpoenas for the probe, which is still in its early stages, are expected to come. If the investigation turns into criminal charges, it could be the largest prosecution of drug companies said to have been part of the opioid crisis, the Wall Street Journal reported.”]

Parks and Recreation

Newtown Pedestrian Bridge and Resolution: Mike Sellers, member of the Newtown Creek Coalition (NCC) gave a slide presentation proposing the concept of building a footbridge over Newtown Creek at the location of the historic trolley bridge between Frost Lane and Durham Road. This would require a partnership between the NCC, Newtown Township and Newtown Borough.

In response to Mr. Mack's questions, Mr. Sellers said the NCC envisions the bridge for the use of all, including bicycles and strollers, and will be ADA compliant. Further Reading: "Newtown Creek Bridge Proposal ‐ Discussion at the October 23, 2019, BOS meeting" and "Newtown Creek Bridge Proposal Questionnaire Summary," a copy of which was submitted to all supervisors.

[From Mack's Notes prepared prior to meeting:  At the Work Session last week it was suggested that grants could be sought to cover some of the costs and the Township could seek “in-kind” services from professionals such as engineers, etc. Of course, most grants will not cover the total costs involved and as we know there is a lot of competition for grants money. With regard to “in-kind” services from professionals, I believe that would be very problematic as it could be viewed as a conflict of interest or even a form of “Pay-to-Play.” Costs associated with authorization for “staff and professionals of Newtown Township to participate in the exploration of the requirements for such a project, including available funding sources” are not specified. In addition, the structure of this “participation” is not specified. I assume this will be an “exploratory committee?” I would like the resolution to specify the composition of such a committee to include representatives from the Township BOS, Borough Council, Newtown Creek Coalition, plus staff and professionals from both the Township and the Borough.]

Public Safety

ESD Report: Chief Forsyth reported the department responded to 137 calls for service during October including six building fires, five dwelling fires, one vehicle fire and 76 EMS calls.

Mr. Mack asked for feedback from the meeting with Representative Fitzpatrick regarding the dire need for volunteer firefighters. Chief Forsyth reported that several chiefs attended a meeting with Representative Fitzpatrick and other state reps to try to come up with a plan to recruit volunteers. The Chief said we are in crisis mode for volunteers and he emphasized the seriousness of the situation.

Supervisor Reports

Heritage Festival: Mr. Mack reported he attended a school heritage festival at Newtown Elementary school hosted by the Newtown Elementary Equity and Inclusion Committee. He said the Newtown Human Relations Commission was present and provided cards on discrimination.

Newtown Fire Association: [From Mack's Notes prepared prior to meeting:2020 FUND DRIVE: was launched on November 5, 2019. Residents should have received the letter. I urge you to make a donation, which will help pay for necessary equipment and training, which reduces insurance premiums. I can tell you that the NFA is doing all it can to raise money from various sources, including applying for multiple grants. The NFA is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, so your donation of $35, $45, $55, or other amount is 100% tax-deductible.]

Posted on 14 Dec 2019, 12:04 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes

November 2019 Newtown Township Police Report: Record Set for Struck Deer and Catalytic Converter Thefts Are A Thing These Days

Newtown Township Police Chief John Hearn presented the Calls Report for November 2019 at the December 11, 2019, Board of Supervisors meeting. The following is a summary. Note: Not all calls are listed. See the full (redacted) report embedded at the end of this post or download the PDF version here.

In November, the Newtown Police Department responded to 1,771 total calls, 398 (22%) of which were in Wrightstown Township (Newtown Police provides services to both Newtown and Wrightstown Townships).

Traffic Citations

The Newtown Police Department issued a total of 151 traffic citations in November 2019. 49 (32%) of these were for speeding, especially on Swamp Road and Newtown Bypass.

Traffic citations issued by the Newtown Police Department for the period
January through November, 2019.
November Sets Record for Struck Deer

Of the reported 43 accidents, 41 involved struck deer! You were warned last month (read "October 2019 Newtown Township Police Report: Peak Season for "'Struck Deer'")!

Catalytic Converter Thefts
Police in Warminster believe these men are involved
in local catalytic converter thefts.

Police departments across Bucks County are investigating a series of catalytic converter thefts from cars parked at area shopping centers. Although no such incidents have been reported in the Newtown area, Chief Hearn cautioned residents to call the police if they see any unusual persons under cars in local area parking lots.

Full (redacted) November 2019 Police Report

Posted on 12 Dec 2019, 01:26 - Category: Crime

My Supervisor Activity Log for November 2019: 2020 Budget, Durham Road Development, more...

The following is a summary of my Supervisor-related activities for November, 2019. I spent 40.2 hours in November on official Supervisor business. That's just about the average per month for 2019 to date.

Log of Hours Spent on Official Business

My log keeps track of the time spent on the following:

  • Attending “Required” Meetings
  • Preparation for BOS Meetings
  • Attending Optional Meetings/Activities
  • Interaction with Residents
  • Travel To & From Meetings

What This Report Does Not Include

My log of Supervisor-related activities does not include the many hours I spend posting to this blog, maintaining my personal website, writing a newsletter, creating and posting video clips from meetings, hosting podcast interviews, summarizing decisions made by the Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition), etc. Also not included is the time I spend posting to my personal Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. These activities are NOT part of my official duties as Supervisor, but represent my personal views.

In November 2019, I spent 7.3 hours attending required meetings and 4.8 hours in optional meetings.

Obviously, BOS meetings are the most important meetings - I am expected to attend them in order to satisfy my duties as a Supervisor. These include regular twice-per-month public meetings (except in July and August), and non-public executive sessions. Optional meetings include public work sessions, and special meetings (see the list below).

“Other Meetings” I attended were optional. In November, 2019, I attended meetings of the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB Definition), Planning Commission, Human Relations Commission (HRC) and the Newtown Fire Association (NFA).

In November, I spent a considerable amount of time (17.3 hours) preparing for required Board meetings. This includes downloading and reviewing documents, including the Bills List (invoices paid by the Township), minutes of previous meetings, and police report. I spent about 5 hours reviewing the preliminary 2020 budget and 2 hours preparing a summary of my Newtown Creek Bridge Proposal Survey (download a copy here).

The height of each bar represents total hours spent on official business that day. This includes time spent at meetings.
Interaction with Residents

In my opinion, personal interaction with residents regarding their concerns is an important part of my responsibilities as Supervisor. I want to be sure that I spend enough time reaching out to and responding to residents via personal contact, official email via my account and via my personal account, and via phone and/or Facebook.

In November 2019, I spent 3.0 hours (8% of my total logged hours) interacting with residents. What did I discuss with residents? Here’s a partial list (some items are not included for confidentiality reasons):


When speaking with residents on issues that may come before the BOS in the future for a vote, I never express an opinion as to how I will vote because I may not have all the information. Needless to say, I also do NOT discuss any confidential information that is not in the public domain. These discussions with residents are meant solely to inform me of their opinions, not for me to give them my opinion. Or it is just to listen to complaints/concerns and to forward them on to the BOS if necessary
I find discussions with residents very helpful. Therefore, I'd like to make it a regular thing to meet with residents to discuss issues that are on the agenda of upcoming Board of Supervisors meetings. Tell me what issues are most important to you by taking my short SURVEY.

I decided to keep track of my activities as a Supervisor on a monthly basis partly because I want to be accountable to residents, but also to make sure I am making the best use of my time. It's really an honor to serve the community! I learn something new every day and have met many fine people and volunteers who also put in a lot of time without any compensation at all. Thanks to everyone who help keep Newtown in business and safe.

Posted on 02 Dec 2019, 12:46 - Category: Open Records/Transparency

Summary of November 13, 2019, Newtown Township BOS Public Meeting

The following is a brief summary of the November 13, 2019, Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) meeting based upon the official minutes of that meeting, which you can find here. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Phillip Calabro, Vice Chairman Linda Bobrin, Secretary John Mack, member Kyle Davis and member Dennis Fisher. Also in attendance were: Township Manager Micah Lewis and Township Solicitor David Sander.


Savvy Citizen: Mr. Mack inquired about adding Savvy Citizen to the budget as he believes it is a useful tool that would not require much maintenance. Mr. Sander confirmed Board consensus is required at this time to add or subtract from the budget.

Mr. Lewis said there is no staff to maintain it. Mr. Mack believes there is not much maintenance required. A discussion ensued on the Savvy Citizen app including the cost, upkeep, staffing and benefits to the community.

Mr. Mack moved for the Board to consider revising the budget to purchase the Savvy Citizen App. Mr. Fisher seconded. The motion failed 2‐3 with Mr. Calabro, Ms. Bobrin and Mr. Davis voting nay.

[Mack's Notes prepared prior to meeting: I request that the 2020 budget include $3,600 to implement the Savvy Citizen mobile-based notification system that was reviewed by the BOS at the September 16, 2019, Work Session. That would cover the monthly payments of $249 for 12 months plus the one-time marketing and setup fee of $600.

Keep in mind, Newtown has the option to “Test Drive” Savvy for an unlimited number of months via the monthly payment option. Then, at any time, Newtown could take advantage of a two-month discount by paying for a year. That would bring the total cost down to $3,090. In addition, if we decide to do this by 10/31, Savvy Citizen will give Newtown the calendar plug-in at no charge for the first year. This is a savings of $600.

About 87% of respondents to my online survey (N=151) said they would opt-in to a notification service such as Savvy Citizen. Keep in mind that any resident of neighboring townships – including Wrightstown, Upper Makefield, Middletown, Richboro, North Hampton, Lower Makefield, etc. – will be able to see notifications from Newtown via the free iPhone app. This could benefit Newtown’s Parks and Recreation Department, whose activities are often used by non-residents. The Parks & Rec Committee reviewed the Savvy Citizen app and it thought it would be very useful.

Further Reading: "Savvy Citizen Presentation" and "My BIG Idea: Openness, Transparency & Better Communications"].


413 Durham Road ZHB Appeal: Nate Fox presented the application on behalf of Durham Road Partners Group, LLC. He stated they filed a use variance to be heard by ZHB on 12/5/19 and the Planning Commission next week for 27 townhouses on a cul‐de‐sac on the property at 413 Durham Road which will also require dimensional variances as the property is zoned for professional office.

Resident Michael Horbal questioned the BOS role in this process. Mr. Sander responded the BOS can decide to take no action, they can authorize Mr. Sander to write a letter to the ZHB stating concerns and agree to certain decisions or they can authorize Mr. Sander to take a position for or against.

[Mack's Notes prepared prior to meeting:

  • This is a classic example of “overdevelopment” or “land grab.” This use is not permitted as a use by right, a conditional use, OR a special exception in the PS-2 district.
  • You say in your letter, “It does appear that this area at some point was singled out from surrounding land from which it is indistinguishable.” What do you think was the reason for that? Traffic?
  • If the client is so concerned about traffic, then the developer should submit the type of residential development that meets the single family zoning that is allowed on this piece of land.
  • Your client is asking for 7 major variances. These include substantially increasing the max impervious surface ratio from 8% to more than 36%. Such a quite a big ratio would IMHO have a negative impact on stormwater management. The Township has a pollution reduction plan and this proposed would not not be in compliance with the spirit of that plan.
  • What about the impact on the school system? Parents have told me that there already are delays in busing due to more and more families moving into the school district].

Mr. Mack moved to authorize Mr. Sander to attend the Zoning Hearing Board meeting and oppose the application of Durham Road Partners Group, LLC. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 4‐1 with Mr. Davis voting nay.

[For details, read "Newtown Supervisors Oppose Plan To Build 27 Townhouses" and "It's Strike Two for 27 Townhomes on Durham Road!"]


2020 Budget: Mr. Lewis updated the Board on changes to the Budget since it was presented [read "Newtown Township Begins 2020 Budget Review Process"]. He updated the YTD information, adjusted some year‐end projection numbers as well as the 2020 budget estimates in the general fund. The adjustments resulted in an increase of the projected 2019 year‐end fund balance of over $100K for a total fund balance forward estimate for 2020 of $2,372,000. The total expenditures for the 2020 budget are $13,081,611 with estimated fund balance forward of $1,321,804 equating to 10.1% of total expenditures. Regarding revenue, due to the non‐resident EIT not coming in as predicted, the estimate was downgraded to $2,000,000 from $2,078,500 and the 2020 budget estimate was decreased to $2,050,000 from $2,125,000. The delinquent EIT collection in October was better than expected so the year end estimate increased to $285K from $225K that was presented. Remaining revenues remained unchanged and there is no tax increase proposed to support the general fund.

[Also view this 3-minute video: "Thoughts on Newtown Township's Deficit Spending".]

Public Safety

Newtown Ambulance Squad: Chief Evan Resnikoff of the Newtown Ambulance Squad (NAS) presented citations to several members of the NAS, St. Mary’s EMS and Newtown Fire Association. He said that Bucks County automatically dispatches two paramedic ambulances whenever a cardiac arrest is reported and in the third quarter of this year 39% of all cardiac arrests were resuscitated by the time they arrived at the hospital. Chief Resnikoff said these positive outcomes would not be possible without County, Municipal, and residential support and he emphasized the importance of knowing CPR.

Regarding residential support, Mr. Resnikoff reported the annual subscription drive will be mailed out in approximately two weeks. He explained the program helps the organization financially and saves co‐pays and deductibles for subscribers. In response to Mr. Mack’s questions, Chief Resnikoff confirmed all family members, even those visiting your home from out of town, would be covered by the household subscription. He also said the annual report would be published on the website, but he would be happy to review for the Board in January.

[Mack's Notes prepared prior to meeting: In a January, 2018, report, Mr. Resnikoff said that the squad’s response to opioid-related calls was up 58% in the first 8 months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. 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 BOS hasn’t had an update on this and other activities of the NAS since January, 2018. I requested that Mr. Resnikoff give the Board and the public an update such as an annual report for 2018 so that we can evaluate if any further assistance from the Township is warranted, especially with regard to the opioid epidemic. I would note that the Twp is currently pursuing a case AGAINST MAJOR OPIOID MANUFACTURERS. As I have stated in the past (read "
Newtown Township Joins Suit Against Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors"), it is my hope that If the Township were to get some money out of this, small as it might be, that the funds are used to support opioid anti-addiction programs and implement educational programs for the general public and help emergency services defer the costs involved in responding to drug overdoses.]

Police Report: Chief Hearn reported the department responded to 1,803 calls for service during October including 14 arrests, 83 traffic collisions and 215 traffic citations and the department continues to focus on aggressive driving [see details here]. The Chief said one arrest was for theft from vehicles, and he reminded all to keep vehicles locked as there have been several sprees of theft from unlocked vehicles.

Mr. Mack asked about ACT 79 noncompliance. The Chief explained the new law implemented in April where anyone who gets a protection of abuse order and owns a firearm will be required to relinquish their firearm.

Supervisor Reports

Roberts Ridge Park: Mr. Mack reported there was a tree planting in Roberts Ridge Park on Saturday, and he thanked the residents and specifically Elen Snyder for taking this project on with the help from the Neshaminy Creek Watershed Association. Mr. Mack also thanked Mr. Lewis and the Park and Rec department for overseeing the project, which was totally funded by residents.

Environmental Action Council (EAC): Mr. Fisher reported the EAC had a joint meeting with the Borough EAC to share ideas and there was a discussion about how to promote reducing single use plastics.

Access the 2019 (UNOFFICIAL) BOS Voting Record to date here.

Posted on 29 Nov 2019, 11:13 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes

2020 Estimated Real Estate Tax Revenue & Expenditures

Newtown Township's Real Estate tax millage Definition is composed several components dedicated to specific funds or projects. These are (1) 2.625 mills for debt services purposes (to pay off loans for road improvements, and other projects), (2) 0.875 mills for fire protection (Support for the Newtown Fire Association, Fire Chief’s salary, health insurance, etc.), (3) 0.55 mills for fire hydrant maintenance, and (4) 0.45 mills for the Newtown Ambulance Squad. 0.0 mills are collected for "general" purposes. Thus, residents know exactly what they get for their real estate taxes.

For an average Newtown Township home assessed at $40,000, the yearly real estate tax is $180 (4.5 millage X $40,000/1,000).

According to the 2020 Preliminary Budget (here), the total Real Estate Tax Levy for Newtown is estimated to be $1,558,345 based on a total assessment of real estate assets of $346,298,840 (see table and chart below).

Numbers from 2020 Preliminary Budget, Schedule A

Debt Service Tax for Town Center & Roadwork

The township is paying off a general obligation bond for the construction of the town center and a $1 million loan for the paving of roads. The total expenditure for those two items is $1,012,160 (see page 19 of 2020 Preliminary Budget).

Approximately 5.5 miles of roads will be repaved in 2020 thanks to $686,194 to be received from the 2020 State Liquid Fuels Program Definition and the aforementioned $1 million loan, which will be paid back over the next 3 years.

According to the September 20, 2018, "Preliminary Report on Newtown Township’s Municipal Finances" prepared by the Newtown Township Finance Committee, the current tax millage dedicated for repayment of the township building construction annual debt service will "not meet mandatory increased yearly payment amounts possibly as soon as 2020. The dedicated millage rate will need to be increased or supplemental revenue found" (view the video of the presentation of that report here).

Fire and Rescue Squad Taxes

The revenue collected via the Fire Tax will cover the $175,000 that the township gives to the Newtown Fire Association plus pay for the Fire Chief's salary and benefits and other fire-related expenses. The $185,000 Fire Hydrant Tax pays for fire hydrant maintenance by the Newtown Artesian Water Company.

Last, but not least, is the Rescue Squad Tax, which pays for the $151,000 that the township pays to the Newtown Ambulance Squad (NAS). You may recall that in October, 2017, Evan Resnikoff, NAS Chief of Operations, asked the Supervisors implement an EMS millage of 0.5 mill, which would generate about $172,000 of funding for the squad (see the video here). The Supervisors went on to approve the current 0.45 mill tax.

Posted on 22 Nov 2019, 11:08 - Category: Finances

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