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Bensalem Borrows $ to Continue Homeowners' Grants

The Bensalem Township Council will hold the line on taxes in 2014.

Bensalem homeowners will continue to receive the $100 homeowners' grant in the coming year. Patch file photo
Bensalem homeowners will continue to receive the $100 homeowners' grant in the coming year. Patch file photo
Bensalem homeowners will continue to pay the same amount in taxes under the township's $37.6 million 2014 budget.

The Bensalem Township Council approved the final spending plan for the coming year on Monday night, which maintains the township's current 19.05 millage rate and includes the $100 Homeowners Assistance Grant Program contributed by Parx Casino host fees.

At that rate, the owner of a home assessed at the township average of $21,000 would continue to pay approximately $410 in annual real estate taxes, according to Jack McGinley, the township’s chief financial officer. Of that amount, McGinley said $72 goes to volunteer fire and rescue squads while the township receives the remainder.    

Township homeowners originally received $300 annually from the casino's host fees. That amount has, in recent years, been cut to $100 per household. 

Council President Ed Kisselback told Patch that because of increasing costs in everything from health insurance, to pensions and more, the council recognized that the homeowners' grants either had to be reduced, or taxes would have had to be raised.

"Everything's up, up, up," Kisselback said, adding that health insurance and pension costs in particular, have risen "wildly," while the amount received from real estate taxes, because of assessment appeals, has decreased. "The amount of revenue that’s coming in isn’t as much as what's being spent."

Because of that, Kisselback said the governing body had to "borrow some money" from the township's trust fund, which he said was created following the $60 million sale of the water and sewer authority. Kisselback said the funds were used to "basically continue the homeowners grant."

Kisselback said it costs roughly $1.5 million for every $100 given to homeowners. 

The bulk of the Parx Casino fees paid to Bensalem are used to cover the 10 police officers hired since the casino opened, Kisselback said. In all, the township employs 100 police officers, he said.

Despite the growing costs, Kisselback said, "we’re maintaining our safety and protection of the people" by keeping the police force intact. 

"That was a major concern," Kisselback said, noting that other municipalities have considered scaling back their police force. "We never had that be part of our conversation."

In the last couple years, Kisselback said Bensalem has cut back approximately 10 percent of its employees–with the exception of police.

Health insurance expenses are another area the township cut, according to McGinley. He said the township sought bids for health insurance and while the costs are higher than in 2013, "it would have been much greater" had the township not changed its current plans. 
Kevin Brutschea December 10, 2013 at 04:55 PM
That rebate money was always meant to be for the home owning citizens of Bensalem to compensate for the inconveniences brought on us by hosting that sin bin. This Administration and Council had never wanted us to get that money, but instead ear-mark it for pet projects, and what ever they see fit. Bryan Allen took them to task and had them give in to the $300. Since he's been off Council they have dwindled it down to $100, and I believe they were planning on keeping it this year until me, and my Democrats made it a campaign issue. I have always held the position that the rebate should be "off budget", and savings can be found elsewhere. For instance, there is a vehicle that I'm sure cost well over $75,000 that is being used to keep people from cutting through the Rescue Squad. That's a pretty expensive road block. If the State controls how much money the casino has to pay us, have they talked to our State Rep and State Senator?
james bailey December 10, 2013 at 05:46 PM
That $100.00 dollar check was a joke.........Along with the letter from the Mayor saying we can use this for home improvements or maintenance of our property. It seems like many people are profiting from the Casinos except the property owners in BENSALEM. It is time for the people of Bensalem to wake up and do what is good for the people. Let's change the look of elected officials. HB/SB 76 was a really good idea for both the taxpayers as well as the school children. The problem with the bill was that money could not be hidden. Neither State Rep DiGiralamo nor Senator Tomlinson ever responded to my many pleas to look into this bill. If they are not working for the people in Bensalem......it is time for a change next election time

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