Despite a forecast $2.5 million to $3 million dip in revenue over the next two years due to pandemic-related shutdown orders, it appears Cranberry Township will have a balanced budget in 2021.
The roughly $21.7 million proposed budget — about 3% lower than 2020's budget — is slimmer in large part due to a more than $1 million drop in expected tax revenue, largely related to the COVID-19 crisis.
Township manager Jerry Andree said prior to the meeting that a loss in recreation program fees and mercantile tax revenue will likely have the biggest impact on a slimmer budget moving forward.
Occupation, business and other non-property taxes are the largest revenue stream for the township, which projects more than four-fifths of its funds to come from Act 511 taxes. Because business taxes are collected based on the prior year's receipts, those impacts are drawn out far beyond the length of state-mandated closures; local earned income tax largely affected the township this year.
“We have been able to offset those losses this year through (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) funding and spending adjustments,” he added.
Despite the revenue loss, Cranberry does not expect to raise taxes to offset the dip; instead, Andree said, “good spending decisions” will help the township stay balanced.
The largest segment of the township's expenditures, more than $7 million will go toward public safety, a $300,000 increase from the prior year. This is closely followed by the $5.7 million public works budget — about $135,000 less than 2020's budget — and $5.2 million in general government expenses, also an increase from 2020.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Dick Hadley said he was impressed by the work township staff had done to find areas in which Cranberry could tighten its squeeze on spending.
Next year “is going to be an unusual year again, probably more unusual than 2020,” he said. “We're prepared to go into that with a balanced budget and meet all challenges head on.”
Supervisors will fully consider the proposed budget at their Dec. 10 meeting.
After a proposed developer of a New Sewickley Township, Beaver County, site asked the board in late October if it would consider extending Cranberry's water footprint, the board on Thursday approved a resolution delineating a policy for doing so in the future.
While not explicitly addressing any specific requests, the resolution states supervisors will have the authority to extend water and sewage service outside its municipal boundaries when it is requested by another public entity, such as a municipal authority, and only when that area has already been approved pursuant to the township's Act 537 plan.
Additionally, it will not extend service to an existing development unless there is a “significant need or hardship,” such as failing wells or groundwater contamination.
Such an extension must, per the resolution, have a capacity limit or total number of properties it will serve.
The public entity that requested an extension will be required to pay for all costs, including design, engineering, rights of way, construction and maintenance costs, and tap fees.
Hadley offered to table the resolution if the supervisors would prefer to change it in any way, but all attending officials voted to approve it as written.
Supervisor John Skorupan said the resolution met his wishes, by offering to take care of those in need while not encouraging future developers to select sites based on where Cranberry's water supply could extend.