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May 27, 2016

On the Brink: Rising Municipal Pension Costs in Cheltenham Township, PA

Cheltenham Township, PA

 

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The streets of Cheltenham are lined with historic homes and row houses. Located in Montgomery County, Cheltenham Township borders North Philadelphia. As the 3rd most populated township in the county and 27th most populated municipality in the state, this quiet suburban area is starting to face its share of pension reform woes.

Tight Budgets in Cheltenham Township

Currently the township’s operating on a tight budget. During the 2016 township financial plan presentation, Harvey Portner, then President of Cheltenham Township Board of Commissioners, addressed slight increases throughout the operating budget of 2.1%.

Portner said the rising pension costs pose a long-term threat to the township’s financial stability. They are aware of the situation but, unfortunately, revenues are not keeping pace in covering expenses. Due to fiscal constraints, budget increases were not approved for library services or fire companies: key components of any liveable area.

Funding Municipal Pension Obligations

A large amount of the township’s budget is going into funding municipal pension obligations, and public safety costs are anticipated to rise. Eventually this will leave the community to cover the additional cost of pensions.

Currently, the municipality carries an unfunded pension liability of $559 per capita. In 2014, Cheltenham Township approved an increase in the real estate tax along with a series of fee increases to keep the township fiscally stable in the face of escalating personnel costs.
The issues that Cheltenham Township and other municipalities across Pennsylvania are facing are not theirs alone. Many municipalities will continue to struggle until we obtain meaningful municipal pension reform. You have the ability to share your concerns with your Pennsylvania Senators and Representatives. Tell them you want action!  Tell them to fix the numbers.