Jill Halteman

Jill Halteman, with husband Richard holding the Bible, is sworn in over Zoom after being appointed to the Franconia Township Board of Supervisors. Halteman is the first female on the board. She replaces Curtis Kratz who resigned after two decades on the board. 

FRANCONIA — A long-time Franconia Township Board of Supervisors member has left that position.  

"After serving the township for some 20 years as a supervisor, I feel it is time for me to retire," Curtis Kratz wrote in his resignation letter effective Nov. 4 and read aloud at the Nov. 16 meeting by Township Manager Jon Hammer.

"At 80 plus years old, I would like to spend more time with my wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren," Kratz wrote.

Board vice-chairman David Fazio said Kratz's resignation was accepted with regrets. 

"He'll be missed, so we thank him," Fazio said.

The board then approved the appointment of Jill Halteman, who Fazio said is well-known in the community and will be an asset to the board.

Halteman and her husband, Richard, are the owners of R&J Farm Market and farm on Allentown Road. 

During the swearing in, which took place over Zoom with Montgomery County President Thomas Del Ricci administering the oath of office, Del Ricci mentioned the corn mazes at the farm market.

Before beginning, Del Ricci also asked if there was a Bible for Halteman to place her hand on during the swearing in and was told by township officials there was not.

Halteman initially said she had not brought a Bible with her, then remembered she had.

"Hey, wait," she said. "I have a little teeny one in my purse."

Following the swearing in, Del Ricci told Halteman, "I'm sure that the township will be well served by your presence on the board and thank you for giving me the privilege of swearing you in."

Halteman is the first female board of supervisors member in Franconia's history, township officials said.

During his time on the board, Kratz was a leader in the farmland preservation programs for the municipality that bills itself as "the garden spot of Montgomery County."

Halteman will also be a representative for the agricultural community, board Chairman Grey Godshall said.

"With Curt retiring, she fills that gap," he said, "and, also, we're excited to have the first woman township supervisor."

In other matters at the meeting: 

• The proposed 2021 budget keeps the tax rate the same as this year, Hammer said. 

"Overall, the financial condition of the township remains strong. Over the last several years, we've budgeted conservatively, we've spent conservatively and we're in a good position financially," he said.

"We're holding up very well," he said, "despite Covid, despite all the challenges we've faced throughout the year."

Income from building permits and real estate transfer taxes are less than last year, but overall, the township is expected to end the year with close to the budgeted amount of revenue and having spent less than was budgeted, he said.

"Looking forward to 2021, we have made no significant changes to the budget," Hammer said. "We continue to budget conservatively in the times we're in."

With no change in the tax rate, the township's property tax remains at 2.03 mills, including 1.55 mills for the general fund, 0.15 mills for the fire tax and 0.33 mills for the library tax. 

For a home assessed at $166,000, which is around the township average, the township property tax is $336.98. Each mill equals $1 of tax per $1,000 of assessed property value. 

General fund revenues for the proposed 2021 budget are $5,788,941.26, with expenses coming in at $5,771,549.64. Expenses include $2,631,970.32 for police and $1,305,980.16 for public works. 

The board will hold its final vote on the budget at its Dec. 21 meeting, Hammer said.

• Preparations are continuing for this year's Shop with a Cop, Police Chief Michael Martin said. 

"The format's gonna be different. We're gonna do it over several days. It's gonna be list-based more than it was before. We'll be connecting with the families, try to get some specifics from them and then we'll go and do most of the shopping," he said. "We'll meet with the families to limit exposure and then we'll deliver it to the house." 

Martin said this year's Shop with a Cop will the "social distancing version, as everything else is."

• Conditional preliminary/final approval was given for phase 4 of "The Pocket Neighborhood" at Schoolhouse and Kulp roads in Peter Becker Community. The plans include 30 cottages facing inward to pockets of green space that designers say create a neighborhood feel and increased socialization. 

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