The Pennsylvania township of Middletown returned $1 million in checks of $68 to a little over 15,000 residents.
The excess in the public budget stems from property taxes and, thus, trickled back to property owners in the form of one-time "financial appropriations," the Bucks County Courier Times reported.
The decision to send back the money came in April after discussions among town board members and the public. The township's healthy coffers encouraged the redistribution. At the end of last year, the general fund balance clocked at $9,734,300 after Middletown expended less than expected and delinquent earned income taxes added some $900,000.
The $68 checks will help residents reduce the "tremendous financial burden" they brought forth in talks with Board Vice Chairman Mike Ksiazek during his 2017 campaign for office. He hopes the money would prompt property enhancements around the township.
William Oettinger, the sole detractor of the measure on the five-person board, described the checks "completely uncalled for," pointing out that the funds could have been used to hire more police officers and public works staffers. After green-lighting the payments, the board earmarked money for one position in the police and the public works departments, each.
"The status quo isn't good enough when you have department heads telling you they need more help, and we keep on shooting them down, or throwing them a bone now and then, 'Here's one cop there, here's a public works guy there'... this just doesn't make any sense," he said.
Supervisors Chairwoman Amy Strouse, however, said township officials have heard "loud and clear" residents' complaints about high taxes.
"We are in a situation where the general fund balance has crept up over time, and I think it's irresponsible for a township to hang on to that level of funding when we have the opportunity to help people out a little bit," she said. "And if $70 is going to help somebody out a little bit with their medical bills, with putting food on the table for the next month or making their mortgage payment, then that's not an opportunity that I'm willing to pass up."
Founded as a farming community, the township boasts a population of a little over 45,000, according to the 2010 census. There are only few historic properties in Middletown (only a handful date back to the 1950s and earlier). Another housing aspect of note in the community here is the absence of trailer parks.