Tredyffrin Fiscal Responsibility . . . or taxpayer disrespect? Update from Board of Supervisors Meeting

The last supervisors meeting of 2010 was far less theatrical than the last meeting of 2009 that included the infamous cardboard check to the fire companies.  However, last night had its moments.

As my last post explained, the Swedesford Road Open Space bridge repair project was back on the agenda last night for a supervisors vote. I attended the supervisors meeting knowing there would be little discussion; and understanding that a decision ‘not to approve’ was most likely determined in advance of the meeting.

As the closest resident to the Swedesford Road Open Space property, I believed a first-hand account of safety issues surrounding the property and its usage was important for the record.  The Township’s purchase ($825K) of this property in 2006 was made possible with a $400K grant from Chester County.  As a condition of the grant, the open space was to be available to residents, and “utilized perpetually for park, recreational and natural-resources conservation purposes.”

For this open space to be available and advertised for public use, I suggested to the supervisors that the township bears a responsibility to make the property accessible and safe for visitors. A large section of guard rail at the entrance of the open space is dislodged due to a recent accident which I addressed in my remarks last night.  I also stated that my husband and I do not have an opinion one way or the other about the bridge repair but thought it important to underscore the safety issues when visitors are forced to back out on to Swedesford Road because there is no turnaround space.

Considering that in all likelihood the decision not to move the bridge repair project forward was made prior to last night’s official supervisors vote, what did I expect as a response to my comments?  Following my remarks, all that was required was a simple ‘thank you’ – take the vote and move on.  Unfortunately, for me, it was not that simple. Supervisor DiBuonaventuro, the western district township supervisor (Swedesford Road Open Space property jurisdiction) debated my remarks, questioned the accident and guard rail damage and suggested that I was over-dramatizing the situation.  He further suggested that there was no problems for visitors leaving this open space; drivers can just look in their rear view mirror and back out on to Swedesford Road.  Swedesford Road is a highly trafficked state road . . . trust me, you do not want to back out on to Swedesford Road!

Mr. DiBuonaventuro further claimed that the property is only used by a few fishermen. I am the one who lives directly across the road from the property but apparently, my observations regarding the property’s usage are not viewed as valid.  One hopes that the fingers-crossed approach to safety will continue to work. 

So what was Mr. DiBuonaventuro’s motivation for his behavior and attitude . . . to take a personal stand on fiscal responsibility?  Again, I suggest that a simple ‘thank you’ for my comments would have sufficed.  After all, the vote was predetermined so the debate of my remarks was clearly unnecessary.

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  1. Pattye
    My sympathies to you — and chalk up another opportunity for our BOS to pretend to care a whit about what residents think. After all — when anyone contradicting them is WRONG….I haven’t watched it yet, but it’s rather unfortunate that they rarely if ever even pretend to be deliberating in public. Can’t wait to see which insider they appoint to WK’s empty chair…no one that better have any questions, that’s for sure. (Since your problem was with JD, I keep hearing the lyrics to “another one bites the dust.” Maybe he quarreled with WK because he likes to argue….)

  2. I watched the supervisors meeting last night and found the discussion disturbing. Supervisors are elected to serve the public and listen to the questions and concerns. Apparently Ms. Benson lives next to this open space and was giving her personal observations to the supervisors. Her comments did not require a combative response from a supervisor.

    PS: I work in the Great Valley corporate center and travel on Swedesford Road twice a day and anyone who doesn’t think the road is not dangerous has not been on it recently.

  3. “Drivers can just look in their rear view mirror and back out on to Swedesford Road.”

    What??

    Is it EVER safe to just look in your rear view mirror when backing out into a trafficked street, let alone Swedesford Road?

    Sorry to bring this up, but it seems appropriate to mention another custom from the old country, where roundabouts are used to manage traffic flow at dangerous and busy intersections….. It is considered really bad form to ever back into a street, and may (I forget, now) even be grounds for failing a driving test. (Not that I am suggesting we all should start driving like maniac Europeans!)

  4. Many of us can agree that there was something a bit shady about the Swedesford Road open space purchase in 06. However, fast forward 4-1/2 years – the township owns the property and it needs to be maintained and make safe and accessible.

    The repair project was in the Capital budget so why make a big deal about it now? Didn’t the supervisors approve what was in the budget? That argument should have been mean prior to the budget approval.

    As for the open space, either maintain it and make it safe or close it — and no JD it is not safe to back out on to Swedesford Road. How ridiculous! John if JD is all about safety than I think it was a major miss-step for him to make such an unsafe suggestion.

    1. There is a fairly wide shoulder there – not the most comfortable maneuver if traffic were coming, but more than doable without actually backing into any travel lanes.

  5. I’m not sure I follow all of the arguments here, but it appears that there is much agreement.

    I can say that the Conservancy is very conscious of the cost of ongoing maintenance of its properties and works hard to get endowments along with new donations or acquisitions. Absent similar pre-funding by the Township, then it does seem that discretionary expenditures like the Open Space bridge should be put on hold now in favor of the more pressing stormwater damage abatement that John mentions.

    The roundabout ($1.7 million, not $7 million!) and the EIT are always guaranteed to generate excitement here. I’ll continue to keep the flame alive for projects and programs that just make sense when viewed through objective lenses of performance, economics, safety and equity. I understand that those lenses get fogged by special interests and influence from time to time!

  6. Not sure what I missed vis a vis the “roundabout”…so $1.7 vs. $7 million is not something I can address, but I do love to chime in when someone mentions EIT in the same sentence as economics and equity. I don’t pay it and don’t care to pay it and don’t think adding it to the tax mix accomplishes anything. I bought a much smaller house than I could technically”afford” because I didn’t want to pay a lot of taxes. Please only tax me on what I knowingly bought, not what I am able to earn working long hours and very hard. I’ll pay higher property taxes because that’s the deal I cut when I moved here. No more.

    1. So, you’re in a position where a likely EIT rate would provide a greater tax increase than a property tax increase that raises the same amount for the School district. Status quo, very nice.

      The issue is that in aggregate that is not true. Your situation is outweighed by those who pay the tax already and the money goes to another school district, by those who have no earned income with which to pay any tax increase, and by those for whom an income tax or a property tax increase would be equivalent. The aggregate difference in incremental cost for T/E is in the $ millions. That’s economics and equity.

  7. I really do not agree. The fact that many taxpayers pay it in other places is moot — and is accounted for on their federal and state returns. The deal we made when we moved here just 3 years ago was that we knew there was no income tax here. Why would changing that be fair because people work in companies located in places with income tax?
    I’m not being stubborn — I just don’t see changing the rules for those who pay it elsewhere being right. And I think it would affecte property values — people move here knowing it’s not a taxed area. Right?

    1. Every long-term doctor at Univ of PennHealth systems kids tuition paid too…(up to the cost of PENN), so perhaps the school board person/finance chair who is a CFO and works at Penn (and will be running for reeelction to the board in the spring) has something to do with the superintendent’s tuition grant…..

    2. John some of the things you say here make sense, but I can understand why a potential candidate would not want to get into it here on this board with you, or anyone.
      If a Tredyffrin resident is levied an EIT and gets property relief, then isn’t that neutral as far as tax income to Tredyffrin? So then the real positive income would come from those who don’t live here, and as such don’t get property relief, but just pay the tax to the township? Is this how other EIT townships work?

  8. Good points John, except for:
    “If you live here AND work in the township, you don’t pay it and if an EIT were levied, you would be adversely affected.”
    Well, not necessarily, compared to the alternative of a property tax increase, depending on your income and the value of your property.

    The good news is that if Mike is appointed to the BOS he clearly can not vote to accept any portion of an EIT to which the Township may be entitled, and so the School District will get all the value proportionate to the political courage they may possibly display.

    1. You don’t believe that do you? If the school board enacts the tax, the township would obviously take 1/2. Baiting a potential appointee here doesn’t change that!

      And for the record — why would ANYONE be willing to serve this township when people like John Petersen attack them before they even serve. Once upon a time he was appoiinted to fill a vacancy. Is this bitterness? I don’t have an issue with some of your concerns about taxing, but to verbally assault a possible citizen volunteer before that person is even appointed does not speak well to your sense of fairness.

      1. Just trying to hold the political class accountable for doing what they say. If the voters don’t do that, they’ll just get more of the same.

  9. Keep in mind that there are a significant number of us who work in an area who takes an EIT from us. Without switching jobs, this is not something I can change. This is all money that I am already paying and it is going to another township and another school district (which I might add, are not in financial crisis mode, and never were throughout the recession). I would absolutely love to have my EIT come back to my home township and home school district.

    So until the recession is completely over and real estate transfer taxes are back to at least the 2007 levels, and the governing bodies are able to earn money on their investments, projects such as this open land and parks and libraries and etc should NOT even be remotely on the table. Infrastructure, Police, Fire, EMS, Roads and critical services should be the only focus in difficult times. I do understand that we are talking capital money here, but that money needs to be kept in reserve for a day when a regularly traveled bridge by all needs work.

    If this park is so dangerous to get in and out of without repair, then it should be closed until such time the finances of the township are available to fix it without putting the rest of the township in jeopardy due to the expense. or, the township can sell the property or raise money separately for the project.

    1. Thank you for your remarks CJ. In regards to the Swedesford Road Open Space property because over half of the $825K purchase price was paid for by Chester County grant money, this property cannot be sold. Actually, it could be sold but first the township would have to pay back the $400K+ in grant money to the county. From a practical standpoint, I don’t see how the township can afford to give back that kind of money and think that they could recover their investment.

  10. There’s a lot of talk about whether an EIT or a Property Tax is “fairer” and about “bringing back” EIT revenue currently paid to other districts.

    If it were possible to guarantee that EIT revenue were used for property tax relief, that is one thing. Then we could have a conversation about the “fairness” of a tax shift. However, there is no guarantee that either the school board or the BOS would use EIT revenue for tax relief. That money will quickly be used up to fill holes in the budget or to provide raises to employees.

    So what does that get us in the end? A higher tax burden but NOT necessarily a better school system or improved township services.

    During the next election cycle, I suspect that EIT will be a major issue for BOS elections. The BOS can impose an EIT without a referrendum, so it becomes very important to elect BOS who agree with your EIT position. The School Board cannot impose an EIT without a voter referrendum, so there I would actually see it as an election advantage to be “pro-EIT” since you’ll get support from all the people who want an EIT but won’t lose votes from EIT opposition since they would just focus on defeating the referrendum. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

    For my part, I oppose an EIT. I chose to live in Tredyffrin in large part because there is no EIT. Many of my neighbors feel the same way. The recession has mobilized many of us to oppose tax increases that go straight to raises for unionized employees and their pension program costs. We’d gladly support taxes for essential services and educational programs, but we want to see bloated wages, health care and pension costs dealt with first.

    Only after that’s been dealt with would you see strong voter support for an EIT in this area. We’re not against paying our “fair” share of taxes, but we want the budget to make sense!

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