Month – November 2011

Public Comment Period on Proposed Redistricting Ends Wednesday at Midnight

Just a couple of days remain for public comment on the proposed redistricting of Pennsylvania’s election district boundaries.  Wednesday, November 30 is the closing date for comments on the proposed redistricting maps.  Granted, these are preliminary maps but I get the sense that they are not likely to change. We have until midnight on Wednesday to email comments to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission at:

The General Assembly in Harrisburg decides the boundaries for the Congressional districts but the top four minority and majority leaders of the General Assembly make up the Reapportionment Commission that decides the boundaries for state house and senate districts with the help of a fifth member they appoint as a tie-breaker.  The process of redistricting in Pennsylvaniais unsatisfactory; five individuals conduct this entire process without any requirement for public input until the final plan is put on public view for 30 days before its passage.

The outcome of Pennsylvania’s 2011 redistricting plan should come as no surprise.  Although the Republican Party is in power for this redistricting process, given the next 10 years and the next census, the power shift could change to the Democrats. Regardless of which party holds the majority at the time of Pennsylvania’s redistricting, without some form of redistricting reform, sadly a similar politically driven outcome is all but guaranteed.

Redistricting reform is needed, including an independent nonpartisan redistricting commission for all electoral levels.  Such a commission would require people who would not have a personal stake in the outcome of the redistricting; unlike the way it is done now.  No elected or political party officials could serve on this independent commission; the new redistricting process should prohibit the inclusion of party registration data and voting history.

The realty is that sweeping nonpartisan redistricting reform is unlikely. Redistricting is a powerful tool for elected officials to protect their own and undermine opponents. Depending on who is in power at the time of redistricting is what determines the election boundaries — thus minimizing the role of the voters in the political process. By gerrymandering the districts, legislators have been able to choose the voters before the voters have had an opportunity to choose them.  Without nonpartisan redistricting, the cycle will continue . . . regardless of which party is in power.

Although it is too late for redistricting reform in 2011, you can still send in your comments to the redistricting commission.  Much has been written about the proposed redistricting changes, but if you are not sure how it will affect you, there is a good online resource. The Legislative Reapportionment Commission website includes interesting interactive maps of the voting districts across the state. You can see the overlay of maps from 1991, current 2001 and proposed 2011 for the House, Senate and Congress.  The maps detail the geographic boundaries and the changes in the districts as the population has shifted.  In addition to the interactive maps, the website contains the 2010 US Census population statistics.

Tredyffrin’s Preliminary Budget Approved with 6.9% Increase, but Chairman Bob Lamina hopes we can do better!

There was some forward movement on the budget last night at the Board of Supervisors meeting. At the onset of the budget discussion, Mimi Gleason apologized to the supervisors and to the public for the errors contained in the preliminary budget that was presented at the last BOS meeting.  There were math errors in the budget summary tables that were carried forward in the township manager’s narrative.  Gleason offered that the week before there had been a number of last-minute changes in the benefit numbers as her explanation.

I am glad that John Petersen reviewed last week’s preliminary budget and caught the discrepancies and notified the township. It was good to see that responsibility was taken for those mistakes and I am hopeful that going forward, there will be greater oversight from the Finance Commission and the supervisors.  For the record, there never was a response to the residents from last week’s emails.  Some would suggest that since the message was received and changes made, no response was required.  Although I am a proponent for process, there is not closure on the issue and we can move on.

There was much discussion and questions from the supervisors to Gleason and the finance director in regards to the budget.  Although there were mistakes in the budget summary, the numbers in the budget remain the same – there is a $500K deficit in the 2012 township budget. Without any adjustment to the preliminary budget, the deficit would mean a 6.9% millage real estate tax increase. Using an average assessed property value of $221,000, the increase would equate to approximately $34 per homeowner. The major contributing factors to the deficit are the decrease in transfer and real estate taxes and a significant decrease in the recycling grant money.  Both residential and commercial property reassessments have greatly reduced real estate taxes.

Several areas in the budget were reviewed in detail.  Specifically, there is a $106K in the budget for website and software upgrade.  Of that amount, $6,500 earmarked for a citizen notification system.  This system could provide notifications for emergencies, road closures, special events, etc.  The approximate $100K remaining funds is split with $50K for contact management system and $50K to permit greater flexibility and to keep making progress.  The goal is to make the website more user-friendly, including the ability to reserve sport and summer camp programs online, a complaint and work order tracking system for public works, a third-party credit card system, etc.  The $106K website and software upgrade would come from reserves.

There remain some open issues surrounding the employee health insurance costs.  I was very surprised to learn that the current budget includes 100% paid insurance. I suggested that almost everyone pays a co-pay of $15/20 and had that been considered?  Although Mimi responded that this is part of the union negotiations, I am not confident that the insurance situation is going to change.  With the school district negotiations starting in January, this may offer some bargaining power for the teachers.

Tim Klarich, the township finance director alluded to the large unfunded medical and retirement liability but did not state the total.  It was my understanding that several years ago, there was $25 million in this unfunded liability and I asked that number to be qualified.  Very surprised to learn that the township’s unfunded liability as of January 1, 2011 was $36 million!  Although Klarich stated that at this time, there is no minimum contribution requirement for this liability, it does make you wonder what our increase would be if the taxpayers were forced to fund $36 million liability!  When and how does that liability receive funding?  Is this a bond issue?

Currently the 2012 budget summary is available online but I asked if the township could provide the full budget online for the residents.  Bob Lamina asked Mimi if that was possible and she agreed to provide the information.  I am not sure if it will confuse us more or help us – but at least this way, we will be able to review the department budgets and see the line listings that make up the individual budgets.

Although the budget discussion ended with the unanimous approval of the preliminary budget with its 6.9% millage real estate tax increase, there was the sense from the supervisors that they are going to continue their review.  Lamina stated that he believes that they can do better than the 6.9%. He is not certain that they can get the budget down to a zero percent increase but between now and the next BOS meeting on December 5, they are determined to try.

College Remains Important but Choosing the Right Major Could be Key to Employment

As a community, we focus on the T/E school district’s educational quality and its sustainability during these economic challenging times. Many in this community believe that there is a direct correlation between the quality of education provided in this school district and their property values.  For other residents, they look at the quality of our school district as a contributor to their children’s college experience and future job prospects.

Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workplace conducted an extensive study on the projection of jobs and education requirements through 2018.  A new report was recently released from the center, ‘Career Clusters: Forecasting Demand for High School through College Jobs 2008 – 2018‘ which offers some interesting trends and forecasts.

Everything we know about the job market tells us that a college degree is a passport to employment that provides a decent wage and benefits, albeit some benefits in the workplace are fading in today’s world.  We all know that having a college degree does not guarantee employment.  However, without a college degree the chances of securing a job providing a decent wage are far less.  The Georgetown study reports that by 2018, 62% of all jobs will require at least some college education.  The United States will need 22 million new college degrees but the study says we will fall short by at least 3 million.

“A bachelor’s degree is still the best path to middle-class employment and wages in the United States, and while those with only a high-school diploma can achieve the same status, it will become harder for them to find and secure such jobs.” according to the study.

The reports indicates that there are jobs for those with high school degrees, but those jobs are mostly in male-dominated careers – manufacturing, architecture and construction, distribution and logistics and hospitality.  The study makes an interesting point that women need education beyond a high school degree to be able to earn the same wage as a man with only a high-school education. This analysis would suggest that at the lower educated levels, women have not advanced as far with their paychecks as those women of higher education.  Although there remains a disparity in many workplaces between the salaries of women and men that gap has become narrower in the last decade.  This report suggests that the paycheck gap between the sexes is wider among the lower educated.  The higher the education, the lesser the salary gap between women and their male counterparts.

In the future, a person with only a high school diploma will have to work harder to reach a middle-class status versus a person with only a few college credits.  Opportunities go up proportionately based on the level of education and that growing fields of employment with better salaries will require college degrees.  The bottom line . . .  a college education is still important and valuable, even in a bad economy. It is the economy that is putting a high value on college degrees.  Putting students on a track to reach the college or university level and emphasizing the importance of a degree remains important.

Understanding the importance of a college education, if you look at the original report from the Georgetown University Center of Education and the Workplace, the data suggests the following:

Consider that, since 1983, among prime-age workers between the ages of 25 and 54:

• Earnings of high school dropouts have fallen by 2 percent;
• Earnings of high school graduates have increased by 13 percent;
• Earnings of people with some college or an Associate’s degree have increased by 15 percent;
• Earnings of people with Bachelor’s degrees have increased by 34 percent;
• Earnings of people with graduate degrees have increased by 55 percent.

Although unemployment affects all economic levels, the report suggests that those individuals with postsecondary education will fair better through this recession than ‘high school educated only’ individuals.   In addition, that the country’s future economic recovery will focus on skilled rather than unskilled labor jobs.  In other words, those that lost jobs that only required a high school education will find that their jobs may be permanently lost; lost either to automation or through outsourcing to foreign competitors.

Using the data from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workplace, the Wall Street Journal created an interactive tool where users can search for the average employment rate and median income of people who studied each major.

Current top 10 college majors with the highest unemployment (10% employment rate or higher)

1. Clinical psychology 19.5%
2. Miscellaneous fine arts 16.2%
3. United States history 15.1%
4. Library science 15.0%
5. (tie) Military technologies; educational psychology 10.9%
6. Architecture 10.6%
7. Industrial & organizational psychology 10.4%
8. Miscellaneous psychology 10.3%
9. Linguistics & comparative literature 10.2%

One obvious trend to recognize is anyone with some form of an undergraduate psychology degree is struggling to find employment.  Due to the slowdown in the construction industry, it is not a surprise to see architecture on the list.

The most employable college majors (with accompanying unemployment rate):

1. Actuarial Science 0%
2. Astronomy and astrophysics 0%
3. Educational administration and supervision 0%
4. Geological and geophysical engineering 0%
5. Pharmacology 0%
6. School student counseling 0%
7. Agricultural economics 1.3%
8. Medical technologies technicians 1.4%
9. Atmospheric science and meteorology 1.6%
10. Environmental engineering, nursing and nuclear industrial radiology and biological technologies 2.2%

College students should take note of some recession-proof degrees. There are at least six fields of study whose graduates are virtually 100 percent employed right now. That’s right – certain majors, such as pharmacology, produce graduates who face a zero percent unemployment rate. That’s not bad considering last month’s joblessness rate for people with a college degree or higher was 4.4 percent. Jobs are available for science and technology majors but also it is good to see that education and school counseling majors should be able to find employment.

Looking at the county’s unemployment rates and the rising costs of a college education over the last three decades, we should not question the value of a postsecondary degree as the Georgetown University study confirms its value. However, even if we can agree on the importance of a four-year education, especially once the country struggles out of recession into recovery mode, a pressing problem remains.

Beyond the cost of the college degree is the bigger problem . . .  and that is how to pay for it!

I feel like we are living in the slow motion era of the 2nd Great Depression.

Citizens Should Matter More to Township Staff and Elected Officials

This is a follow-up to my last post on Community Matters.  Without repeating the entire post, here is the short version – on Monday at the Board of Supervisors meeting, the township manager Mimi Gleason presented the 2012 preliminary budget including a power point overview of the budget.  Copies of the preliminary budget and the township manager’s 4-page budget summary were available at the meeting and online.  Included in the budget draft was a 6.9% millage real estate increase.

In his review of the preliminary budget, former township supervisor John Petersen found multiple mathematical errors in Gleason’s summary report. On Tuesday, Petersen sent several emails to Gleason detailing the mistakes.  I was copied on all the emails as was resident Ray Clarke and township supervisor John DiBuonaventuro.  Before writing my last post on Community Matters, I double-checked the budget summary numbers as did Ray Clarke and we agreed with John that errors were contained in both the revenue and expenditure summary tables.  The errors when applied to the budget narrative further compounded the problems in the summary information,

With declining revenues and increasing costs of our current economic climate, it is more important than ever to account for every dollar. As a taxpayer, I want to feel confident in our local government.  Beyond the troubling math errors, there was no response to any of John Petersen’s emails; absolutely no acknowledgement to him (or Ray Clarke or myself) from the township manager.

Our supervisors talk about the importance of communication to our residents, so what does this lack of response say?  A resident takes the time to do an analysis of the preliminary budget and is not afforded the courtesy of a response. In addition to Petersen’s efforts, Clarke also reviewed the budget materials and reached a similar conclusion as to the errors.  As residents and taxpayers in this community, do we not matter?

Here is another concerning point. Petersen, Clarke and I live in the western part of the township, in District 3 – Supervisor DiBuonaventuro serves this district (which explains why he was copied on the emails from Petersen to Gleason).  DiBuonaventuro ran unopposed in last week’s election and was re-elected to the Board of Supervisors for a second 4-year term. During the early years of his first term, residents often remarked about DiBuonaventuro’s strong constituent service and quick resident response.  The Petersen, Clarke and Benson families are all constituents in his voting district yet we received no email response or phone call in regards to this serious situation.

This got me thinking – if there is no acknowledgement from the township manager or response from our district supervisor, what does this really say about our local government. The supervisors received the budget information in their packets the week before the meeting so there was time to review the summary.

The township’s Finance Committee (supervisors DiBuonaventuro, Paul Olson and Phil Donahue) had been working with the township staff on the budget so it is expected they reviewed the preliminary budget before it was sent to the other supervisors.

If Gleason and DiBuonaventuro choose not to respond to the citizens, I then question if either of them bothered to advise BOS chair Bob Lamina of the errors in the budget summary.  If the other supervisors were not told of the citizen concerns, how would they know there were mistakes in the budget summary – by reading Community Matters, TE Patch or the Main Line Media News?

This is not intended as some kind of ‘gotcha’ moment against the township staff or supervisors! We all make mistakes.  Rather to ask where the respect is for the citizen who takes time to review the budget, sends emails and receives no response?

I want assurances from our elected officials that they are ‘watching the store’ for all the residents of this community.  DiBuonaventuro should have responded with an email or phone call to tell us he appreciated the seriousness of the situation, and to assure us that, if warranted, the math errors would be corrected.  Given that Supervisor DiBuonaventuro is a member of the township’s Finance Committee, our district supervisor and someone who repeatedly speaks from the dais on the importance of ‘due diligence’, I am disappointed.

Somehow, it seems we have lost our way.  Township staff and elected officials – don’t you care about the residents of this community and doing what’s right?

Tredyffrin’s 2012 Preliminary Budget Indicates 6.9% Increase . . . But the Math Doesn’t Add Up!

At Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, our township manager Mimi Gleason presented Tredyffrin’s preliminary budget for 2012 that indicates a 6.9% millage real estate increase will be required to balance the budget. As she does each year, Gleason presented a budget summary, which was designed as an overview of the township’s current financial picture.  Included in the summary are 2011 budget and forecasted revenue and expenditures through the end of the year plus the 2012 preliminary budget. Two summary tables marked ‘General Fund Revenue’ and ‘General Fund Expenditures’ are part of the township manager’s document dated November 10, 2011.

I do not know about you, but when I review budget data, I look at the totals, the ‘bottom line’ – just assuming that the math is correct.  Laying no claim as a financial expert, when I reviewed the township’s budget memorandum, I accepted Ms. Gleason’s summary information as correct and her math as accurate.  As the hired professional and chief executive officer of the township, in my view, she is the expert and I had no reason to question the accuracy of the information.

Resident and former township supervisor John Petersen reviewed Ms. Gleason’s budget summary and discovered multiple mathematical errors in the report. I learned of the mistakes in the budget information when I was copied on emails to Gleason, along with township supervisor John DiBuonaventuro and resident Ray Clarke.

In review of Gleason’s budget summary, the totals for the General Fund revenue and expenditure summary tables are incorrect.  The 2012 budget revenue should be $16,467,175, and the difference vs. the 2011 Forecast is ($141,748).  On the expenditure summary table totals, the 2011 Forecast should be $16,916,736 the 2012 Budget should be $16,926,204, and the difference vs. the 2011 Forecast should be $9,468.  If you use these corrected totals from the revenue and expenditure tables, similar errors are now contained in Gleason’s summary description.  In referring to 2011, Gleason states, “the year is forecast to end $377,000 under budget.”  Due to mathematical error, this information is incorrect; the year is forecast to end $355,160 under budget, not $377,000.  Gleason states the “General fund revenue is projected to decrease another $130,000 in 2012, for a total decrease of $330,000 versus the 2011 budget.”  Correcting the math, the 2012 general fund revenue is projected to be $255,950 less than the 2011 budget, not $330,000.

What does all this mean to us the taxpayer and to the budget process?  With declining revenues and increasing costs of our current economic climate, it is more important than ever to account for every dollar.  As taxpayers, we trust that the financial information is accurate – isn’t this information checked and re-checked. After all, the township manager’s budget information would have multiple in-house reviews before it goes public, correct. Finance Director, Township Manager, Supervisor Finance Committee, Board of Supervisors . . . all of these people have access to this information before the public sees it.  Where is the accountability?  Are these kinds of mathematical ‘mistakes’ OK?  These errors are in the budget summary . . . are there additional errors in the budget line listings?

Reading the township revenue and expenditure summaries, I find it confusing and difficult to understand.  There is not an adequate breakdown of the department expenditures and the account detail worksheets do not provide sufficient explanation (particularly of increased costs).  Can the public please have a complete township budget with all details? If you look at the school district, they are far more transparent, providing complete information, including every check written from TESD. The last budget update from TESD was 180+ pages and provided the public with complete information.  The township budget is a fraction of the school district budget; should we not expect similar public information?

We were all caught up in the EIT campaign hype over the last month leading up to Election Day.  We were inundated with Republican campaign mailers, robo-calls and yellow signs all claiming ‘No EIT’ and then the defense from the Democratic camp. As was the case when I ran for the Board of Supervisors in 2009, the Republican campaign materials implied that if voters elected a Democrat candidate, residents would be in line for an increase in taxes.

Election Day 2011 was only a week ago and we know from the results that Tredyffrin Township will continue as an all-Republican Board of Supervisors and the School Board will be Republican-majority in its membership. Democrats were not elected because they presumably would ‘raise taxes’.   So how is it that a week after the election, the Republican Board of Supervisors present a budget that contains a 6.9% tax increase?

There were two 2012 township budget workshops, late August and October 1.  The supervisors would have known that a tax increase would be required for 2012.  Rather than indicate or suggest the possibility of a 2012 tax increase, the supervisors choose to wait until after Election Day.  And the Republicans said it was the Democrats who would raise taxes . . . guess this is ‘politics’.

Between the tax increases from the township and the school district, what do you guess the overall increase will be for the Tredyffrin taxpayer . . . 10%, 12%?


No EIT for Tredyffrin Easttown School District in 2012!

Based on Ray Clarke’s notes below from the Finance Committee and the School Board meeting on the Earned Income Tax, sounds like it was quite a night!  First off, the big news to report — there will be no EIT voter referendum question on the April primary election ballot.  The same two people, Kevin Mahoney and Anne Crowley, favored taking the EIT to the voters as they voted similarly in October 2010.  Please read Ray’s comments and I would like to hear from others who attended the meeting last night.

A couple of fascinating school district meetings last night. Bottom Line: a motion to advise the townships of a possible intent to put an EIT on next year’s ballot was defeated 7:2 (Mahoney, Crowley).

My own take, but watch the action for yourselves….

The usual arguments were rehearsed by both Board members and audience, but the ones that I felt carried the day were that “now is not the time” and “we’re going to try really really hard to get Harrisburg to find another of your pockets to take the employee pensions from”. Dr Brake had a well-reasoned position that also made the point that the current political climate would not allow a thoughtful debate and the Board could avoid “roiling the community” further by not putting it to referendum now.

But that was not what kept this audience member awake. Just about every board member (campaigning or not) berated the political machine for the campaign tactics.

Dr Brake contrasted legitimate “contrast pieces” with “offensive” “making stuff up”. Then Republican operative Tom Colman launched a defense of the election tactics, and acknowledged that he had orchestrated a personal campaign against the Act 1 tax in 2007. That brought up Jenny Wessels to state that she had been miss-represented in the campaign and to commend the Board for their non-partisan approach. Then followed Debbie Bookstaber, in a long soliloquy berating her colleagues for their political statements.  Must see TV!

A few interesting audience comments:

Ed Sweeney: strongly against an EIT and wants the tax policy to attract the “right people” (high income earners?)

Melody Price: a thoughtful appeal for a balanced approach that considers all potential solutions.

Unknown audience member: “three words – Taxed Enough Already” (that was helpful!)

Barbara Morosse: There is more expense for the district to cut, including through teacher salary structure changes.

Notable board member comments:

Rich Brake: wants to completely recalibrate the teachers’ contract, do away with the matrix.

Kevin Mahoney: a) lest anyone thinks that companies are not interested in property taxes, consider the multi-million dollar GSK assessment appeals, b) maybe school districts should be freed up from rules that limit investment options to be able to earn returns like UPenn endowment’s 15%

Betsy Fadem: Don’t think we can use the Fund Balance to balance the budget because the School Board has committed it….

Which brings me to the evening’s opening act, the Finance Committee. Four things to remark:

[1] The minutes that Pattye had puzzled over were corrected: the administration proposals for the $1.3 million funding restoration were not authorized by the last Finance Committee but referred back to the Education Committee.

[2] A discussion of the Fund Balance commitments, which include $7.6 million of “vested employee services”, along of course with $15.4 million of “future retirement plan stabilization”. The accounting is much different to the GAAP I’m used to, but here’s my takeaway:

  • These amounts are based on arbitrary board policies
  • The PSERS commitment is based on the next five years, the employee services on almost but not quite the full lifetime liability
  • They are only commitments to the extent that it takes a Board vote to change them
  • Few if any other school districts have a commitment for vested employee services, and pay as they go.

So, “vested employee services” appears to be another way to sit on taxpayer money without fully revealing what the actual liability is, what the additions and payouts are from year-to-year, and where the funding for the liability comes from. And, in general, the PSERS liability is going straight up for the next 5 years, holds flat for the next 10, and then starts to decline. So would the policy mean that the district sequesters say $25 million of taxpayer money until that decline starts in 2025 or so?

I think that Mahoney committed the next Finance Committee to review the policy. At the very least it would be good to know exactly how all this works, and why it is that TE policies need to be different from other school districts.

[3] Groundwork laid for the ongoing property tax-to-the-max strategy: next year’s Act 1 Index estimated at 1.7%, Exceptions for PSERS and special education 1.7%, total property tax increase 3.4%, $2.9 million.

[4] The fourth thing was …… err ……. ooops …… oh yes:

The Finance Committee approved a contract with a marketing agency for selling promotional space on district property. The net annual revenue to the district is projected to be $160,000. The agency was the only one that responded to the district RFP. The contract states that the District has to approve all content, sponsors, advertisements; in the meeting it was stated that the Board approval is required.

If I think of any else, I’ll add it as a comment.

Tredyffrin’s 2012 Preliminary Budget + Business Development Advisory Council Announced

I attended the Board of Supervisors meeting last night but based on the notes from Ray Clarke, it sounds like the Finance Committee meeting and the EIT discussion of the school board was more action-packed.  Because of the amount of information, I will present some updates from the BOS meeting and then separately provide Ray’s notes from the TESD.

The township economic advisory group that I advocated for on Community Matters in February 2011 has finally come together.  Although this new group was approved by the supervisors in April, it has been a long process to finally have the group announced.  Supervisors Donahue, Heaberg and Kichline have held meetings with local companies, real estate and leasing representatives, etc. during the last several months to create a model for this advisory group.  Once they established the criteria, community members were asked to submit letters of interest and resumes and we were told last night that they received 20 applications for the committee.

The newly formed economic advisory group is to be called Tredyffrin Business Development Advisory Council. The announcement read, “This group was chosen for its cross section of business, strategic, planning and marketing expertise.  They are highly skilled citizens who do not currently serve on our boards and commissions and have agreed to take a critical look at all aspects of the Township that relate to business development and business retention.  This includes, but is not limited to zoning, transportation and marketing.”

The members of the TBDAC are Dan Fishbein, Eric Kleppe, Stanford Nishikawa, Jim Sanborn, John Susanin and Bill Thomsen. Although their individual backgrounds were not offered, a quick online search reveals this is an impressive group of people!

  • Dan Fishbein, VP of BNY Mellon/Urdang Capital  (real estate industry)
  • Eric Kleppe, Director of Client Services at Turner Investments
  • Stanford Nishikawa,  former junk-bond analyst who now runs his family’s investments
  • Jim Sanborn, VP and General Manager of Interstate & Ocean Transport Company
  • John Susanin, Partner in SSH Real Estate, brokerage and investment company
  • Bill Thomsen, Senior VP at Urban Engineers, Inc.

In addition to the three supervisors (Kickline, Donahue and Heaberg), the six citizens listed above, there will be four liaison members — Tory Snyder, Planning Commission; Beth Brake and Donna Shipman, Community Affairs and Small Business; and Dave Rowland, Paoli Business community.

As explained last night, the group will meet periodically and present a report in the next 4-6 months. It is intended that following their report, a long term business advisory group will be created.

A major topic of the evening was the preliminary 2012 township budget.  Township manager Mimi Gleason presented her yearly budget summary.  She forecasts that the general fund balance for 2011 will decrease by over $100,000 versus budget. General fund expenditures are forecasted at $240,000 over budget (due primarily to storms). Overall, Gleason forecasts 2011 to end $377,000 under budget.  No surprises that the declining revenues are expected in 2012 and beyond.  The general fund revenue is expected to decrease another $130,000 in 2012, for a total decrease of $330,000 versus the 2011 budget. General fund expenditures is expected to remain flat from 2011 forecast and 1.5% greater than the 2011 budget.

With the preliminary draft, the 2012 budget has a $500,000 hole versus the 2011 budget. So how is the budget balanced and what does this mean for the taxpayer? Unless there are reductions in costs or services, this means a 6.9% millage real estate rate increase.

What are the contributing factors . . . the downturn in the economy, decrease in real estate and transfer tax, and $70K decrease in recycling grant from the state all contribute to lower revenue.  A number of township residents have had their homes reassessed, which is indicated by the lower real estate taxes paid to the township.  But I didn’t think about commercial reassessments and Tredyffrin had two significant companies with property reassessments – Vanguard and De Lage Landen (Dutch company with its US headquarters on Old Eagle School Rd, Wayne).  The combined real estate reassessments of these two corporate giants accounted for a major drop in revenue.

Remember this was just the first preliminary budget presentation; it is possible that the mileage real estate rate increase may drop.  As explained last night, if no changes are made in the budget, the 6.9% increase is approximately $34/year increase.  Don’t we wish that was the increase we were facing for the school district?

Here’s a link to the township’s 2012 preliminary budget.

Decision Time – Will T/E School Board Directors Vote in Favor of an EIT Voter Referendum Question?

Monday night is a case where I would like to be in two places at once . . .

Tredyffrin’s township finances and the proposed 2012 budget is on the Board of Supervisors agenda at 7:30 PM while the T/E school directors will hold a Finance Committee meeting at 6:30 PM followed by a special school board meeting at 7:30 PM to discuss the EIT. (Both school district meetings will be held in Conestoga HS cafeteria). I will attend the Board of Supervisors meeting and I am counting on my friend Ray Clarke to attend the school district meetings.

In reviewing the agenda for the T/E Finance Committee meeting and the draft minutes from their October 17 meeting, I read the following:

Education Committee Recommendation:

At the prior Finance Committee meeting the Committee was informed that the State reinstated $1.3 million in funding that was not included in the District’s 2011-12 budget. In light of this information, the Committee authorized the Superintendent to restore education program cuts made in the 2011-12 budget. Dr. Richard Gusick presented the proposed reinstatements of budget cuts to the education program and explained that they were already reviewed by the Education The Finance Committee asked that the proposal to reinstate these budget cuts be presented at a future Board meeting.

I am confused. Although I was aware that the State had reinstated $1.3 million in funding to the T/E school district, I was not aware there was a decision as to whether (1) restore the district’s education programming cuts or (2) add the money to the fund balance.

According to these minutes, the Finance Committee (or Education Committee?) authorized the money go to restoring education program cuts. Restoring which programming cuts? Latin in the Middle School? Foreign language in the elementary school? Technology purchases? Specifically, which education program cuts did the committee authorize restored? In addition, are we to assume that the option of adding the $1.3 million to the district’s fund balance is off the table for consideration? These are questions for the school board directors at Monday’s meeting.

I also noted that the Finance Committee meeting minutes indicate that the school district will wait until 2012 to release a RFP for the outsourcing (if needed) of custodial services. It is not clear at this point if custodial outsourcing will be on the budget reduction strategy list.

Immediately following the Finance Committee meeting tomorrow night, the school board will hold a special meeting at 7:30 PM to consider notification to Tredyffrin and Easttown townships of the intent to levy an EIT. November 16 is the deadline for the School Board to provide the townships with notification so the board will be taking a vote at this special meeting. The school board will vote on whether to include EIT as a voter referendum question on the primary election ballot on April 24, 2012. For school districts to levy an EIT requires voter approval. The maximum that TESD could levy is 1%. If approved by voters, all residents, including renters, in Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships would be taxed at 1% on earned income. If an EIT were to be approved, the townships have the legal option to request one-half of the 1% collected by the school district.

Leading up to Election Day, we watched as EIT become the ‘buzz’ word of the local campaign season. Early on, the local Republican Party took a stand against an earned income tax and furthered the issue by labeling the Democrat candidates as EIT supporters. Feeling the pressure, all the Democratic school board candidates responded that ‘they’ were personally opposed to an earned income tax.

The politicizing of the EIT prior to the public presentation of TESD’s tax study group troubled me. The EIT became a political football between the local political parties and in my opinion, damaged the community’s ability to completely understand the EIT as presented by the tax study group. Not to mention the confusion that occurred at the polls on Election Day! Three different precinct judge of elections have reported to me that there were some confused voters — asking where the EIT question was on the ballot. Based on the campaign mailers and political signs, many in the community came to the polls on Election Day expecting to vote on the EIT issue.

Now that we are on the other side of the election, how can newly re-elected school board members Karen Cruikshank (D) and Jim Bruce (R) now vote in favor of taking the EIT issue to the voters. I do not know whether re-elected Easttown school board member Pete Motel (R) made a public statement one way or the other re the EIT. Based on the pre-election political hype of the EIT, the vote count of the school board members will be interesting. Will we see the school board members following the lead of their political parties?

If the school board members vote in favor of an EIT voter referendum question on the April primary ballot, do many of us really think that the residents would vote in favor of this new tax. During the school board budget cut strategy meetings, there were residents asking for tax increases vs. further educational programming cuts.

Faced with the possibility of further programming cuts in the next school district budget, would there be sufficient support from voters for an EIT?

Vines are Strangling our Trees & Need Help . . . A great job for politicians!

Now that the election is over and the committee people, the candidates, elected officials and volunteers have had a few days to recover, I can’t think of a better way to refocus on the community than to volunteer this Saturday, November 12, 9 AM – 12 Noon to help the Open Land Conservancy.

The Conservancy is once again holding a series of winter “Vine Days” to continue the successful campaign against invasive vegetation.  This would be a great bonding experience for the community to see our supervisors, school board members, former candidates and volunteers to all come out for this worthy cause!

An excellent opportunity for volunteers to make a visible and lasting impact on the Preserves.  Come check out the 600 trees that the Open Land Conservancy volunteers just planted! Volunteers get out in the fresh air, take a mid-morning hot chocolate break and enjoy the companionship of like-minded neighbors. All that’s needed are protective clothing, gloves and, if you have them, tools such as loppers, pruners and hand saws to supplement OLC’s supply. If you have Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts in the family bring them along — there’s plenty to do for everyone!

The volunteers continue to wage their successful campaign against the invasive vines that are harming the tree development in the Nature Preserves. This is a great opportunity to get some fresh air, work with some of your neighbors and make a lasting impact on the Nature Preserves.

This Saturday’s ‘Vine Day’ will focus on the George Lorimer Preserve, located on North Valley Road in the Great Valley part of the township. The Lorimer Preserve encompasses 88 acres of meadows, woods, ponds, stream, and extensive trail system are managed to provide a variety of habitats for wildlife in a beautiful rural setting. Honeysuckle, choking a tree.

Directions to the Lorimer Preserve from Paoli, take North Valley Road, cross Swedesford Road and keep going on North Valley Road about ½ mile to the parking lot on the right. Volunteers are asked to meet in the parking lot at 9 AM.

According to the conservancy, the Lorimer Preserve receives the highest number of visitors and is the most easily accessed.  However it is also the most affected by invasives and needs your help! Any questions, contact Open Land Conservancy Board member Ray Clarke, 610-578-0358.  Ray provides the following update on the Lorimer Preserve:

We are just finishing up the planting of 600+ native trees and shrubs in an area of Lorimer that a few years ago was nothing but vines and invasive bushes. Previous Vine Days allowed us to clear the way into the mess to then take out the bushes, and now we’ve had fabulous help from many sources to plant the trees. Particularly:

  • Volunteer tree planting groups from local corporations – Siemens Medical and Vanguard.
  • Trees and deer protection provided by a grant from the TreeVitalize program, funded by proceeds from the Philadelphia Flower show run by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society
  • Coordination and expertise from Green Valleys Association
  • A major donation by a private individual
  • Lots of effort by OLC volunteers

Like the “public-private partnership” that our Board of Supervisors candidates were so keen on! (Although of course, OLC is not a municipality).

The Vine Day on Saturday will spread out from this site, free up more trees and growing space for all the eventual offspring of the oaks, maples, hackberrys, sycamores, etc. that we just planted.

If anyone can’t make this Saturday, but wants to help, there will be Vine Days in other preserves on the second Saturday of every month, through April. Locations to be posted on the web site:


Election Day 2011 is over . . . Looks like much will remain the same!

Election Day 2011 has now passed and the ‘unofficial’ results are in. The full results for all races can be found at the Chester County website, In reviewing the results, all incumbents prevailed in the supervisor and school board races. Other than Karen Cruickshank’s re-election as school board director, it was a clean sweep for the Republicans for the T/E School Board and Board of Supervisors.

JAMES D BRUCE (REP) . . . . . . . 1,443     25.33
TARA G LA FIURA (REP) . . . . . . 1,336     23.46
KAREN CRUICKSHANK (DEM) 1,635    28.70
JERRY HENIGE (DEM) . . . . . . . 1,280      22.47
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 2 .04

ELIZABETH A MERCOGLIANO (REP). . 2,416      25.71
KRIS GRAHAM (REP). . . . . . . .                2,428     25.84
JENNIFER LIGHTMAN WESSELS (DEM) . . .   2,322        24.71
SCOTT DORSEY (DEM) . . . . . . .                 2,229         23.72
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 1 .01

PETER MOTEL (REP). . . . . . . . 1,256     61.51
CRAIG A LEWIS (DEM) . . . . . . 785       38.44
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 1 .05

Karen Cruickshank (D, Jim Bruce (R) and Pete Motel (R) were re-elected for TESD Region 1 and Liz Mercogliano (R) and Kris Graham (R) were elected for TESD Region II. In Region III, incumbent Pete Motel won by a significant margin against his opponent. If you recall from the school board debate, the candidate who made personal attacks was Craig Lewis against Pete Motel. Maybe this win indicates that voters from Easttown did not appreciate Mr. Lewis tactics. Cruickshank is currently serving as president of the school board and her win reflects a vote of confidence from the voters on her performance.

Looking at Mercogliano’s win, I am reminded that neither she nor Tara LaFiura participated in the League of Women Voters debate. If I had been a betting person, I would have thought that would have harmed her chances of winning. But she was only 12 votes behind the winner Kris Graham who did participate in the debate.

Here are the unofficial results from the Tredyffrin supervisor races:

MICHAEL C HEABERG (REP). . . . . . 4,020    27.09
KRISTEN KIRK MAYOCK (REP) . . . . 4,042    27.24
MOLLY DUFFY (DEM). . . . . . . .               3,636       24.50
F MICHAEL MURPH WYSOCKI (DEM). 3,137       21.14
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 4 .03

PAUL W OLSON (REP) . . . . . . . 1,331      50.21
VICTORIA SNYDER (DEM) . . . . . . 1,318      49.72
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 2 .08

JOHN JD DIBUONAVENTURO (REP) . . . . 1,616    98.54
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 24 1.46

Incumbent Mike Heaberg (R) was re-elected along with Kristen Mayock (R). Only 22 votes separated those two spots. Unopposed in the race, JD DiBuonavnturo (R) was re-elected for District 3. In District 1, Paul Olson (R) will retain his seat on the Board of Supervisors. Tory Snyder (D) gave Olson a real run and came within 13 votes of unseating him.

Based on these results, Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors will continue as an all-Republican board. Mayock’s election to the Board adds a third woman – it has been awhile since we had that dynamic. Personally I’m looking forward to that new element and what that will mean for the residents.

In an upset, Jeremy Blackburn (R) was unseated by Analisa Sondergaard (D) as District Judge. I was one of those who believed that our District Judge should be an attorney so I am very supportive of Sondergaard’s win in this election.

JEREMY M BLACKBURN (REP) . . . . .   1,847   48.36
ANALISA SONDERGAARD (DEM) . . . . . 1,971    51.61
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 1 .03

In the Chester County District Attorney race, I am pleased that Tom Hogan (R) won this race and will serve the county as our new DA.

TOM HOGAN (REP) . . . . . . . .  45,036   60.07
SAMUEL C STRETTON (DEM). . . . . . 29,826   39.78
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 106 .14

In the County Commissioner race, the three incumbents, Ryan Costello (R), Terence Farrell (R) and Kathy Cozzone (D) were all re-elected to another term as Commissioners.

RYAN A COSTELLO (REP) . . . . . . 42,232      29.40
TERENCE FARRELL (REP) . . . . . . 40,629    28.29
KATHI COZZONE (DEM) . . . . . . .    31,933     22.23
SUSAN BAYNE (DEM). . . . . . . .  28,736      20.01
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 111 .08

To all the candidates, thank you for all the time and energy spent over these last few months with your campaigns.  To our newly elected officials, the community thanks you and remain hopeful that you will stand behind the campaign promises that you made to the residents.

Yesterday I visited several precincts and spoke to many people.  There was a constant theme in our discussions; I learned that many people in this community were deeply troubled by the campaign rhetoric of the political parties.  They spoke of the infamous yellow signs, the negative campaign mailers and of the robo-calls.  I actually had several people say that they almost stayed home in protest and knew that would not help with the message.  Regardless if you are the winning side or not, please know that the tactics during this campaign season was not what many in the community want.  I hope that in the aftermath of Election Day 2011, the local Republican and Democratic party will take the time to reflect on their campaign strategies for the future.

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