Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidate Question #3: Funding Township Infrastructure Improvements

List of candidates running for Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors – voters will select one district supervisor from the East, one district supervisor from the West and two At-Large supervisors. See Question #3 and the candidate responses below.

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 1st DISTRICT (EAST) CANDIDATES
Julie Gosse (D)
Raffi Terzian (R)

TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR AT-LARGE CANDIDATES
Mark Freed (D)
Sharon Humble (D)
Gina Mazzulla (R)
Liz Mercogliano (R)

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 3rd DISTRICT (WEST) CANDIDATES
K. S. Bhaskar (D)
Peter DiLullo (R)

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  1. Tredyffrin Township has a substantial fund balance yet the infrastructure is deteriorating. How do you propose balancing compensation-driven cost pressure and the need to deliver infrastructure improvements while avoiding or limiting a tax increase?

 K. S. Bhaskar Response:

“Compensation-driven cost pressure” is presumably a euphemism for salaries and benefits for township employees. While we need not be overly generous, if we want our employees to put their best foot forward for the township every day, we need to compensate them appropriately and competitively for our part of the country. As the township also needs rainy-day reserves to deal with emergencies as well as fund capital projects, not all fund balances are available to be tapped for needed infrastructure maintenance resulting from kicking the can down the road for years in the name of low taxes. There comes a time to pay the Piper. While some cost increase is inevitable, I will use an impact-cost-risk analysis to prioritize projects and mitigate and manage costs. There is no magic, and these are techniques I have routinely used in managing a product business at a global Fortune 500 company.

Peter DiLullo Response:

Aging infrastructure is a topic that cannot be ignored.  Assisted by 3rd party engineering reports, projects need to be budgeted, planned and prioritized in an effort to avoid tax increases.  Furthermore, state and federal grant programs need to be researched as a funding source.

Mark Freed Response:

The Township does have a substantial fund balance.  I commend prior Boards for leaving the Township on a sound financial footing.  However, this has come at the cost of significant deferred maintenance on such things as bridges, parks and other Township property.  To address these much-needed repairs without resorting to depleting the reserves or excessive tax increases, the Township has proposed to prudently use reserves along with the issuance of historically low interest bonds.  As we move forward, we must continue to insure that the Township’s expenses are in line with its revenues.  This requires assuring that we properly prioritize needed work and other expenses.  Although excess reserves can be used to help pay for infrastructure, we must assure that they do not become so depleted that they are not available for their intended purposes: downturns in revenue and unanticipated expenses.

Julie Gosse Response:

We can no longer shy away from the critical maintenance of our infrastructure or minimize fixes on our major problems. Our fund balance is strong. We can use a portion of this in a fiscally responsible bond strategy to help meet today’s infrastructure challenges while retaining sufficient reserves to meet our future contingencies. With interest rates at record lows, now is a good time for us to issue bonds to raise money to meet our capital needs. Using this approach gives us an opportunity to fund our long-overdue infrastructure projects – bridges, deteriorating stormwater infrastructure, deferred park and building upgrades – without a significant impact on taxes.

Sharon Humble Response:

Costs for Township personnel compensation are unlikely to go down as Township personnel gain experience, expertise, and tenure with the Township. Personnel costs are typically paid from anticipated revenue as part of any government annual budget. They’re not paid from reserves or special funds created from special taxes or fees. In my opinion, capital improvements in the township should be funded from a bond issue or special funds created to address the particular infrastructure issues.

Gina Mazzulla Response:

The most honest answer I can give is “I don’t know”. I don’t know details of the mandated or contractual obligations of the township (like police pension funding, employee benefits, etc.), I don’t know the scope of needed infrastructure improvements, nor do I know the details of the township’s investment strategy or reserves allocation to make a sound proposal.

I would ask questions like, Can we pool with other municipalities to get better health care rates? Can we increase the employee share of premium costs? Can we renegotiate the terms of (new hire) police contracts away from defined benefit pensions to a 401K model? What are the risks and opportunity costs if we don’t fix infrastructure now? What are the potential consequences of waiting? Do we have the necessary expertise and broad community input to make these decisions?

What I do know is I will make decisions that prioritize resident safety, security and well-being.

Liz Mercogliano Response:

First, the Tredyffrin infrastructure updates are done with the cooperation of Chester County, Pennsylvania, local businesses, local developers and PECO. For example, Chester County does help fund our Mill Road bridges. I suggest infrastructure should be funded by bonds and the capitol project funds. The fund balance should be the last resort. The fact is no one likes tax increases. And no one wants services cut back. However, a minimal tax increase to beautify and renew may be necessary to replace roads and bridges for public safety. As a former School Board Director, I know that once the fund balance is spent down, it is very difficult to replace. The Supervisors should seek professional outside advice to strategize the various ways to fund infrastructure. I also suggest a citizen advisory board.

Raffi Terzian Response:

Addressing gaps in infrastructure should be a key priority for the Board of Supervisors but must be balanced with fiscal responsibility. The fund balance is a by-product of sound fiscal management and has allowed our township to maintain a strong bond rating. Rational and prudent spending must be preserved. It is important to establish priorities for infrastructure improvements in consultation with the township manager, engineer and others in the context of a broader comprehensive plan for the Township. In terms of infrastructure, the issue of stormwater management and development of a strategic plan should be a top priority as it continues to be a significant concern to our community. The recent establishment of the Stormwater Citizen’s Advisory Task Force is a step in the right direction, as it will leverage the collective expertise and guidance of members of our community who recognize this issue as complex and multifaceted.

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3 Comments

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  1. Perhaps a moment here to thank the candidates for giving careful thought to this and the other questions. It’s really helpful to read both the lines themselves and what lies between them, especially on a complex question such as this one.

    The current BOS took a step in the right direction on Monday by pausing the redemption of the old bonds, and – I think – allowing for more flexibility in how that is done. A caution to all budgeters: “historically low” interest rates can go lower, and that’s arguably more likely than “historically high” transfer taxes continuing their upward trend. So careful prioritization and ensuring maximum bang for the buck will be important.

  2. Thank you, Ray. Knowing how interested and involved you are in the issues affecting our Township and school distict, your acknowledgement means a lot. I also very much appreciate Pattye’s initiative and effort in composing thoughtful questions on some of the most pressing issues in our Township and then posting the answers here for the public’s benefit. The third important part of this process is that this blog features the ability for residents and voters to comment, offer suggestions, or inquire further about the answers. A genuine dialogue about these issues empowers everyone in reaching what should be our collective goal: to implement practices and policies that achieve the best possible outcomes for Tredyffrin and its residents, businesses, and visitors.

  3. A quote from Sharon Humble above:

    ——-A genuine dialogue about these issues empowers everyone in reaching what should be our collective goal: to implement practices and policies that achieve the best possible outcomes for Tredyffrin and its residents, businesses, and visitors.——-

    I have no dog in this hunt, but if I did, I’d give Sharon serious consideration.

    **There are two citizens posting with the same screen name, Easttowner.

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