State House 157

Will former State Rep Paul Drucker challenge State Rep Warren Kampf for the 157th District in 2012?

Is former State Rep Paul Drucker considering a 2012 run against State Rep Warren Kampf?  You be the judge.

In my post, ‘Tea Party Agenda by State Rep. Warren Kampf, so claims Former State Rep Paul Drucker’ dated August 27th, I included Paul Ducker’s recent ‘As I See It’ editorial from the Main Line Media News. 

Drucker claimed that Kampf was following the tea party agenda and gave examples of the education cuts in the state budget, the lack of taxing Marcellus Shale gas drilling and decreased state funding for social services.  In reading the editorial, it was obvious that Drucker did not agree with some of Kampf’s choices since taking office in January.  Although Drucker may not agree with Kampf’s governing approach, the article left me wondering what would he do differently?  I also found the timing of the op-ed of interest; questioning why Drucker decided to write it ‘now’. 

I came up with 6 questions for our former state representative and asked for a response by Wednesday, August 31.  As I wrote on August 27, if Drucker responded to the questions, I would offer his answers on Community Matters.  Below are my questions and Drucker’s answers.  I offer Kampf the opportunity to respond to Drucker’s comments.

1.    Why write the As I See It article ‘now’?

Representative Kampf has written a series of factually incorrect and misleading e-mails, which he has sent to residents of the 157 District, as well as opinion pieces for the newspaper.  These communications are nothing more than his parroting the tea party line on important issues facing the Commonwealth.  I felt it was important to correct errors and give context to the Republican majority’s priorities.

2.  What do you think are the most challenging issues currently facing the residents of the 157 District?

There are many challenging issues that negatively affect Pennsylvania residents, but I will restrict my answer to the most challenging issue locally, and the most challenging issue statewide.

You don’t have to be a savant to realize the most challenging issue facing the 157th.  This is obvious to anyone who drives through the commercial areas in the District or walks down Lancaster Avenue in Paoli.  Empty storefronts abound. The focus needs to be on jobs, jobs, and jobs by supporting and encouraging business development.  For example, the long awaited development of the Paoli Intermodal Train Station is a potential economic engine that will help turn us around and lead to an economic revival.  It will provide short-term jobs.  It will provide long-term jobs.  It will create new residential, and commercial space.  It will bring in new retail space, restaurants, apartments and housing.  It will create additional tax ratables on what is now worthless property.  It will create a TOWN CENTER.   In Phoenixville, the development of the old steel site is also critical to the economic health of the district.

The most challenging issue facing the Commonwealth is equally obvious.  We have a serious budget crisis.  But it is not a crisis caused solely by expenditures and can’t be cured by making draconian cuts to education and the social services.  The revenue side of the budget needs to be addressed realistically.  This means analyzing and utilizing potential sources of revenue.  Last year, the House passed a tax on Marcellus shale that was modeled after the West Virginia Marcellus tax. (I voted in favor of the bill)  The Senate refused to approve the measure and it died.  This year there is similar bill on the House floor that would produce $420 million in revenue in 2012.  This would go a long way to supporting education and needed social programs.  But at this point there is no Republican support, so the bill cannot even get out of committee.                   

3.   If you had been re-elected as state representative, what would you be doing differently than State Rep Warren Kampf to address these issues?

To support economic revitalization and development in the 157th, I would pitch my tent in the office of Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph.  I would make his office my satellite office. (Which is what I did when I was in the House)  I would make Trans. Secy Schoch and House Transportation Chairman Geist my nbff. (Which is what I did when I was in the House)  I would go to meetings. I would create meetings.  I would convince everybody and anybody of the reality, vitality and economic importance of the Train Station and the steel site development, not only to the 157th, but also to the entire Delaware Valley and to the Commonwealth.

To address the revenue situation, I would immediately sign on as a cosponsor to H.B. 33.  This is the Marcellus bill.  I would go to State Representative Benninghoff, Chairman of the House Finance Committee and try to convince him to release the bill to the floor. (In fact, a discharge motion to force this bill to floor was defeated.  Representative Kampf voted in lock step with his tea party cohorts to defeat the bill) I would talk to House Majority Leadership and attempt to get them to support the bill.  I would let it be known that this bill is vital to closing our budget gap, and vital to protecting the environment of the communities where the drilling is taking place and the water shed of the entire Commonwealth.                     

4.   Where do you think State Rep Kampf should focus his attention?   

See above.                  

5.    Do you think that the possible 157 District re-districting could play a role in the State Representative race of 2012? If so, why?

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is going to get redistricted.  Among other things, Chester County gained 65,000 people since the last redistricting and will get an additional seat in the State House of Representatives.  Since the Republicans control the Senate, the House and the Governor, they control this process.

The only constitutional requirement is one of mathematics, one person, one vote.  As long as each district is within the standard deviation of the mean the district passes muster.  The district doesn’t even have to be contiguous.  (I introduced a bill, that didn’t pass, that required many other factors to be taken into consideration when redistricting.  This would have made the decision much more representative and made gerrymandering much more difficult)

There is no question that the Republicans will gerrymander any district they can if it will strengthen that district from a Republican perspective and if they can do so without weakening another corresponding Republican district.  Whether on not that will impact the 157th remains to be seen.

6.  Are you considering a 2012 run against State Rep Kampf?

This question is premature.  I can say that I have remained involved in the affairs of the 157th and intend to continue to do so.  I will support the citizens of this district any way that I can.

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Once a State Rep Campaign Debate, Could the Tolling of Rt. 422 be a ‘Model’ for Tolling Highways across the State?

 What’s the saying, ‘What Goes Around, Comes Around” . . . ? 

For most of the year 2010, voters of Tredyffrin Township had a front row seat as the ‘tolling of Rt. 422’ issue became a political football in the PA State House 157 race between incumbent State Rep Paul Drucker (D) and challenger Warren Kampf (R).  Some political insiders might even argue that Drucker’s stance on 422 tolling may have contributed to the loss of his state representative position last November.

Although a heated campaign issue, post-election the tolling of Rt. 422 has had nearly non-existent discussion.  That is until now. According to Pennsylvania Independent, an on-line news service, the 25-mile, four-lane US Route 422 will be promoted on Monday, June 6 as a potential ‘model’ for tolling highways across the state as a means to increase transportation funding. 

Gov. Corbett’s recently appointed 30-member Transportation Funding Commission will hear a presentation on how tolls would work on Rt. 422 in Montgomery, Chester and Berks counties.  The executive commission is looking at a way to generate at least $2.5 billion in annual transportation funding for infrastructure needs and the ‘tolling of 422’ may serve as the state’s model for how to do it.

According to Barry Schoch, Secretary of Transportation for Pennsylvania and chairman of the commission, “Route 422 model would allow county or municipal authorities to form a ‘local taxation authority’ and keep the revenue from tolls and local taxes dedicated for local highways”. 

Construction of a local suburban commuter rail line was one of the possible uses of 422 tolls and a means to alleviate some of the highway traffic.  If you recall, the Philadelphia-based Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) created a Route 422 Corridor Master Plan and presented their findings in 2010 to local municipalities, including Tredyffrin Township.  Their plan, among other things, provided for a light rail commuter service and suggested tolling on Rt. 422 as a way of financing the project.

During 2010, the tolling of 422 provided a major talking point for the Drucker and Kampf political campaigns.  Drucker supported DVRPC and the Route 422 Corridor Master Plan, which included tolling of 422.  However, Drucker was specific that the tolling was for the commuter who was traveling the entire stretch of the highway on a regular basis, not the occasional user or those that would use it on-off. 

In response to Drucker, Kampf’s opposing position on the Route 422 Corridor Master Plan was simple.  On his campaign website, Kampf stated “My position on tolling Route 422 is clear: I oppose it.”  Remaining true to his campaign words, when asked to respond to the upcoming Transportation Funding Commission presentation to use tolling of 422 as a model for the state, Kampf said, “Tolling is another way of taxing people. . .”  He is opposed to using state and local funds to build, operate and maintain a commuter rail line that would benefit rail commuters at the expense of others. 

Like much of the country, many of Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges are in crisis; desperately in need of repairs. Although lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree on the infrastructure needs, they may not be as unified in the funding solutions.  No one has a crystal ball, but we now see evidence from Corbett’s Transportation Funding Commission that supports Drucker’s vision for the future . . . a suburban commuter rail line and the use of tolls to finance  infrastructure improvements.

Some could argue that State Rep Kampf battled former State Rep Drucker successfully on the 422 tolling issue, but it looks like Kampf could face a far greater challenge in Harrisburg . . . and,  from both sides.

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Pennsylvania is Still #1 in the Country . . . Worst Bridges in America!

Based on a new Transportation of America report, Pennsylvanians had better face it; we need all the luck we can get.  Cross your fingers, carry a rabbit’s foot, rub a lucky penny . . .  keep your lucky charm handy the next time you cross a bridge in the Commonwealth.

With 25,000 state-owned bridges, Pennsylvania is on the list in third place for the largest number of bridges in the nation. However, according to the new report, Pennsylvania leads the nation in largest percentage of structurally deficient bridges. The bridge deficiency number should not come as a shock to state residents, as Pennsylvania has led the nation in troubled bridges every year since 2007. Leading the nation for ‘worst bridges in America’ is a title I would rather Pennsylvania not claim!  The average age of bridges on the state system is 50 years old and approximately 6,000 are structurally deficient.

What exactly does ‘structurally deficient bridge’ mean?  According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation website, “A structurally deficient bridge is safe, but in need of costly repairs or replacement to bring it to current standards.”

Transportation for America considers a bridge “structurally deficient” if at least one of three components – the deck, substructure, or superstructure – has been rated “poor” by inspectors. The deck is the roadway surface of a bridge, while the superstructure refers to beams and other components that support the deck. The substructure includes piers, abutments and other parts of a bridge’s foundation.

What remains to be seen is where the state will get the necessary funding to fix its bridges and roads. One option discussed is to sell the states 620 liquor stores and use the revenue for bridge and road projects.  However, as we know, the topic of ‘selling’ state stores is still only in the talking stage. Complicating the transportation-funding question is the fact that the federal stimulus funds are drying up.

Other than potential revenue from the sale of state liquor stores, what are some other creative funding sources?  With Pennsylvania suffering from budget gaps, the problem is not likely to be solved in the near future.

How is Pennsylvania going to repair its aging infrastructure; how will the state pay for repair of its bad roads and needy bridges?  

And do I dare suggest the ‘T’ word . . . Tolling?

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On School Voucher Question, State Rep Kampf offers a ‘Wait and See Approach’

On Thursday, March 3, I emailed State Rep. Warren Kampf in regards to the proposed school voucher legislation. I followed up my email with a telephone call to his Paoli office on March 7.  At that time, his chief of staff, Sean Dempsy spoke with Rep. Kampf re my email and offered that Rep. Kampf would have a response to me by the end of the week.  Here is an excerpt from my email to our State Representative, which I posted on Community Matters last week:

“ . . . There has been much discussion about the proposed school voucher bill S.B.1. which would help the state’s poorest children from the lowest-performing schools by providing options of attending public, private or parochial school. This week the Senate Education Committee voted 8-2 in favor of the bill and the proposed legislation will move forward in the process.

It is important for constituents to know where our elected officials stand on all important issues, including the school voucher program. State Senator Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) serves on the Senate Education Committee and voted in favor of the proposed school voucher legislation.  As our State Representative, could you please offer your thoughts on the proposed ‘opportunity scholarship’ legislation?  In your response, please address specific issues including the plan’s estimated price tag of $860 million, the constitutionality of the proposed legislation and the issue of funding parochial schools with taxpayer money.”

Rep. Kampf did not respond to my email.  At 5 PM today, I received an email from Dempsey referring me to the State Rep’s website to read his position on school choice . . .  Rep. Kampf’s “wait and see approach” (see below).

Kampf Praises Creative Solutions, Cautious on ‘School Choice’

3/11/2011
By Rep. Warren Kampf, 157th District 

Competition is critical to the efficiency of any enterprise, whether it is businesses competing for consumers by becoming more cost-effective or schools improving their teaching methods to lure students.  There is a place for competition in our education system. 

But before we adopt any so-called “school choice” proposal, we must examine whether the new system costs the state and school districts more money or subsidizes inefficient private schools.   

At this stage, I am taking a wait and see approach.  As for Senate Bill 1, it is difficult to comment on a bill that will be significantly transformed by the time it reaches the House.  As is the case with another “school choice” bill, House Bill 240, I expect the legislature to pass numerous amendments to alter its rules and scope, though in what way I cannot yet predict.

I will just restate my position that whatever new system is tried, it should be done in a way that improves the overall quality of our state education system, and does not drive up costs for taxpayers and already cash-strapped schools without some very clear, tangible benefits to all of our children. 

I remain open to creative ideas for improving Pennsylvania’s public school system.  I am aware that the system works well in some districts, and is more troubled in others.  It is my goal to embrace what works and fix what needs improvement.

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State Representatives Receive Committee Appointments

Harrisburg has announced the committee appointments for state representatives.  The following is the announcement from State Rep. Kampf’s office.  According to the release, he will be using his experience as Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors on his Local Government committee appointment.

Rep. Warren Kampf (R-Chester/Montgomery) has been appointed to the House Labor and Industry Committee, as well as the Local Government, Consumer Affairs, and Urban Affairs committees for the 2011-12 legislative session. 

“Now more than ever, we need to free job creators and businesses from over-burdensome regulations and tax policies that stifle, rather than stimulate, growth in our economy and job markets,” Kampf said.  “I will use my position on the Labor Committee to help clear the path for entrepreneurship by reigning in practices that work against job growth.”  

Kampf’s experience as a Tredyffrin Township Supervisor will make him an asset to the Local Government Committee, which reviews bills dealing with the municipal codes by which local governments operate.  “As a former local official, I witnessed firsthand how some state laws, regulations and mandates increase costs to local taxpayers,” said Kampf.  “From the Local Government Committee, I will listen to and work with local officials from across the state to help reduce these burdens and control property taxes.”    

Kampf’s responsibilities on the Urban Affairs Committee will dovetail with his work on the Local Government Committee, as many of the issues being dealt with (including manufactured housing, building codes, urban redevelopment and enterprise zones, and sprawl) have components which are addressed by both committees. 

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State Representative-Elect Warren Kampf Revisits His Campaign Promises

Warren Kampf confirmed his campaign platform of fiscal responsibility and promise to honor that commitment to the residents in a recent article in The Phoenix.  Previously Kampf had publicly stated that he would not be taking the automatic cost-of-living (COLA) salary increase.  However, we are now learning that Kampf plans to continue cost-cutting measures in various other ways.  I was pleased to read that Kampf will not be taking the State’s allowed per diem but choosing instead to receive reimbursement for actual expenses. In my opinion, I cannot imagine reimbursing elected officials any other way! 

( Last March, I wrote an article, “Pennsylvania Legislators can use Tax-Free Per Diem for Home Purchase . . . What about taxability issue or fraud possibilities?”  To read the article, click here )

Kampf also states he will not be taking the state-assigned car and opting instead for actual mileage reimbursement.  I am not sure how the cost differs between a state-assigned car vs. actual mileage expenses.  On the surface, it would seem that turning in mileage expense would be cheaper but a source in Harrisburg suggested to me that it is actually cheaper for taxpayers if state representatives opt for use of a state car. Just an interesting aside, and I am not sure if the expense can be confirmed one way or the other. 

As another form of fiscal responsibility, Kampf announced that he would not be taking the state’s defined-benefit pension plan and will work on the creation of a defined 401K-type plan for legislators and state employees. The state’s pension plan could certainly use reformdid you know that more than half the state’s municipal pension plans are less than 90 percent funded?  Calculated as the ratio of assets to liabilities, 644 municipal pension plans are labeled as “distressed” by the state’s Public Employee Retirement Commission (PERC).  Of those, 26 are less than 50 percent funded and branded as “severely distressed.”

In an effort to lead by example, Kampf is taking his cost-cutting campaign promises to Harrisburg. Elected officials struggle to understand the pain of their constituents (especially in such severe economic times) so I give Kampf credit for his personal cost-cutting decisions. 

It is my understanding that Kampf will have a State Representative office in the Malvern Federal bank building in Paoli.  With just days remaining before his Harrisburg swearing-in, he most assuredly has hired a chief of staff and other constituent service staff for his Paoli office.  The broad scope of the 157 district will require experienced and knowledgeable staff; I am curious about his staff selection.  The community will need contact information for constituent services – I will send him an email of inquiry on that subject and provide an update on Community Matters. 

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State Rep-Elect Warren Kampf Decides to Refuse 1.7% Pay Increase

We have been following the news from Harrisburg that newly elected and returning legislators were scheduled to receive a 1.7% cost-of-living pay raise. This increase was obviously causing a stir by tax-payers . . . many elections were won by candidates based on fiscal conservatism, amid high unemployment numbers and screams to stop the spending. Last week, Auditor General Jack Wagner became vocal on the topic; calling for a moratorium on the scheduled 1.7% cost of living adjustment for public officials.

In a November 24 post on Community Matters, I wrote, “Fiscal responsibility was certainly a hallmark in our recent local election, so wonder what our newly elected State Representative Warren Kampf will decide.  Should he keep his 1.7 percent increase? For those Pennsylvania legislators who campaigned on controlling legislative expenses, how can they now accept the pay increase?” 

I am pleased to report that State Rep-elect Warren Kampf sent the following email this weekend:

Refusing Annual Legislative COLA

As my first official e-mail to you, I wanted to make you aware that I will return to the state the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) given annually to legislators, the governor, judges and top officials in the executive branch.

In this economy and with the budget deficit Pennsylvania is facing, an increase in pay would be inappropriate. I was elected to help get the Commonwealth’s financial house in order and to accept a COLA my first day on the job would be contrary to my principles of fiscal discipline.

The annual COLA is based on the Consumer Price Index published by the U.S. Department of Labor. This year, it represents a 1.7 percent increase. It is not based on the same economic factors used to determine the Social Security COLA, which remained flat this year.

My first order of business representing the people of the 157th District will not be to accept a raise. Most of the citizens I was elected to serve have not seen a pay increase in several years, and it would not be fair of me to take one.

I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to reform legislative compensation and how business is done in Harrisburg. If you have any questions, concerns or comments, feel free to contact me. I want to hear your thoughts on how to improve Pennsylvania and the issues that personally impact you and our district. 

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PA State Representative 157 Race – Candidate Question #6 and Response

This is the final week of candidate questions and responses on Community Matters.  As stated in the beginning, there were 6 questions ending the week before the election.  To those that followed the discussion, thank you.  To those that provided commentary to the responses, thank you. 

 Although disappointed that candidate Warren Kampf chose not to participate in the Candidate Question & Response forum,  I do want to acknowledge and thank State Representative Paul Drucker for his participation and responses to the questions.  During the past 6 weeks of candidate questions and responses, I abided by my ‘own terms’ and did not offer an opinion nor respond personally to any of the questions or comments.

_____________________________________________________________

This is the Candidate Question & Response Forum for the Pennsylvania State House 157 candidates.  As previously stated, candidate Warren Kampf declined to participate in the question and response forum.  Candidate Paul Drucker’s response follows the question.  Each Monday for six weeks, a new question and response will be posted.  The candidate forum will end the week before the election.

Question #6: Many politicians speak of the need for reform in Harrisburg. In your opinion, where is the greatest need for reform and how will you support that reform.

Paul Drucker’s Response

I was motivated to seek election to the Pennsylvania State House two years ago to help usher in a new era of reform, openness and accountability.

From the pay-raise to Bonusgate, I was shocked at the news coming out of Harrisburg and disappointed that our elected officials seemed so unwilling to deliver the type of meaningful change we deserve.

That’s why I organized an event with fellow first time candidates to propose specific changes to how Harrisburg does business. And that’s why I am fighting every day to reform our redistricting process, encourage whistleblowers to come forward and ensure taxpayers know exactly how their money is being spent.

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The Phoenix Provides State House Rep 157 Candidate Profiles: Paul Drucker, Warren Kampf

The Phoenix newspaper has posted profiles for State House Representative 157 candidates Paul Drucker and Warren Kampf. Although the article did not indicate, I am assuming that the newspaper asked for candidate comments specifically on tax and job issues.  The candidates remarks are below:

State House Rep 157 Candidate Profile: Paul Drucker

Taxes: Paul is committed to ensuring that homeowners in the 157th District aren’t unduly burdened by property taxes. Though a necessary source of funding for many projects, property taxes often place an undue burden on homeowners—especially on our seniors. Paul is dedicated to ensuring a sane, responsible property tax policy that doesn’t burden our senior citizens.

Jobs: Paul is dedicated to bringing jobs and economic activity to our district, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to earn and feel safe from the mounting pressures of everyday financial challenges.

State House Rep 157 Candidate Profile: Warren Kampf

Jobs: Warren knows families are hurting in today’s economy and they are worried about making ends meet and securing good-paying jobs – that’s why he’ll make job creation his top priority in Harrisburg. Make Pennsylvania More Competitive; Invest in Small Business and the Jobs of Tomorrow.

Taxes: Warren is as frustrated as every other taxpayer and homeowner that the politicians in Harrisburg promise property tax relief every year but nothing ever gets done. Use Gaming Money as Promised; Ending Pork Barrel Spending.

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Tredyffrin-Easttown School District’s Finance Committee . . . Notes from Ray Clarke

Last night’s TESD Finance Committee Meeting was important.  We learned through the following notes of Ray Clarke that the district is facing as much as an $8.5 million funding gap for 2011-12.  Much discussion on how to prepare for this looming budget gap . . . imposing an Earned Income Tax, increase in property taxes, educational program and staffing cuts?  The meeting last night was the precursor to next week’s independent, public discussion of Earned Income Tax, what is it, how would it work, who will it affect – there is much misinformation on the subject of EIT and looking forward to the presentation of October 18.

I agree with Ray, wouldn’t we all like to know how our state house candidates would suggest funding the school district’s looming muli-million dollar funding gap?  My guess is that Paul Drucker and Warren Kampf will remain mum on the subject . . . viewing that any ‘discussion’ of imposing an Earned Income Tax, an increase property taxes or cutting of programs would be the kiss of death 3 weeks before Election Day!

Here are Ray’s notes from last night – thank you Ray!

Update from last night’s TESD Finance Committee Meeting:

My own selection of highlights.

Next year’s $7 million gap looms large (this year seems under control). Expenses are pretty much locked in: contracted salary increases and no option to save costs through program changes unless through staff attrition. Administration is revisiting the strategies from last year, of course. On the Revenue side, there are a couple of built-in threats:

  • $1 million of investment earnings based on a 2% return when the current investments are earning less than 0.5%. Gap at least $0.5 million
  • $2.7 million of transfer taxes based on the rolling average formula, but the estimate for this year is $1 million less than that.

So, how to fill a gap that may be as high as $8.5 million? The Act 1 property tax increase is set at 1.4% ($1.2 million), and exceptions if approved would be roughly $1.6 million – a total property tax increase (unless a higher one was approved by voters) of 3.2%. Still $4 million short of today’s base projected expenses.

Key questions:

  • How much of the gap can be closed through another round of expense reductions? The administration believes that the well is running dry. A young teacher corps (no built in halving of salaries or program changes as older teachers retire), and items like supplies already cut back to 2008/9 levels.
  • Is an EIT an alternative on the revenue side? Bring back to T/E the $4 million (my guess) being paid to other townships? Maybe link that with a cap on property taxes?

There are many questions about the EIT, of course. Hopefully next Monday’s meeting (at Conestoga HS) will help answer them. The Finance Committee (rightly in my opinion) is designing this as an information session – with presentations about the tax, the financial impacts and the process – NOT an advocacy session. The place for that will be the Board Meeting the following week when the decision is made on whether to give non-binding notice to the Townships of the intention to put an EIT on next year’s ballot. Hopefully the process at the meeting will allow for questions of data clarification, but not opinions.

So if the EIT does get all the way to the ballot, the choices would get complicated. (That is hopefully what the session will explain). For example, voters may have to approve/reject a property tax increase of say 8%, approve/reject an EIT of say 1%, or if neither then we’ll get a property tax increase of 3.2% and withdrawal from the Fund Balance. As I have stated here before, I’m an advocate of the EIT solution (after rigorous examination of expense options), for many reasons.

For those who believe that these choices represent too little say on what is actually spent to educate our children, it was suggested that our state representatives have an important role to play.

  • Should a local district be able to adjust expenses to levels it can afford? How many state mandates are appropriate?
  • How can the pension problem be resolved?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice if Drucker and Kampf could debate these issues?
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