Radnor Township

A Review of Radnor Twp School District’s Teachers Contract … Will the Results Help T/E Teachers?

The following Community Matters post, “Signed, Sealed and Delivered … Radnor Twp School District & Teachers Union Ink 3-year Contract with Salary Increase … Is there handwriting on the wall for T/E Teachers?”  is from March 23, 2011.

A year ago, the Radnor Township School District signed a 3-year contract with their teachers union( RTEA) that was surprising, given the economic situation of the times.  Fast forward to 2012, and T/E is in the midst of their own contract negotiations.  This post and the attached comments from a year ago, make for an interesting commentary to compare and contrast where we are in our own teacher negotiation process.  Can we learn anything from the decisions of our neighboring school district?

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“Signed, Sealed and Delivered … Radnor Twp School District & Teachers Union Ink 3-year Contract with Salary Increase … Is there handwriting on the wall for T/E Teachers?”
~ Community Matters, March 23, 2011

It is now official, Radnor Township School District and the teachers union, Radnor Township Education Association (RTEA) have voted to approve three-year contract, September 1, 2010 – August 31, 2013. Below are some of the highlights of the contract.

Salary Highlights:
Salary freeze September 1, 2010 – March 3, 2011 (6 months)

Year One Salary:

  • No step movement
  • Average pay increase after freeze: 1.57%
  • Top salary step remains at current level
  • Average lump-sum payment for top salary step: $749

Year Two Salary:

  • RTEA members move to next step
  • Average pay increase: 3.26%
  • Top salary step remains at current level
  • Average lump-sum payment for top salary step: $1,206

Year Three Salary:

  • RTEA members move to next step
  • Modest increase to top salary step
  • Average pay increase: 2.66%

Health Benefits Highlights:

  • RTEA members agreed to significant increase in the cost of health insurance
  • Stating March 4, 2011, teachers move from fixed contribution to a percentage-based contribution
  • Year One – salary contribution 0.75% – 1.5%
  • Year Two – health care plan changes from Blue Cross to lesser premium-cost plan, with increase co-pays doctor and hospital visits (salary contribution 0.85% – 1.5%)
  • Year Three – salary contribution 0.95% – 1.65%

Retirement Option:

  • Eligible teachers will receive a one-time retirement payment from $25K – $50K (depending on number of retirees). The retirement option is in effect for limited time to allow district to reduce payroll.

OK, so looking at the contract inked between the Radnor Township School District and RTEA, is the handwriting on the wall for T/E School District?  So much for Gov. Corbett’s recommendation for a one-year freeze . . .  Radnor’s teacher union only agreed to a 6-month freeze.  However, after the 6-month salary freeze, the teacher union pulled off 7.5% salary increase for the following 2 ½ years of the contract.

Remember, if a teacher qualifies for a step increase, his or her salary increase would actually be higher than the average yearly salary increase. Radnor’s teachers contract is remarkable given today’s economy and budget shortfalls!

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Perceived or Real Conflict of Interest?

I have been open in my concerns related to political committee people who continue to serve in that capacity once elected to the Board of Supervisors.  Currently Tredyffrin Township has three of the seven supervisors (Michelle Kichline, Evelyn Richter and Kristen Mayock) also serving as committeewoman for the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee (TTRC).

Once elected, township supervisors are elected to serve all the residents, regardless of their political affiliations.  But by remaining in a political party committee position and serving as an elected official there could exist a conflict of interest — if only in perception.  This is certainly not intended as an indictment on the performance of Kichline, Mayock and Richter as supervisors; I have spoken personally to Michelle and Kristen, voicing my concern over this issue.

Michele has served as a supervisor and now as chair of the Board of Supervisors, without any obvious bias towards the political party for which she is a committeewoman.  However, as previously stated on Community Matters, our neighbor Radnor Township takes away the possibility of conflict (perceived or real) — their Home Rule Charter prohibits public elected officials from serving as political party committee people.

The following editorial in the Main Line Suburban by Jerry Kinkead, a former Tredyffrin Township Republican Committeewoman, supports my position and offers personal insight into what could (and has happened) when the lines of separation between a political committee person and elected official blur.  Kinkead not only believes that the current arrangement in Tredyffrin Township is a conflict of interest but is calling for a change in Tredyffrin’s Home Rule Charter.

Conflict of interest

To the Editor:

Thanks to a local Tredyffrin township blog called Community Matters, I have recently learned that three members of the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors (Kichline, Richter and Mayock) are also elected members of the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee. I believe this to be a fundamental conflict of interest, which could lead to the blurring of allegiance. I propose that Tredyffrin’s Home Rule Charter be amended to disallow this practice.

Community Matters pointed out that Tredyffrin Township’s Home Rule Charter does not address this issue, but that in the Radnor Township Home Rule Charter there is a prohibition against being an elected political official while, at the same time, holding an elected governmental position, as well as a provision for dismissal or termination of appointment should this prohibition be violated.

In Chester County, during the decade of the 1970s, we had a situation whereby the chairman of the countywide Republican Party was also chairman of the Chester County commissioners, which was seen as a conflict of interest by some. As a result, a group known as the Independent Republicans set out to make changes in the local Republican Party, with one of their most pressing goals being the separation of those two jobs. There was a protracted political struggle over this issue, though the County Republican Committee eventually saw the wisdom of the goal, after the indictment of the county chairman. Subsequently, the local Republican Party bylaws were changed to disallow the holding of those two influential offices by the same person.

In the 1970s case in Chester County, the county commissioner was found to be giving out contracts to people who supported the party financially. He did not follow the rules for bidding contracts and was eventually indicted and sentenced for breaking the law.

In my view, the problem with holding a political position and a governmental position at the same time is that the lines can become blurred, and measures may be supported by a government official that are meant to advance the interests of the political party. At a local level, there are decisions to be made about appointments, issuance of building permits, support of local institutions and the like, which should be made by people whose guiding interest is the government they are a part of, and not the party that they also serve.

I suggest that the three Tredyffrin supervisors who now hold joint offices should resign their positions in the local Republican committee, and I urge the Board of Supervisors to take a look at how to change the Tredyffrin Home Rule Charter to eliminate this clear conflict of interest.

With respect,

JERRY KINKEAD
Tredyffrin resident
Former Tredyffrin Republican Committeewoman
Wayne, PA

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Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors; I do solemnly swear . . .

I do solemnly swear . . .

Tonight at 7 PM, Tredyffrin Township will swear in four supervisors to the Board of Supervisors.  Incumbent Paul Olson (R), who narrowly beat his Democratic opponent  Tory Snyder in the general election, begins his new term as the most senior and longest-serving member of the Board of Supervisors.  John DiBuonaventuro (R) will be sworn in tonight for his second term as supervisor.  JD has the distinction of second longest-serving supervisor and ran as an uncontested candidate in the last election.  Mike Heaberg (R) will be sworn in for his first full term as a supervisor, having served on the Board in 2011 as an interim supervisor.  If you recall, Heaberg was appointed to fill the vacated seat of Warren Kampf, who resigned after winning his State House 157 election.  Heaberg won the special election in May; continuing to serve on the Board of Supervisors.

Newly elected to the Board of Supervisors in November’s general election, Kristen Mayock (R) will take her place on the dais among her fellow Republicans.  Kristen’s election to the Board leaves a vacancy on the township’s Zoning Hearing Board.  Supervisor Michele Kichline, also an attorney, served on the ZHB before her election to the Board of Supervisors.  It has been several years since there were three women serving together on the Board – it will be interesting to watch that dynamic at play.

Something else that the women on Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors share in common … Mayock, Kichline and EJ Richter are all TTGOP committeewomen.  Two years ago, (January 12, 2010) I wrote an article for Community Matters, “Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors – Some are Political Party Committee Members – is this OK?  Radnor Township  Says No for their Commissioners”.  

I have been open in my concerns related to political committee people who continue to serve in that capacity once elected to the Board of Supervisors.  As I stated in 2010, “… supervisors are elected to serve all the residents, and by remaining a committee person for a particular party, I would think that there is an appearance that a political committee person would ‘lean’ in the direction of their party.”

As was the case in 2010, of the seven members of Tredyffrin’s 2012 Board of Supervisors, we once again have three supervisors who are also TTGOP committee members (Kichline, Richter and Mayock).

Although Tredyffrin Township’s Home Rule Charter does not address this subject, neighboring Radnor Township, which also uses Home Rule Charter for their local government, is very clear on the topic and what they perceive is a conflict of interest:

From Radnor Township’s Home Rule Charter:

§ 21.9-904. Prohibitions.

 A. The activities which follow shall be prohibited in the operation of the Township government.

     3. Political Party Office. No Township official elected under this Charter, no appointed official, and no full-time Township employee shall hold any elected or appointed political party office.

Under the penalty section, Radnor’s Home Rule Charter further states:

  B. Violation of any provision of this Section shall constitute grounds for forfeiture of office, termination of appointment, or dismissal.

So . . .  do I expect supervisors Kichline, Richter and Mayock to step down from their TTGOP committee member positions?  No.  However, as we look ahead to tonight’s Board of Supervisors swearing-in ceremony, I do point to this information as cautionary.  Whether political committee members or not, I hope that all our supervisors appreciate that once elected, they are to represent and serve all of the residents of Tredyffrin Township, regardless of political party affiliations.

As the Board of Supervisors starts a new year of service to the community, I offer my best wishes for a successful 2012.

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Looking for a Job? Local Government has Openings

Our local government has a couple of immediate employment opportunities – for a Director of Public Works and a  Zoning & Code Enforcement Officer.

Steve Norcini’s last day on the job as Tredyffrin’s Director of Public Works Department was this past Friday.  It is my understanding that Steve left Tredyffrin for a new job as the director of Public Works in Radnor Township.  Under Steve’s leadership in Tredyffrin, the Public Works Department successfully battled the last couple of winters for the residents – this was no easy task and the residents were very grateful for the long hours and time to keep the roads cleared for the residents.  Snow removal was just one responsibility on the long job description list as head of Tredyffrin’s Public Works Department.

Tredyffrin’s loss of Steve Norcini is Radnor’s gain . . . he will be missed!  Congratulations and best wishes Steve!

Here is a partial description of the Director of Public Works position.  If you are interested in the position, email a cover letter and resume to the attention of Mimi Gleason, Township Manager, director@tredyffrin.org

DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS

The Director of Public Works must be well-organized with strong leadership and motivational skills. Capital projects must be demonstrably well-designed and cost effective. Effective communication with the public and staff is a must. The next Director must have the ability to develop a strong relationship with employees to maintain trust and morale while addressing the challenges facing local units of government today. Other necessary skills include effective budgeting, smart use of technology and time management. New initiatives will include developing performance measures and using web-based technology for work orders.

Minimum qualifications: Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering or related field and ten years experience, at least five years in a supervisory capacity in Public Works or a closely related field. Excellent benefits, salary based on qualifications.

Click here for job description.

The second job opportunity currently available in our local government is for a Zoning & Code Enforcement Officer.  Emmy Baldassarree, an employee of the township for 18 years, currently holds this position but will be retiring in a few short weeks.  As Zoning & Code Enforcement Officer, Emmy is actively involved in much of the township zoning and application process in the township.  As a member of HARB for a number of years, I have had the pleasure of working with Emmy . . . she will not be easy to replace and will be missed by many in the community.  Here’s to a happy retirement Emmy, you earned it!

If you are interested or know someone who may be interested, below is the job description for the Zoning & Code Enforcement Officer position.

ZONING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT OFFICER

Professional position involving administration of the zoning permit review process, making determinations of compliance with the zoning ordinance and property maintenance ordinance, managing the application process for and providing professional advice and assistance to the Zoning Hearing Board, maintaining the zoning map, conducting on site inspections, researching zoning ordinance and subdivision and land development ordinance inquiries, preparing regular reports to the Board of Supervisors, attending professional association meeting and conferences to remain current on planning and community development trends.

Minimum qualifications: College degree with one year of related experience. Necessary skills include ability to communicate clearly and concisely orally and in writing, general proficiency with common computer programs and software including Microsoft Office and Arc View, and manage multiple tasks efficiently and simultaneously.

Full time position with excellent benefits and competitive salary. Send resume and references to: zoposition@tredyffrin.org EOE.

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Another Grocery Store Closing . . . Wayne Acme on the Chopping Block!

 

When is it going to end? 

Another local grocery store closing – this time it’s Acme in Wayne.

The Acme chain, part of the Supervalu network of grocery stores, operates 123 stores in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland is shuttering 6 stores, including one in Limerick and Wayne.  The Wayne Acme is located at 300 E. Lancaster Ave. (Rt. 30).

This week a brief statement was provided by Supervalue in regards to the Acme store closings.  Spokesman Steve Sylven suggested that these locations “are not meeting corporate goals.”  He further remarked that, “Acme strives to ensure the success of all its stores.  However, it is occasionally necessary to close those that are not meeting company goals in today’s competitive and difficult economic environment.” 

Wayne’s Acme has long been rumored to be closing but it looks like it is no longer just a rumor.  The lease on the property is up in March and will not be renewed. A blog, Acme Style, is dedicated to ‘Preserving the History of Acme Markets’ and features pictures and stories of closed, abandoned and repurposed Acme grocery stores.  (Photo is this article provided courtesy of Acme Style.)

Are you curious as to what the landlord has planned for the property post-Acme closing? I understand that the landlord has plans to break up the space and create multiple restaurants . . . Panera Bread, Five Guys and Chipotle have been mentioned as possibilities.

So we have economy driving corporate decisions for grocery store closings but people have money to go to restaurants; what’s wrong with this picture!

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Poplar House Has Become Radnor’s La Ronda!

I just received notice that Poplar House, at 600 Maplewood Ave. in Radnor Township was demolished.  Dating to 1902, the house contained 10 bedrooms, 6.5 bathrooms, 11,433 sq. ft and sat on 36 acres.  The house was demolished to make way for a new housing development.

Although Radnor Township has a HARB (Historic and Architectural Review Board) in place to advise the Township on matters related to three historic neighborhoods, they do not have the authority to stop the demolition of any historic resources in Radnor. (Radnor does not have a Historical Commission).  Lower Merion and Haverford Townships have Historical Commissions and regulations to prevent the loss of their most valuable and significant buildings.

Tredyffrin Township has a HARB (I’m one of the members) and we have been working for over a year toward the creation of a Historical Commission.  Going back and forth between the HARB and the Planning Commission, we finally all reached an agreement back in August and the plan moved to the township solicitor for review.  At the October Board of Supervisors meeting it was announced that the proposed Historical Commission would be presented at a public hearing on December 6.  Then at the supervisors meeting following the November election, the Historical Commission was abruptly removed from public hearing status; we were told because the legal work had not been completed.  No new date was given to the HARB members and it could be months (if at all) before there is a new public meeting scheduled. 

It is so discouraging to read these stories of beautiful and notable buildings destroyed in the name of progress. One does not have to live in a historic property to understand and appreciate their value.  Hopefully, our supervisors will support the establishment of the Historic Commission so that Tredyffrin’s historic properties don’t suffer the same fate as historic properties in Radnor Township.

First there was La Rhonda in Lower Merion and now Radnor Township has allowed Poplar house to be destroyed.  What’s next?  Here are some photos of Poplar House:

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Fire Funding Crisis for Berwyn, Paoli & Radnor Fire Companies. . . the ‘real’ story!

I am always appreciative when Community Matters readers send me local articles or links that I may have missed.  I received a great article today – the new edition of Main Line Today contains the article, ‘The Price of Rescue – Financial alarms have begun to sound at area fire and ambulance companies. What happens if the dollars dry up? (Can we afford to find out?).

The well-written article by Jim Waltzer highlights what many residents in Tredyffrin and other local municipalities have known for a while now, and what we have been hearing from our volunteer firefighters.  Our local fire companies are coming up against the money crunching of local township budgets and quickly facing a funding crisis within their organizations. Below are some of the highlights excerpted from of ‘The Price of Rescue’, click here for the complete article. Once again, on behalf of the Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies . . . please remember our volunteer firefighters (particularly during the holiday season) with a generous contribution. These men and women put their lives on the line every day for each of us!

“ . . . money is as critical as water to firefighting, an essential service built on a powerful volunteer tradition that, hereabouts, dates to Benjamin Franklin. And since cash flow is so uncertain in the current climate of economic tightening, fire companies are transmitting distress signals. A 5-percent reduction in Tredyffrin Township’s portion of fire-company funding triggered a strong response from the firefighting community late last year, though private contributions restored the shortfall. “[But] what happens next year—and the year after?” poses Matt Norris, chief of the Berwyn Fire Company, which fields about 2,000 ambulance and 1,000 fire calls a year.

Rip Tilden, the company’s president, believes the day is coming “when we won’t be able to fund emergency services in the ways we have.”

That day may not be circled on the calendar just yet, but the long-range trend isn’t promising. The growing public perception is that local governments fully fund fire companies, resulting in less-than-robust donations of late. Other culprits include the widening gap between ambulance billings and payment, greater demand for advanced life support, reduced insurance reimbursements, rising personnel costs, expanded training requirements, dwindling volunteerism, increased government regulation, and grant funding that’s been slashed. In short, revenue is flat—or reduced—in the face of rising costs and need for services.

Berwyn’s 13-year forecast spots trouble halfway through. “Based on what we know today, six to eight years out, we’ll be strapped financially,” says Tilden, who estimates that the company will break even this year per its operations budget of $1.4-$1.5 million.

Meanwhile, Berwyn’s capital expenditures have been significant this year. A peek behind the bay doors of the 100-year-old firehouse on Bridge Avenue just off Lancaster reveals $5 million worth of rolling stock that needs periodic replacement: A new $950,000 tower-ladder truck and a $100,000 ambulance will soon join the fleet, and the company continues to repay $300,000 in state loans for two fire trucks.

Construction of a new firehouse is a long-term capital project—one that will require a campaign to raise $7-$10 million. “We’ve done the architectural work,” says Tilden. “We’ll have to buy the real estate.”

The company applied much of its 2009 surplus of more than $300,000 toward the purchase of the two new vehicles. More than half the tab for the ladder truck was paid with Pennsylvania Relief Association funds. The rest is covered by additional state loans and a combined annual capital contribution of $140,000 from Tredyffrin and Easttown townships.

Tilden characterizes last year’s budget surplus as “not sustainable,” attributing the excess to belt-tightening in anticipation of the new vehicle purchases. Berwyn generates more than half its operating revenue from insurance payments for ambulance-related services, while the townships’ contributions account for about 20 percent and public fundraising 15 percent. The company receives $125,000 a year in rental fees from five mobile phone providers for the use of the tower on its property, and another $50,000 from grants and other rental income. Its principal expenses are salaries and benefits for paid personnel; other costs are associated with facility and vehicle maintenance, service delivery (e.g., disposable drugs), and day-to-day administration.

Nine full-time employees—including firefighter emergency medical technicians and paramedics—staff Berwyn, whose workforce is bolstered by 60 volunteers. In providing services, “there’s no line between paid staff and volunteers,” says Norris. . . .

Berwyn typically receives about a 20-percent response to its biannual fund drives, buttressed by a November turkey raffle (which raises about $10,000) and an April dinner at Berwyn United Methodist Church. Fundraisers and other efforts to plug budget gaps can place a burden on fire company personnel who may lack the aptitude. “[Firefighters] didn’t sign up to raise money,” says Norris.

In this economy, even small funding cuts seem ominous, which is why fire and EMS officials protested Tredyffrin’s 2010 budget, in which the township reduced its funding of its three fire companies—Paoli, Berwyn and Radnor—by about $20,000 combined. The 5-percent cut was part of a 15-percent budget reduction, says township supervisor Warren Kampf. A volunteer citizens board assisting the budget process had recommended deeper cuts for the three fire companies. Supervisors and residents subsequently raised more than enough money to make up the difference.

Tredyffrin has tripled its fire-company funding in the past six years, notes Kampf, who adds that “the future is going to include increased contributions” due to rising costs. “In the end,” he says, “fire protection is a critical part of living in our township.”

Tilden certainly shares that perspective. “Maintaining a high quality of [emergency] service has an impact on property values. If insurance company ratings [for a given locale] are high, homeowner’s insurance costs less,” he says. With the proliferation of smoke alarms and sprinkler systems, major fires in this day and age have decreased. But when one strikes, equipment and manpower must be tuned and trained. Every company has a timetable for replacing vehicles. “The average life of an ambulance is three years, because you want a decent trade and have to keep up on technology,” says Norris. And as safety regulations multiply, so do costs. Likewise, service delivery costs are rising, especially for EMS and stepped-up use of paramedics (to provide advanced life support), a trend that Tilden attributes to an aging population and a more cautious approach by county dispatch. Expanding ALS has a direct effect on the bottom line, as companies that offer the service in-house (e.g., Berwyn) must add staff, and those that contract for it absorb a substantial difference between their cost and reimbursement.

. . . So while they all fight fires, Berwyn and Malvern provide in-house basic life support and ALS, while Paoli, Radnor and East Whiteland offer BLS only, and Valley Forge fire only. Some townships—like Radnor and Lower Merion—pay most of the purchase cost of new vehicles, while others pay for a relatively small portion through capital allocations. So the percentages of the budget contributed by local and state government, EMS/ambulance revenue, and public donations may vary wildly. It’s a far cry from the notion that government pays for everything. . . .

. . . . The Paoli Fire Company has six full-time employees (four firefighter/EMTs, two administrative), six part-time paid staffers, and 45 volunteers who mostly fight fires and provide EMS. It makes about 2,000 calls a year and expects to break even in 2010, says business manager Dan Green. He anticipates a $10,000 increase in net income next year—one that may be more than offset by a projected 15-percent bump in medical insurance premiums and additional higher costs.

Beyond 2011, the outlook is murky. Though Paoli does take advantage of 2-percent state loans to buy new vehicles—and Chester County money at a rate that’s a few points higher to help finance site renovations—its funding is always in a state of flux. “We’re teetering on a delicate balance of these revenues,” says John DiBuonaventuro, a Paoli firefighter/EMT and a Tredyffrin Township supervisor.

“These revenues” come from ambulance/EMS reimbursements, local government funding (aside from Tredyffrin and Easttown, Paoli receives a smaller contribution from Willistown), the state’s insurance relief program, and public donations. The amounts and proportions vary year to year. DiBuonaventuro opposed Tredyffrin’s funding cut for Paoli, Berwyn and Radnor last year. “Few politicians have the perspective of responder or victim,” he says. “New residents think their taxes pay for these services.” If volunteer levels continue to fall, says DiBuonaventuro, taxes will pay for firefighting and EMS—additional taxes, that is. Meanwhile, Green emphasizes that the 25-percent response to Paoli’s annual fund drive keeps the company rolling.

Money to the rescue.
How to Help Even if you don’t like hot places and high vantage points, you can help your local fire company level the playing field. The simplest and most effective way is to respond to annual fund drives. This is not, after all, a direct-mail campaign pitching the latest rejuvenating skin cream. Toss the mailer aside now, and one day in the not-too-distant future, it may well come in the form of a fee —with a higher dollar figure. “People can also help by joining the fire company,” says Berwyn chief Matt Norris. While battling blazes and providing EMS require rigorous skills and stoutheartedness, almost all firehouses welcome additional help with administrative and fundraising tasks.

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Radnor’s Proposed Budget Calls for 17% Real Estate Tax Increase; Phoenixville Talks of Cutting Police Force & Lower Merion Residents Collecting Signatures in Opposition of Their Tax Increase

Lower Merion’s proposed 2011 budget indicates a 14.7% real estate tax increase . . . Phoenixville is working with a 24.7% proposed increase . . . Easttown Township announced their proposed budget includes a 5.3% real estate tax increase and on Friday, Radnor Township released their 2011 operating budget which indicates a 17 percent real estate tax increase!  Radnor residents will be facing this 17 percent real estate tax increase for 2011 on the heels of 2010’s 11 percent increase.  

Radnor’s administration points to similar problems as other neighboring municipalities due to the economy and that the municipality is struggling to recover from the recession.  With revenue growth slowed, Radnor is looking at various ways to reduce operating expenditures.  Included with Radnor’s budgetary information, is a memorandum from the assistant township manager, William Martin which details some suggestions for increased revenue.  Some of these suggestions are interesting –  I wonder if  any of these revenue recommendations or expenditure reductions are suggestions that Tredyffrin should consider.  I have highlighted some of Martin’s suggestions below:  

Revenue Recommendations  

  • Sell Selected Parcels of Township-owned Land
  • Negotiate Payment in Lieu of Tax with Universities and Colleges
  • Lease Office Space in Township Building
  • Perform audit of Cable TV Franchise License and permit fees
  • Increase Youth Sports Program Field Maintenance Fee for non-resident participants to $25 per participant
  • Consider corporate naming rights for select Township assets

Expenditure Reductions Suggestions  

  • Reduce total employee expenses by 8% in 2011
  • Implement a moratorium on acquisition of land or open space
  • Reduce Township facility costs to maximize the value
  • Reduce Legal Expenses
  • Mandate within legal limits that employees use accrued vacation
  • Explore share services agreements with neighboring townships
  • Evaluate Parks and Recreation Programs that do not met expenses
  • Review status of government and public access television channels
  • Perform energy audit
  • Reduce usage of Township vehicles
  • Rely on Citizen groups instead of hiring consultants
  • Perform audit of purchases to insure sales taxes are not paid

In looking at various ways to increase charges for services in Radnor, the administration is proposing to amend the local inspection laws to include mandatory inspection of all rental units in Radnor Township (to include colleges/universities) and to increase the fee to better align it with the cost of providing these inspections (rather than having a general tax). I am imagining all kinds of problems with this mandatory inspection . . . cost of inspection and scheduling issues, privacy concerns, etc. It would appear that managing a mandatory inspection idea would not be easy.  Owning a rental property myself in Tredyffrin, I am not sure how I feel about this idea. 

Still grappling with the 24.7% proposed real estate tax increase in Phoenixville, there is some discussion about cutting two police officers from the budget to help lower the $600K+  deficit.  It is my understanding that Phoenixville is already understaffed with their current police force.  With the economic downturn and unemployment rising, it would seem that crime could also be on the increase (particularly with the holidays coming) . . . so I’m not sure that cutting back the police force is the correct approach. Apparently all departments have reduced costs by 10% and that all that is left is to look at reducing the police force. 

The recently announced proposed 12.7% proposed real estate tax increase in Lower Merion has residents rightfully upset.  To counter the proposed 2011 budget, residents are getting their voices heard through an online petition (1400+ signatures to date).  Wonder if the Lower Merion’s Commissioners are likely to give any credence to the petition?  http://www.petitiononline.com/lmcrb11/petition.html 

To:  The Commissions of Lower Merion Township 

Petition – 2011 Lower Merion Township Proposed Budget 

Economic indicators demonstrate that our Country is still struggling to recover from recession. 

Since 2002, Lower Merion Township has raised the real estate tax millage rate by a total of 44.3% and has doubled its indebtedness (from $56 million to $112 million). 

Lower Merion Township has raised the real estate tax millage rate in seven (7) of the last eight (8) years. 

In 2010, Lower Merion Township raised trash collection fees between 10% – 41% for most residents. 

Now, the Township Manager of Lower Merion Township has proposed a 12.7% increase in the real estate tax millage rate for 2011 which, if passed, would mean a cumulative increase of 62.6% since 2002, the year in which the current Township Manager was appointed. 

The Lower Merion Township Manager proposes to increase 2011 spending by 5.5% over 2010 spending, which adds to past additional spending and represents a cumulative increase in spending of 45% since 2002. 

By contrast, since 2002, inflation has increased 20.44% (through September 30), and overall national wages have grown just 22% (through 2009). 

Further, the Township Manager has targeted a 17% General Fund Reserve Balance. The Township’s reserve policy has a goal of maintaining the General Fund Reserve Balance in the range of 15% – 18% of the Township’s prior year general fund expenditures. 

While it is the Township Manager’s role to propose a budget each year, it is the responsibility of elected Township Commissioners to determine the amount of spending to authorize and to approve a final budget. 

We believe that a 12.7% real estate tax increase is an unaffordable, unsustainable and unacceptable outcome and implore the Township Commissioners to significantly reduce proposed 2011 general fund expenditures, to draw down the General Fund Reserve Balance to 15%, and to avoid much or all of the proposed real estate tax increase at this difficult economic time. 

Sincerely, 

The Undersigned 

 

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Will Radnor Commissioners Support Residents Vision to Improve Walking and Biking in their Community . . . And Will Tredyffrin’s Walkers and Bicyclists Enjoy the Same Support?

Over the last 6 months in Tredyffrin Township, there has been much public commentary about sidewalks and trails in Tredyffrin  — St. Davids sidewalk issue, Patriot’s Path, the Sidewalks Trails and Paths (STAP) committee and the newly formed subcommittee that will review sidewalks throughout the township’s communities.  We can see that the sidewalks are nearing completion along Conestoga and Old Lancaster Roads in Berwyn and I noticed that storm water materials have arrived for the Irish Road section of the sidewalks below the high school. 

Sidewalks and trails have become a much discussed topic among many in the community.  There are those residents that support and believe in making the township more walkable and bikeable; others that do not want an increase in taxes to provide for sidewalks, trails, etc. at any cost; and still others who simply believe that in today’s era, people are not going to use the walkways and therefore don’t think that they should be considered.  Depending on who you ask, you may be apt to receive several different opinions. Reaching a consensus on the subject of sidewalks and trails, . . . is that actually possible in Tredyffrin?

With sidewalks and trails such a ‘hot’ topic in Tredyffrin, it was interesting to read the following article by John Boyle, of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.  With the popularity of the Radnor Trail, there is a proposal to link that trail to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, which I believe is down by the Philadelphia Airport.  Connecting Radnor’s Trail would allow for a connected 18 mi. bike ride.  Coming up in front of Radnor’s Board of Supervisors tomorrow night, I will be curious to see if their commissioners support the vision of many bike riders of creating interconnecting safe trails in the Southeastern section of Pennsylvania.  With so many differing opinions on the ‘value’ of trails in our community, do you think Tredyffrin bicyclists would ever the necessary support that’s required for such a vision as Radnor bicyclists are seeking?

The Vision for a Trail from Radnor to John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
By John Boyle, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia

Imagine a resident in Wayne, biking a few blocks to the amazingly popular Radnor Trail, but instead of the short out and back ride that is possible today, that person would be able to travel 18 miles and visit the Egrets and Bald Eagles at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

Such is the vision for a trail tentatively named Radnor – Tinicum Trail The trail would extend the existing Radnor Trail under I-476 via a deer tunnel and then follow the right of way of the Norristown High Speed Line (Rt. 100) just south of the Main Line across Haverford Township. The width of the right of way for the most part is wide enough for 4 tracks but since only 2 tracks were built there is in theory enough space for a rail with trail.

The trail would then follow Cobbs Creek on the unbuilt portion of the Cobbs Creek Trail which was blocked by NIMBY’s in the Overbrook Farms neighborhood in 1990’s. The trail will straddle the creek near Upper Darby and Millbourne before taking the existing Cobbs Creek Trail and the planned extension to Heinz National Wildlife Refuge and the East Coast Greenway. The TIGER funded 58th Street Connector Trail will provide access from Cobbs Creek to the Schuylkill River Trail via Bartram’s Garden and the South Street Bridge.

The trail alignment offers multitude of transit connections and will improve local walk and bike to transit access along Route 100 line including a long awaited direct pedestrian connection between Radnor’s Route 100 and R5 rail stations.

On Monday night the Radnor Township Commissioners Meeting will vote on a resolution to support the concept of a trail along the Rt 100 line. You can show your support by attending the meeting and voicing your support during the public comment period.

Radnor Township Board of Commissioners
June 21, 2010
7:00 PM
Radnor Township Municipal Building
301 Iven Avenue
Wayne , PA 19087

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Radnor’s Interim Finance Director Discovers a New Way to Lose $600K . . . Whoops, the shading was too dark to read!

Here’s a new excuse for an accounting mistake.  It was announced this week at Radnor’s Board of Commissioner’s Meeting that the township lost $600K . . . rather they never actually had it.  Apparently, some of the columns on the Excel accounting sheets are shaded too darkly to accurately read so the wrong numbers may have been picked up.  When the township’s commissioners asked Alison Rudolf, Radnor’s interim finance director to explain why the actual and working budget numbers are different, her explanation begins with maybe there was an  ‘absence of some zeros’!   I couldn’t make this up — and to explain sloppy accounting with the excuse that the Excel spreadsheet’s shading was too dark! 

Apparently, Commissioner John Fisher, who sits on the township’s finance and audit committee, complained in the past that the shading on the Excel spreadsheet was too dark . . . he told the residents at the commissioner’s meeting that he would lighten his own copy before printing so that it was readable.  Even after Commissioner Fisher alerted the finance department of the situation, the shading problem was ignored.  Lightening up the use of shading in a document does not take an advanced degree in computer science . . . and now this is the finance director’s excuse for the $600K accounting error!   

The inability of the finance department to reconcile the books would have been a stunning revelation by itself; but for Radnor’s Township Manager and Finance Director to offer this kind of excuse is truly remarkable!  Ms. Rudolf explained that the township uses two different kinds of accounting systems, one for budgeting and the other for everything else.  The budget system uses Excel.  The Excel spreadsheets were so darkly shaded that they were not readable, so Ms. Rudolf states it was difficult to read some of the entries!  Are the residents to believe that the finance department then just guessed what the numbers were?  Does this explain Ms. Rudolf’s assertion that perhaps some zeros just went missing?

Another problem with Radnor’s 2010 budget — the budget was based on a significant transfer of revenues from the Sewer Fund.  (do you remember Tredyffrin’s Sewer Fund discussion from December?)  It now looks as if the Radnor’s Board of Commissioners spent money from the Sewer Fund that was not there.  A reduction in usage due to conservation efforts and the economic downturn meant another large shortfall in anticipated revenues. 

One bright spot for Radnor’s residents is that this recent budget problem is forcing the commissioners and the township’s finance department to focus on the revenues and expenditures of their 2010 budget.  I would also guess this situation will encourage 2011 budget discussions in Radnor Township earlier rather than later. And just remember, Radnor Township has an Interim Finance Director and this $600K error occurred . . . what does that say for Tredyffrin Township?  We have not had a Finance Director since March.  Maybe a status report on where the township stands with getting this position filled would be a good idea!

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