Tim Klarich

Tredyffrin Twp: Public Works Director Scott Cannon and Finance Director Tim Klarich are out and it’s only February!

Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors held a special board meeting on February 10 to terminate the employment of Public Works Director Scott Cannon.  Stating several acts of misperformance, including two instances of improper disposal of materials on Township property in addition to procurement procedure violations, the supervisors voted unanimously to dismiss Cannon, without public discussion or comment.

Two weeks to the day after the Public Works Director’s termination, the ominous “discussion of personnel action items” appears on the Board of Supervisors agenda. We learned last night that the township’s Finance Director Tim Klarich is the next one out the door.  Without explanation or discussion, the supervisors unanimously voted to accept the resignation of Klarich.

Although the public wasn’t privy to the details of Cannon’s termination, after only a couple of years in the job, I didn’t have a real sense of the pubic work director.  On the other hand, Tim Klarich was Tredyffrin Township Finance Director for nearly 4 years.  I found his analysis and preparation of the yearly township budget detailed and complete and his monthly financial updates to the board unfailingly thorough.  Two township department heads gone in two weeks, there was an  uneasiness with more questions than answers.

During the public comment period at the end of the meeting, I asked several questions and voice concern about Klarich’s abrupt departure from the township. When I received no response to my question as to when Klarich gave his resignation notice, I then asked ‘when’ his last day was.   Board of Supervisor chair Mike Heaberg referred my questions to the solicitor Vince Donohue, who stated that yesterday (Monday) was his last day. Donohue then stated that because it was a personnel matter, there would be no further information. It was obvious to those in the audience that there was more behind the departure of Cannon and then two weeks later Klarich than was publicly provided. I

Falling under the jurisdiction of ‘legal and personnel matters’, it is highly unlikely that we will ever know the details of Cannon or Klarich recent departures from the township. Less than two months in to the New Year and two department heads are already gone — What’s that saying from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “Something is rotten in Denmark”?  Makes you wonder if there is more house cleaning ahead from the Board of Supervisors.

From the T/E School Board meeting also held last night came the unanimous vote to approve the teachers to approve the new 3-year contract.  Ray Clarke attended the TESD meeting and provides the following personal comments:

  • Dr. Waters actually lead the presentation of the TEEA contract.  A surprise since he rarely speaks.  He addressed many of the questions raised on CM, but with only occasional reference to the data on the slides so it was hard to follow, even for an experienced ear.
  • One of the ways that the impact is minimized is that the caps on column movement are lower than numbers assumed in the budget (but wouldn’t we have budgeted “status quo”?), and that difference is taken as “budgetary savings”
  • Also helping the overall budget is that (my estimates) there has been a redistribution of ~50 staff from the top level to the bottom levels through retirements and replacements.  Dr Waters provided total staff by level which will be handy for those wanting to sanity check the calculated impact.  No further “breakage” going forward is assumed in the impact assessment.
  • It sounded as though the one-time bonus was not included in the baseline numbers.
  • Note that the increased teacher contribution to healthcare premiums averages $74,000 per year – $160 per teacher.  We should not lose sight of the fact that taxpayers fund a very generous benefits package!
  • Outside the contract, I thought that the Committee Chairs gave richer summaries of their recent meetings than we have been used to.  Perhaps that’s wishful thinking, but to be encouraged!

3.1% Tax Increase in Tredyffrin Township; Cuts to Police Department

As a taxpayer and an audience member at last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, I expected to have a copy of the final 2013 budget prior to the vote.  According to BOS Chair Michelle Kichline and Township Manager Bill Martin, they were working on the final budget until the last minutes and ran out of time to have copies available.

The proposed budget for 2013 had indicated a 5.5% tax increase – the final version brought the tax increase down to 3.1%.  Without a copy of the revised budget, it was difficult to know where the changes had occurred.  The Finance Director Tim Klarich explained that differences from the proposed to final budget was due to a variety of adjustments.  Martin ran through the changes quickly, making it hard to follow without a copy of the budget.  One adjustment in the 2013 budget has the elimination of one full-time library position. It was offered that the changes in the final budget were minor from the proposed budget – if they were ‘minor’, then I really do not understand why copies of the changes could not have been available.

Prior to casting their vote, each supervisor offered a statement. Mike Heaberg, Phil Donohue, Michelle Kichline and Kristen Mayock voted in favor of the budget with the tax increase, explaining that it was fiscally responsible.  Although the average increase to taxpayers in the 2013 budget, according to Kichline, is about $16, EJ Richter stated the increase would be $35 and would not vote for the budget with a tax increase.  Paul Olson also voted against the budget, citing the tax increase.  John DiBuonaventuro’s vote against the budget but his reason was specific to the decreased staffing of the police department.

Tredyffrin Township Police Department currently has 40 uniformed police officers, although there were 47 officers listed in the 2012 budget.  The police operations study by ICMA ($49K consulting contract) indicated a minimum of 43 uniformed officers were required maintain the safety of the community.  At the December 3 BOS meeting, Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo had requested that the Board consider reinstating ‘47’ officers in the 2013 budget.  However, there are only 42 uniformed officers listed in the 2013 budget.

Again, I have to ask, what was the value of the $49K consulting study?  The most important element of the report would be how many officers are required to maintain safety in the community.  According to the consultants report the absolute minimum is 43 uniformed officers to maintain current safety levels – actually the 43 number assumed scheduling changes.  Without the scheduling changes, the consultants recommended 45 uniformed officers.

Bottom line, why spend $49K to have consultants do a study if you are not going to use the results?  How much more per taxpayer would it cost to add a few more police?  If the average tax increase is $16 for 2013, I think most of us would gladly pay a few more dollars to maintain the level of safety.  In light of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy, the last area of the budget that needs to be cut is the police department. I am all for being fiscally responsible, but the police department needs to be adequately staff.  To be clear, the 2013 township budget cuts police staffing from 47 uniformed police officers to 42 officers.  And just think, it wasn’t that long ago that Tredyffrin Township had 50+ uniformed officers!

It should also be noted that those two additional uniformed police officers in the 2013 budget will not be hired until there is a contract settlement between the township and the police union.  As of now, the arbitration continues without any indication of a settlement date!

The Board of Supervisors passed the 2013 township budget, 4-3 with a 3.1% tax increase (and a decrease in the number of uniformed police officers.)

Lifetime healthcare benefits of Tredyffrin Township Police Association result in $40M unfunded liability — What’s the Solution?

I attended the public meeting this week to discuss the township’s proposed preliminary 2013 budget.  About 10 residents attended plus township supervisors Michelle Kichline and Mike Heaberg (Heaberg is a member of the Finance Committee) and Acting Township Manager and Finance Director Tim Klarich.

Over the course of two hours, various topics were discussed with Klarich and the two supervisors, providing answers and background on numerous issues.  The townships’ $40 M unfunded medical liability and the open issue on the labor agreement between the township and the police union, Tredyffrin Township Police Association (TTPA) were of particular interest to me.  The ‘elephant in the room’ for the township’s 2013 budget and major obstacle (and the reason for the township’s $40M liability) is the ongoing arbitration with the police contract and their lifetime health benefits.

Since January 2012, the contract between TTPA and Tredyffrin Township has been in arbitration; the 3-year police contract expired the end of 2011. Kichline was quick to point out that both sides want an arbitration decision but unfortunately, for 10+ months, the process has been held captive, waiting for a ruling from independent arbitrator, Michael Zobrak from Aliquippa, PA.  According to PA Department of Labor & Industry website, Zobrak’s fee is $1200 per diem (however, his page was last updated in 2007).  Interesting to note, there is no requirement for the arbitrator to be an attorney — Zobrak’s education background includes BA, Geneva College and M.Ed, U of Pittsburgh.

According to Kichline and Klarich, Zobrak has held meetings with the attorneys representing the township and TTPA.  It was unclear how many meetings have been held and/or how often.  Although I am sure both sides hope that a resolution is forthcoming, there was nothing definitive stated as to when that might happen. For the record, I called Zobrak’s office and left a voice mail – I will update if I receive a response.

The biggest roadblock in collective bargaining contract disputes these days is health care benefits (in addition to salaries). Certainly health care benefits were an important component in the recently settled T/E teacher contract negotiations.  Appreciating the current economic environment, the teachers agreed that their generous healthcare plan of the past was no longer possible, changes were made in their teacher’s contract accordingly.  Considering the healthcare provisions of the former TESD contract, made it even more surprising to learn the details of the health care benefits of TTPA.

If some residents were bothered by the health care benefit package contained in the previous TTEA contract, I think they would be shocked at the level of TTPA health care coverage.  Currently, all Tredyffrin police officers receive free full lifetime health care benefits for themselves and their families after 25 years of service to the township.  At present 52 retired police officers and families, receive full free healthcare in Tredyffrin Township.  In addition there are a number (not sure of the exact count) of currently employed police officers that are in the 25+ years of service who will receive this  lifetime healthcar coverage under the conditions of the existing contract.

The lifetime healthcare benefits of TTPA constitute the township’s $40M unfunded liability.  According to Kichline, the lifetime health care benefits afforded members of TTPA in their current contract, is not found in most other area municipal police contracts. Here was an interesting twist — I assumed that any change to the current health care benefit of TTPA would affect new hires only (similar to what is being discussed in Harrisburg as it relates to the pension situation, where changes would not affect those employees already in the system).  It is possible (however, probably not likely) that the independent arbitrator could change the lifetime healthcare benefits to affect not only new hires, but also include TTPA members already receiving these benefits. As I have previously stated re the state pension, I support changing the benefits for new hires but not for those employees already in the system.  I am of the same opinion that the same should hold true for members of TTPA.  The healthcare benefits should only be changed for new police department hires – however that means the township still has the $40M unfunded liability ‘noose’ around its neck!

We spent much time during the meeting discussing the township’s $40M unfunded liability.  In the proposed 2013 preliminary budget, Klarich has increased funding from $250K to $500K as a way to start to buy down this debt.  A couple of the residents in attendance were advocating for a greater yearly contribution, say $2M annually, as a way of addressing the $40M debt.

Personally, I think there should be a degree of concern that this enormous liability of $40M could have an adverse effect on the township’s current AAA bond rating.  On the other hand, is it reasonable to expect that Moody’s would view the township’s yearly $500K contribution favorably and continue to award the township with its gold star rating?  Remember at $500K/year, it will take the township 80 years to reach that $40M mark.

Knowing that the township has an open issue on the TTPA labor agreement and the $40M unfunded liability, what is the answer?  I get it that we all want to keep the highest level of service in our community and pay nothing additional for those services, but practically speaking that is not possible.  Beginning in 2015, the state is requiring all municipalities to include their unfunded liability in its accounting.

There are few avenues available to the township to handle the staggering debt beyond an increase in our real estate taxes … except for the option to institute an Earned Income Tax.  Unlike the School Board, the township supervisors would not need a voter referendum to institute this tax.  The topic of EIT was brought up at the meeting, there appeared to be little interest in furthering the discussion.  Although not seen as a favorable option by some, shouldn’t there be serious consideration given to an EIT?

How many Tredyffrin residents work in another jurisdiction that has an Earned Income Tax?  If they do, the EIT dollars the Tredyffrin resident pays stays in that jurisdiction because our township does not have an EIT. There has always been much misunderstanding about who would pay an EIT but unearned income, such as Social Security, interest, dividends and pensions are exempt from the tax unlike an increase in property tax which affects all homeowners, whether they are on a fixed income or not.  I have struggled to understand why it is that the supervisors are reticent to consider the option – especially considering that most of our neighbors have an EIT and many of our residents are already paying this tax.  Millions of dollars leave Tredyffrin in EIT payments, helping to subsidize the budgets of neighbor’s budgets.

The proposed 2013 preliminary budget for includes a 5.5% tax increase in addition to a decrease in the police staff. Part of the rationale behind not replacing police staff is that any new hires will come in under the conditions of the last TTPA contract, which includes the lifetime healthcare benefit.  If the arbitrator were to come back with a contract that removes the lifetime healthcare benefit, it would be financially better for the township to wait until after the new contract is signed before hiring new police staff.

Again, no one wants to pay additional taxes but how much longer will it be OK with Tredyffrin residents to see their services reduced in order to balance the township budget?  What happens if the $40M unfunded liability jeopardizes township’s AAA bond rating? And what about capital improvements, ongoing maintenance and infrastructure needs of our community? With residential and commercial real estate transfer revenue way down, what is the funding solution for Tredyffrin …  if it isn’t raising real estate taxes or instituting an EIT?  What’s the answer?

What about the Tredyffrin Township resident who pays EIT to another municipality when it could be helping this community?  How does that resident feel – below are comments from John Petersen, a resident who pays EIT to a neighboring municipality:

Ever since the Tax Study Commission Report of 2006 was released, I’ve called it an intellectually dishonest exercise. I said that and continue to say that because of the factors that were willfully ignored. The unfunded pension liability under discussion was one of those factors. Back then, the unfunded liability was estimated to be around $25MM. As predicted, in a short amount of time, that figure has doubled. I remember Bob Lamina prophetically saying at a BoS meeting that this issue was the most significant one facing the township and the township will have to face up to this impending reality.

I pay an EIT – as do thousands of Tredyffrin residents. I for one am tired of being disenfranchised by this government – a government run by the TTOP proletariat that refuses to discuss an EIT. Not that the points have to be enumerated again, I will do so here:

  • Many pay an EIT already
  • Surrounding governments plan their budgets around the fact that Tredyffrin DOES NOT levy an EIT (read as we subsidize other townships)
  • Had an EIT been levied years ago, part of the unfunded liability could have been paid off
  • An EIT is the only means of providing property tax relief
  • At least one large company (Shire) is leaving Tredyffrin for East Whiteland (that does levy an EIT)

Indeed, there are some who will be adversely affected. Those who live in and work in Tredyffrin. I believe that to be an extreme minority of people. Regardless, the realities of the situation are such where an EIT must be discussed.

I won’t bother getting into who one particular political organization has sucked the oxygen out of the room re: stifling the conversation or how the opposing party has succumbed to fear by adopting the same philosophy re: the EIT.

Bottom line – I pay tax dollars that could make their way to Tredyffrin. The local government is denying that right and in the process, disenfranchising those like me who already pay an EIT.

Maybe at long last, there can be an honest discussion.

A Township Resident is Tredyffrin’s New Township Manager

Although there were only 9 residents at tonight’s Board of Supervisors meeting there is significant news to report.  Chair Michelle Kichline reported that the township has hired Bill Martin as Tredyffrin’s new township manager, effective November 19.

Martin comes to Tredyffrin Township from Bridgeport where he has served as their Borough Manager since September 2011. Martin started his career in Nassau County (New York) as a Legislative Assistant.  In 2001, he focused his career in local government with Radnor Township, serving as Assistant Finance Director.  For the ten years he was in Radnor, Martin served in many different capacities from Acting Finance Director, Right to Know Officer, Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator, Director of Administrative Services, Interim Director of Community Development, and Assistant Township Manager to Acting Township Manger.  He left Radnor Township to become Bridgeport Borough Manager last year. Martin received a BA and MBA from Villanova University and here’s the best part … he is a Tredyffrin Township resident!  Martin could be the first township manager to live in the township, which I for one think should always be a requirement!

In other news, Kichline reported that she had delegated the task of drafting a website policy to Phil Donahue. She explained that Donohue is seriously ill in the hospital, having had surgery today.  I don’t have any further details but I know that you join me in wishing him a speedy and full recovery.  Because of the illness, Kichline explained that she will draft the website policy and expects to make it public next month.  Having been on the receiving end of what I believe was the misuse of the township website (and taxpayer dollars) by supervisor John DiBuonaventuro, I am hopeful that the new policy will stop anything similar in the future.

Six months ago, at the April Board of Supervisors meeting, I asked for an update on the status of the sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club.  At that point, it appeared that the sidewalks were finally going in with the necessary advance tree removal completed.  Tonight Steve Burgo explained to me that due to the delay in the project, St. Davids had to update their permit with PennDOT before sending it out to bid. Unfortunately, this was exactly the same response that I received last April.  I asked for follow-up and an update at the November supervisors meeting.

I inquired about Mimi Gleason’s consulting contract with the township and if there was an expected end date.  According to Mike Heaberg, to date Gleason has worked approximately 50 hours under the new consulting contract, which he pointed out was less than what she would have been paid as township manager.  It is expected that Gleason will work through the transition of Bill Martin starting as township manager next month.  It appears that Gleason will be only working with the township a few days beyond Martin’s start date.  I also asked about Gleason’s healthcare benefits – according to Tim Klarich, her township healthcare benefits ended September 30th.

That’s the highlights from the Board of Supervisors meeting.  Tonight the School Board directors voted on the teacher’s contract so I look forward to hearing those details.

A Job May Not be a Life but … Maybe Consulting at $125/hr Is!

After tendering her resignation as township manager back on July 17, in a Community Matters post, “… I asked Mimi Gleason why she was resigning – was it another job? No, she is not leaving Tredyffrin for another job. In fact, her explanation for the resignation was actually quite simple … ‘A job is not a life’. She went on to explain that she is uncertain about what she wants to do, but knows that she wants to do something different and to work less. Her plans after September 17 include taking a few months off from work, visiting friends around the country during the fall and her annual trip to Hawaii in January.”

Curious if there was any way that she would extend her employment past the September 17 deadline, I asked her that question. Her response, was an emphatic “no”, her mind was made up.  Well, as we learned at the September 17 Board of Supervisors meeting, her mind was not made up.  With a unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors approved a consulting contract for Gleason, effective immediately.  There was no disclosure from the supervisors as to the specifics of the contract, i.e. salary, hours, etc. though BOS chair Michelle Kichline did say that Gleason would be helping the township until sometime after a new township manager was appointed and that the former township manager would not have direct contact with the public.  On a personal note, as probably one of Gleason’s final contacts with a private citizen, both in email and via her phone call to me of September 14, I completely support that aspect of the contract!

By the September 17 Board of Supervisors meeting, 2 months had passed since Gleason’s letter of resignation, but no replacement township manager had been appointed. If you recall with Tom Scott’s departure as assistant township manager, that position was eliminated.  In the interim, township Finance Director Tim Klarich was appointed at the September 17 BOS meeting to serve as acting township manager until a replacement township manager was appointed.

Without details of Gleason’s contract by the Board of Supervisors, several residents asked me about the contract, her consulting fee, the timeline, etc.  On September 23, I sent the township a ‘right-to-know request’, asking for the contract and any related correspondence.  After a legal review of my request, I received Gleason’s proposal dated August 28 and the signed consulting contract dated September 17 this past Friday.  (If you click on the contract, do not be put-off by the 29 pages, the attorney Robert McClintock, Lamb McErlane, included several copies of the contract in the pdf.  I am unclear as to why multiple unsigned copies; perhaps they contain small changes, but regardless, go to the end of the document to find the signed and dated version.)

For those experienced in reading contracts, I encourage additional commentary. Below, I offer highlights of Gleason’s proposal and contract:

  • Assist staff in development of 2013 budget & 5-year plan
  • Analyze budget alternatives
  • Available to meet with supervisors, finance committee
  • Assist with BOS meeting preparation
  • Assist with collective bargaining agreements if needed
  • Hourly rate $125, billed monthly to township
  • Work 10-15 hours per week, with notice may work more
  • Will assist new township manager with transition

Working as an independent contractor, Gleason’s consulting contract commenced September 23, no end date assigned. According to the terms of the contract, the township has the right to terminate the agreement with 10 days written notice. Going forward, the agreement may be amended with mutual agreement of Gleason and the township.

Going back to Gleason’s comment to me of July 17 that, “a job is not a life”.  Although a job may not be a life, apparently consulting may be the ticket to life.  A couple of people, who attended her retirement party last month, reported that  Gleason’s consulting plans go beyond helping Tredyffrin Township.  According to these sources, Gleason intends to take her land development expertise and offer those skills to other municipalities as a consultant.

I always thought that Gleason’s continued involvement and intense personal interest in the outcome of the recent C-1 zoning change to permit assisted living at Daylesford, past her notice to resign somewhat strange.  It is interesting to note that her last day of township employment had Gleason at the September 17 Board of Supervisors meeting and witness to the 7-1 supervisors vote to approve the C-1 zoning change.  Now, I get the connection.  Though many township residents opposed the C-1 zoning change, Gleason can now point to this success when negotiating her consulting services with other townships.  I guess the same applies for the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay district ordinance change and her involvement in that zoning change.

Having served 10 years in Tredyffrin Township government, Gleason is fully vested and receives a pension.  In addition to the pension, it is my understanding that she will receive healthcare benefits for life. Pension, healthcare coverage and consulting jobs, looks like Gleason had bigger plans than our July 18 conversation following her resignation would have suggested.  According to Gleason, ‘a job may not be a life’ but apparently consulting is.

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