Tredyffrin Township Police Association

Kichline & Heaberg defend $49K Police Department study, but don’t address hiring additional police officers

Tredyffrin BOS Chair Michelle Kichline and Vice Chair Mike Heaberg have co-authored an editorial on the township police department with the stated purpose to offer facts, history and perspective. (Click here to read the op-ed).   Appearing in the Main Line Suburban, their response focuses on the recent police-township contract negotiations and the township’s $49K police consultant study. (On a personal note, I would like to thank the supervisors for appropriately using media for their op-ed rather than the township website.)

According to Kichline and Heaberg, the average wages per Tredyffrin Township police officer is $101K in 2013 with an additional $77K annually in healthcare, pension, life insurance benefits for officers and their spouses/dependents.  We know from reading the police contract that retired police officers receive healthcare benefits for life and this is reiterated in the article.  It is important for taxpayers to realize that the Police Department budget accounts for almost 50% of the township’s General Fund budget – for 2013, that cost is $8 million.

According to Kichline and Heaberg, the “BOS attempted to negotiate a termination of some benefits for new police hires only, but when the discussions did not progress, the decision was made to go to arbitration.”  Their explanation differs from the explanation given to me by representatives of the police department.  According to my sources, there was no negotiation but rather the arbitrator for the township took the police contract to arbitration after only one meeting.  After nearly a year, we learned in December that the independent arbitrator’s decision favored the police department.

Regardless if the BOS attempted to negotiate with the police prior to settlement, the township’s cost of arbitration was not included in Kichline and Heaberg’s editorial.  As I previously mentioned in an earlier post, the township paid $83K+ in arbitration costs.  ($14K+ for impartial arbitrator and $$69K for township arbitrators).  The total cost for the arbitration is probably closer to $100K as I only received Ballard Spahr billable hours through 8 October, 2012. (Click here for details)

In the op-ed, Kichline and Heaberg defend the $49K spent on the police department study. I am certain that their decision to depend the consulting contract is a direct result of the presentation (or rather the non-presentation) of the police operations study on December 2.  This was the BOS meeting where the consultant, Dr. Paul O’Connell of ICMA, was unable to attend the meeting and the idea was to ‘Skype” him in electronically from Connecticut.  The Skype attempt failed miserably with the audience and supervisors unable to understand a single word.  It was a hopeless exercise and no one could successfully question the consultant in regards to the police department study.

Apparently, at upcoming BOS meeting on February 11, two consultants from ICMA will be available (in person) to respond to questions concerning their study.  According to Kichline and Heaberg, ICMA “collected an entire years worth of data on each of more than 23,000 calls for service to our Police. This included type of call, time of day, day of week, response time, number of units responding, time on scene, etc. In addition, they collected staffing and schedule information. This allowed them to analyze the police workload, as compared to our police capacity.”

Obviously, supervisors Kichline and Heaberg are entitled to their personal assessment of ICMA’s consulting efforts of Tredyffrin Township’s Police Department.  However, for those that follow Community Matters, you will recall that because I had found ICMA’s presentation so unsettling, I conducted my research on the company.  I discovered that ICMA isn’t well loved in some municipalities, with some communities reporting that they overpaid for a cut and paste job rather than an accurate assessment of their fire or police departments.  (Click here for details).

There was one question that the supervisors and the residents wanted answered by ICMA’s consultant at the December BOS meeting, “What is the minimum staffing level of police officers required to maintain our quality of service” which seemed to escape a response from O’Connell.  In their editorial, Kichline and Heaberg write of their support for ICMA’s police department study yet Kichline commented at the December supervisors meeting that she had read ICMA’s report five times and was still confused as to the number of officers the consultants were recommending.

I am glad that Kichline and Heaberg are committed in their support of the police department, but disappointed that their offer of the “facts, history and perspective” does not address the hiring of additional police officers in Tredyffrin.  The 2013 budget included the hiring of two police officers with the possibility of the hire of a third officer during the year.  Although the recently settled police contract negotiations may not have turned out the way the supervisors wanted, it should not be used as a roadblock to hiring the additional officers.

No Second Term for DiBuonaventuro as Tredyffrin’s Vice Chair

Attending the organizational meeting of Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors last night, all I can say is, “What a difference a year makes!” 

Last year with only two years of service as a supervisor (and neither as a vice chair) Michelle Kichline was chosen by her fellow supervisors as chair of Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors.  Historically, this leadership position would have gone to the most senior serving member of the Board, John DiBuonaventuro.  Instead, DiBuonaventuro was named second in command, ‘vice chair’, under Kichline, for 2012.

At last night’s 2013 organizational meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Kichline received a vote of confidence from her fellow Board members for a second term as chair.  Then came the vice chair announcement. In what appeared to be a vague cover story, Kichline explained that supervisor DiBuonaventuro had removed his name from consideration as vice chair.  She stated that for the next 2 months, DiBuonaventuro will be attending a canine training certification program and he did not think he had the time for the position.

The position of vice chair on the Board of Supervisors is for the most part ceremonial – I attended every 2012 BOS meeting, and to my knowledge Vice Chair DiBuonaventuro was never ‘acting chair’ in Kichline’s absence. DiBuonaventuro does not have time to serve in the ceremonial position of vice chair on the Board of Supervisors but he does have the time to serve as supervisor.  Interesting.

The supervisors themselves decide the choice of who serves in the leadership roles of chair and vice chair.  With a unanimous vote, Mike Heaberg was selected vice chair for 2013.

2012 proved to be a challenging year for Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors and some of their decisions not always popular:

  • C1 zoning ordinance change to permit assisted living (Duffy property in the Daylesford community)
  • 2 Tredyffrin police missing a criminal District Court hearing (due to clerical error)
  • Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District (Richter property in the Glenhardie neighborhood)
  • Township Manager Mimi Gleason’s resignation and her township consulting contract
  • $49K Police Department consultant’s study
  • Costly arbitration of Police-township collective bargaining agreement
  • $40 Million unfunded retirement liability
  • DiBuonaventuro’s controversial personal letter using township resources which appeared on the township website, resulting in a township ‘communication policy’

Tredyffrin Pays $83K for Police Contract Arbitration, or … was it really $133K?

The Board of Supervisors and the School Board have their first meetings of the New Year this week.  As is often the case, Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meeting conflicts with the TESD Board meeting. Scheduled for Monday night is both the Board of Supervisor’s organizational and regular meeting at the township building and the T/E School Board will hold a special school board meeting to consider the 2013-14 budget at the T/E Administration Building.  Unfortunately, both meetings are at the same time – 7:30 PM.

The Board of Supervisor’s organizational meeting includes the adoption of the meeting schedule for the various township boards and commissions, naming of emergency service providers, adoption of township fee schedule, legal and accounting reviews, etc.

One of the interesting aspects of the organizational meeting each year is the naming of the Chair and Vice Chair of the Board of Supervisors.  The seven Board members nominate and vote on these positions.  Historically, these positions go to the longest-serving members on the Board.  However, in 2012, that tradition shifted with the naming of Michelle Kichline as Chair. Kichline had only served 2 years as supervisor and neither as a Vice Chair, but received the unanimous support of her fellow board members for the chair position.  Having served longer than Kichline, many had expected John DiBuonaventuro to receive the 2012 nod for Chair but instead he served as Vice Chair. The Board of Supervisors saw their share of controversy in 2012, so it will be curious to see if Michelle receives another vote of confidence to continue as Chair and JD to continue as Vice Chair.

After the ceremonious organizational meeting, there is a regular supervisors meeting, including a Public Hearing to “consider and enact an ordinance of the Township of Tredyffrin, Chester County, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, fixing rates of taxation for the year 2013.”  We learned at the last BOS meeting in December that the township tax increase is set at 3.1%, down from the 5.5% originally forecast.

Since the December 17th supervisors meeting, we have learned of the Act 111 Arbitration Award issued for the collective bargaining agreement between the township and the police union. Much has been written about the agreement on Community Matters with many comments. If you are interested in details of the 4-year contract (2012-15), I would suggest you review posts from late December.  Once the arbitration award was announced, I submitted a right-to-know request for a complete accounting of the arbitration related expenses paid by the township.  It should be noted that this is the second police contract in a row that has gone directly to arbitration by the township.  In both instances, the impartial arbitrator came down on the side of the police union in regards to the post-retirement benefits. We know that retirement benefits , including pensions and healthcare, were major contributors to the long-standing debate between the two sides.

According to township manager Bill Martin, the arbitration costs to the township (taxpayers) re the police contract is as follows – Michael Zobrak, impartial arbitrator $14,136.46 and township arbitrators John McLaughlin, Patrick Harvey, Brian Pinheiro, etc. billed 273 hours for $69,337.50.  If my math is correct, the taxpayers paid $83,473.96 for the arbitration of the police contract.

Below are the details that Bill Martin sent for the township arbitrator costs.  John McLaughlin, Patrick Harvey and Brian Pinheiro are all partners in the Philadelphia law firm of Ballard Spahr.  The law firm billed the township 273 hours for a total of $69,337.50 which equates to $254/hr on the average.  On April 3, 2012 there are 100+ hours billed to the township under the name, ‘PFM’ — I am clueless as to what that means but I will contact the township manager for clarification.

I am struggling to understand these billable hours from Ballard Spahr.  It was my understanding that there was little (if any?) movement from the township’s initial position going into the arbitration process.  If that is the case, how is it that the total number of hours in 2012 (setting aside the hours from 2011) are so substantially higher than the total billable hours of  Michael Zobrak, the impartial arbitrator.

Something else I should point out is that on my right-to-know request in which I asked for ‘costs to date’ was dated January 1, 2013 and Martin’s response was dated January 4th. If you look at the last billing date from Ballard Spahr (below) it was back on Oct. 18, over 2 months prior to the signing of the arbitration agreement on December 23, 2012. It stands to reason that there are additional billable hours yet to be received from Ballard Spahr for those 2+ months, including the review of the arbitration award before its release.  I would maintain that the township has not seen the end of the costs — $83K may not be the entire costs.

TT Arbitrator Costs

I would suggest that we should also add the ICMA (International City/County Management Association) police department consulting fee of $49K to the total cost of the police contract negotiations.  Much of ICMA’s report was boilerplate language and their specific, cost-savings suggestions would require collective bargaining changes.  The way I see it, the township has already spent approximately $133K trying to lower police department expenses.  Based on the arbitration award, we know that the police department retained most of their prior contract benefits.

What bearing is the Act 111 arbitration award going to have on the township’s 2013 budget?  The supervisors and the finance director Tim Klarich did not have the benefit of a crystal ball in regards to the arbitration award when they calculated the 2013 budget. In addition, we still have the issue that there were 47 uniformed police in the 2012 township budget and the 2013 budget has the number reduced to 42.  The 42 uniformed police officers is two more officers than are currently in the department.  Now that the police contract is settled, will the supervisors OK the hiring of those two additional officers?

Why Tredyffrin’s Arbitration Award Wasn’t ‘In the Middle’

In the addendum to my previous post, “Tredyffrin Township Police Union Favored in Act 111 Arbitration Award”, I remarked that I had assumed that the independent arbitrator would make his award in the police contract arbitration ‘somewhere in the middle’.  During the arbitration process, John Petersen had assured me that the arbitrator would favor the police union in his decision, and  … we now know that my assumption was incorrect.

In response to my  statement that a “further explanation of the arbitration process would be helpful”, John provided the following opinion for Community Matters:

We are where we are because of what was agreed upon in the past. An arbitrator’s role is to find the most “equitable” solution absent the parties agreeing to such. Normally, there is at least some level of negotiation prior to arbitration. It’s always best if the parties themselves can come to an amicable resolution. While there may be disagreement, when parties can mutually agree, it implies a certain level of functionality as to the working relationship. That doesn’t mean that arbitration itself implies dysfunction. Often, there are some points parties cannot resolve. Again, an arbitrator’s role is to resolve those points in contention – in the most equitable fashion possible.

When I learned that the township refused to negotiate, instead opting for arbitration, in hindsight, I was not surprised. It indicates a level of dysfunction that has become the hallmark of this government. As I have said before, the municipal government, like the school board, sought to claw back everything it has negotiated in the past 20-25 years.

There’s a legal concept in commercial law known as “Course of dealing.” In the absence of a written agreement, courts and arbitrators will look to how the parties dealt with one another in the past. In collective bargaining scenarios, there is of course, a written agreement and there is a clear record of past dealings. Going back to my first sentence – we are where we are because of what was agreed upon in the past. It may be, and actually is quite likely, the municipal government, like the school board, has buyer’s remorse.

Given current circumstances, the benefits conferred upon the union appear to be “too good.” Some will attempt to claim victim status by either blaming Harrisburg or by saying that their hands were tied.

Some here trot out the phrase “Labor peace” in terms of the cost. I like that phrase and I think in Tredyffrin, it applies. Once upon a time, there was a premium on labor peace. There was time that those in charge thought it unseemly that Tredyffrin would be the subject of a strike. Once upon a time, there was at the very least, a cordial working relationship with unions. That however, was a different time and the people were very different.

Other municipalities like Lower Merion apparently had the foresight to negotiate these things in a different way. This means that what is in the “Middle” for one group may not represent the middle for another group. The middle, relative to the facts and circumstances of each situation, is the same for all in that it represents the equitable mid-point for that agreement. When compared to other groups however, the specific data point that represents the mid-point, assuming there could be a normalized scale amongst disparate contracts, would be very different as between Radnor, Lower Merion and Tredyffrin. Nevertheless, arbitrators will look at those other situations as a barometer for what is reasonable.

This gets into another commercial legal concept known as “Trade usage.”  All of this tends to put boundaries on where the result will end up.

When I heard about the time it was taking for this arbitration, the answer was very clear to me. It was interesting to note that some had questioned why the arbitrator in the police matter had not made a decision. I had posed to Pattye the following: “Perhaps the arbitrator is making a decision, by not making a decision.” Pattye asked me to clarify. I said, “It may be that the arbitrator sees as the most equitable resolution something that more closely matches the status quo.” Arbitrators, like judges, would prefer to have the parties themselves arrive at a resolution. In this case, there were two fundamental problems. 1 – The parties were miles apart and 2 – the township government, as I understand it, refused to negotiate and instead, leave its fate to an arbitrator.

Given the experience of the school board and given the general role of what arbitration is, the township’s stance in this matter was rather foolish and a bit disheartening. There’s a bigger problem here – one that cannot be solved with money. I have commented for years how this government does not work together, either as a board, or as to the entities, it has to deal with. We are now seeing this problem expand to other things like the Planning Commission. Governments are top-down organizations. They lead from the top and the top is what sets the example and moral tone for how the rest of the township government operates. The day isn’t long enough to count the problems incident to the staff, volunteer boards and elected officials. The only thing the township government excels at is dysfunction. If that is the “Gold standard” – then Tredyffrin is second to none.

At the end of the day, it was my contention that the Arbitrator was likely, a bit miffed at the township for what was a wholly unreasonable stance – both not willing to negotiate and its desire to end all post-retirement benefits. As sure as I was about the outcome of the negotiations between the school board and the teachers, I as more sure about the police matter. Why? Because of the facts and circumstances here made it clear where the most equitable solution was. Further, Tredyffrin’s situation is not that far out of whack with other jurisdictions.  And where things may be better for the union in Tredyffrin, it’s only because the government agreed to such.

You don’t get t0 wipe away your bad business decisions at the expense of the other party. That’s not how the real world works. It’s not how judges and arbitrators will decide. Unless of course, it finds there was an unfair bargaining position – which in this matter was not the case. It is for those reasons I concluded as such. As to whether Michelle and the board already knew that or not, I don’t know. Speaking as a lawyer, I would have to think that any competent lawyer would know that refusing to negotiate is itself, an unreasonable thing and that an arbitrator may well find that such a position offends the system. I did see the meeting where she said to Pattye that she didn’t know why it was taking so long. Candidly, I chuckled at that response.

In this case, I think Tredyffrin was taken to the woodshed and made an example of. Other municipalities will or at least should think carefully about, following Tredyffrin’s folly strategy in a negotiating strategy that involves not negotiating.

As to the contention that the township’s unfunded liability should have anything to do with the arbitrator’s decision, that is pure nonsense. One has nothing to do with the other. That unfunded liability was an unfunded liability of choice. Those benefits were what were agreed to in the past.  This is more evidence that the township sought to claw everything back in one shot – an unrealistic scenario. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the township’s and school board’s legal guidance leaves a lot to be desired.

Tredyffrin Township Police Union Favored in Act 111 Arbitration Award

Addendum … In an earlier post I wrote about the extreme starting positions of the police union and the township, and it was my opinion that the “answer for the arbitrator must lie somewhere between these two positions.”  In response to my statement, John Petersen assured me that the arbitration award would not be ‘somewhere in the middle’ but rather it would be much closer to the union’s status quo starting position.  At the time, I argued with him, figuring that ‘cutting the difference’ between the opposing union/township positions would ‘make sense’ to the arbitrator.  In reviewing the arbitration award, it is obvious my assumption was incorrect … further explanation of the arbitration process would be helpful.


According to the township website, there is there has been an ‘Act 111 Interest Arbitration Award’ issued for the collective bargaining agreement between the township and the police union, Tredyffrin Township Police Association (TTPA). Enacted in 1968, Act 111 is a state law that provides binding arbitration to police and fire fighters in exchange for a prohibition against strikes. If collective bargaining reaches an impasse and proceeds to the interest arbitration level, the determination reached by the arbitration board is final on the issues in dispute and binding on both parties

I am not sure who is responsible for the arbitration award appearing on the website – our new township manager Bill Martin or Board of Supervisor chair Michelle Kichline.  But to whoever is responsible, thank you … it was a pleasant surprise to find the award pdf on the website, without necessitating a ‘right-to-know’ request.

Since January 2012, the contract between TTPA and the township has been in arbitration; the 3-year police contract expired December 31, 2011.  The process has been held captive for nearly a year, waiting for a ruling from the Board of Arbitration, impartial chair Michael Zobrak, Esq. township arbitrator John P. McLaughlin, Esq. and union arbitrator Stuart W. Davidson, Esq.

The biggest roadblock in collective bargaining contract disputes these days is health care benefits (in addition to salaries) and the Tredyffrin Township/TTPA contract proved no different. In reviewing the arbitration award, please understand that I do not claim labor attorney status or an expertise in contract law. However, it would appear that the independent arbitrator favored the township police in his award.  Some of the highlights of the arbitration award include –

A 4-year township-police contract, retroactive to January 1, 2012.  The term of the contract is January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2015. The arbitration award includes salary increases to TTPA members as follows:

  • January 1, 2012: 3.5%
  • January 1, 2013: 3.5%
  • January 1, 2014: 3.75%
  • January 1, 2015: 4%

The previous TTPA contract included yearly salary increases of 3.5% for 2009, 2010 and 2011.  As a reference point, this week the Lower Merion Township Police Association signed a new 4-year contract that includes 3.5% yearly increase for the first three years and then 3.75% in the final year. It is interesting to note that unlike Tredyffrin, Lower Merion Township and their police department were able to reach a new contract agreement prior to expiration of their current contract.  The TTPA contract expired December 31, 2011 and has been in arbitration for over 11 months.

The healthcare changes contained in the arbitration award for TTPA members should save the township some money.  Under the new agreement, the township will be able to change to medical coverage as soon as possible to a less costly plan (from Aetna PPO to IBC Personal Choice).  Co-pays will be $5 generic and $20 brand.  TTPA members will not contribute toward the cost of their health care insurance premium for 2013; township will analyze premium contributions annually starting in 2014.

Here is a twist in the health care coverage that could produce savings for the township but also some extra money for our police officers – an ‘Opt Out’ plan.  By opting out, the Township will pay officers the following amounts on a yearly basis:

  • Officer drops single coverage: $3,500
  • Officer drops dependent coverage (officer still covered) $4,000
  • Officer drops dependent coverage (officer not covered) $4,500
  • Officer drops spouse (officer still covered) $4,500
  • Officer drops spouse coverage (officer not covered) $5,000
  • Officer drops family coverage (officer still covered) $5,500
  • Officer drops family coverage (officer not covered) $6,000.

I like this incentive based healthcare coverage idea.  If police officers give back on their medical coverage, it will save the township money and in return, produce a financial incentive for TTPA members … a win-win for police officers and the township.

The arbitration award contains an adjustment in minimum payment upwards for officers’ appearance at non-District Justice Court to 4 hours (previous contract was 2 hours).  The award contains a downward adjustment on clothing allowance – previously, the clothing allowance was $600/yr. but is now amended to $200/yr.   The arbitrator dropped the clothing budget by 66% for TTPA members but Lower Merion police officers saw an increase in their clothing allowance in their new contract …   $900 for 2013, $950 in 2014, $1000 in 2015 and $1050 in 2016.

Other than the above points, all terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement, which expired December 31, 2011, continue under this new agreement.  If you recall, one of the sticking points during the contract negotiations had to do with the post-retirement benefits contained in the former police contract.  According to the arbitration award, post-retirement health care coverage for TTPA members is included in the new 4-year contract.

As a reminder, the 2009-11 police contract stated that if an officer retired on or after 1/1/2009, the township may coordinate its obligation to provide post-retirement medical coverage with available Medicare coverage.  “For those persons eligible for Medicare, the township shall reimburse them for any cost associated with acquiring Medicare, including the cost of Plan B coverage. In addition to being responsible for all costs associated with Medicare coverage, the township shall purchase supplement insurance and the township shall self-insure such as is necessary to provide the retired officer and spouse with the same level of insurance coverage they enjoyed before coverage was coordinated with Medicare.” 

The contract further stated that, “… Officers who retired prior to 1/1/09, as well as their spouses and eligible dependents, shall be permanently vested with, and continue to enjoy, the same level of healthcare benefits being provided for them by the Township as of 12/31/2008 at no cost, except for co-payments and deductibles then in effect.”

Part of the problem with the wording of the contract is that although the township will pay for Part B once a retired police officer qualifies for Medicare; there is not an absolute requirement for the police officer to go on Medicare. However, the costlier issue for the township has to do with the years of service requirement.  According to the contract, the requirement for retirement before 1/1/99 was only 15 years of service.  After 1/1/99, it became 20 years of service.  Conceivably, a police officer could retire many years in advance of Medicare qualifying age but continue to receive full healthcare benefits for him or herself plus spouse and dependents.

It would appear that the longevity bonus pay also remains intact for TTPA members as in the previous contract.  The bonus is computed as follows:

  • After 4 years of service              2% of Basic Yearly Salary
  • After 8 years of service              4% of Basic Yearly Salary
  • After 12 years of service            6% of Basic Yearly Salary
  • After 16 years of service            8% of Basic Yearly Salary
  • After 20 years of service           10% of Basic Yearly Salary

It should come as no surprise that the township appointed arbitrator John McLaughlin included his dissent with the arbitration award, claiming a “lack of overall balance in the award.”  McLaughlin states that the “neutral arbitrator [Michael Zobrak] issued an unbalanced award that fails to address the Township’s central issue of post-retirement health benefits and the unfunded liability that the Township is facing as a result of those benefits.”

For the record, the township’s unfunded liability is currently $40M.  The township’s 2013 budget contains an annual contribution of $500K to begin to ‘buy down’ the debt, however the unfunded liability grows annually by about $2M.  McLaughlin claims that Zobrak was fully aware of the township’s unfunded liability issue but that he inexplicably, “failed to address this issue in the award.  Instead, he [Zobrak] cherry picked around this issue, and issued an award that is a disservice to the Township’s taxpayers and all involved with this proceeding.”

It also should come as no surprise that the union arbitrator, attorney Stuart Davidson, concurred with the arbitration award.  So … how do you explain the arbitration award? Did Davidson do a better job of presenting the union’s position at the arbitration hearing than McLaughlin did for the township? Or is McLaughlin’s suggestion correct, that fault lies with Zobrak, for the ‘unbalanced award’?  And what about Zobrak, the independent arbitrator?  Why did it take him 11+ months for this award decision?  My research has shown that it typically takes 3-4 months in arbitration. Perhaps a timelier award could have saved the taxpayers some legal fees and certainly would have made the 2013 budget planning easier.

Beyond the financial responsibilities to the township contained in the new police contract, exactly how much did this yearlong arbitration cost the taxpayers?  Earlier in December, I asked township manager Bill Martin that very question in a right-to-know request.  As of December 14, 2012, the township had paid McLaughlin of Ballard Spahr $57,067.50 for 2012 legal fees. (McLaughlin’s billing rate is $300/hr.).

According to Martin, Zobrak, the independent arbitrator is paid on a per diem basis and submits his bill at the conclusion of the arbitration.  Martin stated “He [Zobrak] charges for hearing days, days when executive sessions were held and study days (when he reviews materials and drafts the award).  He also might charge partial days when the parties have relatively short conversations.”  I have received conflicting information as to who pays Zobrak’s bill – my understanding from the township manager is that the bill is split between the two sides but a police union representative told me that the township would pay the entire bill.  Now that the arbitration award is public, I will submit a new right-to-know request and obtain the total costs.  (** See Note)

Now that the police contract arbitration is settled, I have to wonder how quickly (or rather how slowly) the current police department staffing needs in the township will be met. There are currently 40 uniformed police officers, although there were 47 officers listed in the 2012 budget. The 2013 township budget approved the hiring of two additional police officers for a total of 42 officers, although the ICMA police operations and data analysis report indicated a minimum of three additional uniformed officers (total of 43 officers) were required to maintain the safety of the community. Police Supt Tony Giaimo’s request to reinstate 47 officers in the 2013 budget was denied.

Every time I think about that boilerplate consultant’s report that cost the taxpayers $49K I get angry – what a complete waste of money.  I wonder if the intention of some supervisors (in hiring consultants to review the police department) was to intimidate the police union during the negotiation process. Based on the outcome of the arbitration award, if that was their strategy, I’d say that their plan failed miserably.

Here’s hoping that the police department gets their budgeted, additional officers quicker than the sidewalks have gone in at St. Davids Golf Club!


** Note:  According to Allegheny Institute of Public Policy,  under the conditions of Pennsylvania’s Act 111 law,  “The employer has to pay the costs of its arbitrator as well as the costs of the neutral arbitrator.”  In other words, there will be no ‘splitting’ of Zobrak’s arbitration fee with the union — the taxpayers will pay bill for the township arbitrator and the independent arbitrator.

To make it sting more, I was told by several officers, that the township did not spend much time negotiating with the union, opting to go straight to arbitration.  It makes me wonder — could the township have saved a year’s worth of legal fees if they had tried reasonable negotiations with the union.  Upper Merion Township was able to negotiate with their police union without arbitration; signing a new 4-year contract prior to the expiration of their last contract.

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.)

Question: How many police officers does it take to protect Tredyffrin Township residents?

The presentation (or rather the non-presentation) of the police operations study by ICMA (International City/County Management Association) consultant Dr. Paul O’Connell, at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, was an embarrassment.  O’Connell, a college professor, was unable to attend the meeting; therefore, the plan was to “Skype” him in electronically from Connecticut.  The Skype attempt failed miserably, with the audience and supervisors unable to understand a single word from the professor.  Township staff attempted to correct the situation by connecting O’Connell via the phone line.  Although a slight improvement, we all still struggled to understand O’Connell.  Any questions from the Board or the citizens had to be transmitted via the phone.

I found the entire exercise last night a waste of time; certainly not worthy of a $49K consulting price tag.  However, I think I have it figured out – O’Connell didn’t need to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting.  In fact, I don’t think O’Connell or any of the other associated researchers at ICMA, needed to ever visit Tredyffrin Township.

Why?  If you read ICMA’s 92-page report, its length and its charts can impress you.  Don’t get me wrong, I think we are very fortunate to live in a community that has such a hard-working and caring police department But it struck me odd last night that O’Connell repeatedly spoke about the police superintendent (never once referring to Tony Giaimo by name) and the township’s police department being the ‘best in the country’.  On what basis, did O’Connell reach this conclusion?  A little research today indicates that O’Connell’s glowing words for Tredyffrin’s police officers are standard fare contained in ICMA’s police and fire department reports coast-to-coast.

Executive summary on Tredyffrin Township Police Department excerpt —

Based on our review, it is our opinion that the TTPD is a highly professional, well-managed police agency. Members of the department of all ranks and positions demonstrate a high degree of professionalism and dedication to the agency and the community.

A sampling from other ICMA police operations reports:

  • Executive Summary — report on Grand Rapids Police Department

Based on our review, it is our opinion that the GRPD is a highly professional, well-managed police agency. Members of the department of all ranks and positions demonstrate a high degree of professionalism and dedication to the agency and the community. The information management system developed and implemented in the department is beyond compare in contemporary law enforcement.

  • Executive Summary – report on Beaufort, South Carolina Police Department

ICMA found that the majority of sworn and civilian personnel of the Beaufort Police Department (BPD) are sincere, dedicated individuals who genuinely care about the community and the quality of life within it.

  • Executive Summary – report on Dunedin, Florida Police Department

After a comprehensive review of the services provided to the City of Dunedin by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, it is the unanimous opinion of the members of the reviewing team that the residents of the city are receiving outstanding law enforcement services from the Sheriff’s Office.

ICMA’s cut-and-paste approach to their consulting reports further continues into their recommendations. The continual #1 recommendation, seen in many of ICMA’s reports as a way to improve an already well-performing organization, was to change the current staffing model.   ICMA praised police departments across the country as “highly professional and well-managed”, and then adds, that with a tweak of the staffing schedule, police departments could magically decrease personnel.

From ICMA’s Wyoming, Michigan Police Department study, I read “… The WPD should change its current patrol-staffing model. Employing 10-hour tours in the current configuration is inefficient and should be abandoned in favor of a more flexible model that matches personnel resources to demand.” 

Sound familiar?

Whether it was California, Michigan, Florida or Pennsylvania, the ICMA charts, graphs, and recommendations all look eerily familiar.  It probably explains why O’Connell never referred to Giaimo by name, (calling him superintendent) and why he referred to the supervisors as commissioners.  O’Connell had his boilerplate speech down to a science and needed to keep his references generic.

A fire department official from Benton Harbor, Michigan is quoted in the article, ‘City Hired Fire Service Consultant ICMA Recommendations Challenged Across America’ saying, “The only thing they (ICMA) did was scratch off another municipality’s name and put Benton Harbor on it.”

ICMA isn’t well loved in some municipalities – in one city, Lake Havau in Arizona the consultants were roundly criticized by that City Council who felt they overpaid for a cut and paste job.  From the minutes, “Councilmember Callahan said that after thoroughly reviewing this ICMA report, he thought there were a lot of inconsistencies, and he believed the city overpaid for this report.  Councilmember Nyberg felt that ICMA merely copied the report form the City of Alameda, California for the Lake Havau City report, and she thought some of the information was inaccurate.” 

Some in Lake Havsu were concerned that ICMA may have used the report submitted to another city, changed some titles around and shifted some information, but used largely the same recommendations.

Something else that seemed disturbing as I followed ICMA’s paper trail, was an underlying anti-union message, referring to ICMA as “hired consultant a hired gun”. Mark Woolbright, International Association of Fire Fighters 2nd District vice president, issued a warning about ICMA’s motives, “It’s clear from everything we’ve heard from around the country that any municipality dealing with ICMA does so at their own risk. A consultant may be paid to provide a report to the local government to provide political cover for making cuts to fire department staffing and resources.”

Were it not for ICMA’s unsettling presentation at the supervisor’s meeting, I may not have done this research.  I am now convinced that the township, and specifically the Police Department, had better thoroughly review ICMA’s recommendations before instituting – and that includes the level of staffing requirements.

Was there an agenda behind the hiring of ICMA?  Was it to substantiate the police department staffing requirements for the 2013 budget?  Was it an honest attempt on the part of the supervisors to better understand the police operations and needs? 

The one question that the supervisors (and the residents) wanted answered – What is the minimum staffing level of police officers required to maintain our quality of service? A clear, concise response to this question seemed to escape O’Connell.  Even supervisor Michelle Kichline said that she read ICMA’s report five times and was still confused as to the number of officers!

Here’s what we do know – the township currently employs 41 uniformed police officers, and there is authorization for 47 officers (and funding) included in the 2012 township budget.  The ICMA report suggests 43 officers are needed to maintain acceptable service but the proposed 2013 township budget only includes 42 officers.  Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo asked the Board to increase the level from 42 to 47 officers to keep it at the same level as the 2012 budget. Kichline made it clear that there would no new-hires until the police contract was signed.  However, when will that be?  The independent arbitrator has had the Tredyffrin Township Police Association/Tredyffrin Township collective bargaining agreement for 11+ months.

The unsigned police contract is causing many unknowns in the township’s proposed 2013-budget.  With most police contract arbitrations taking 3-4 months for settlement in Pennsylvania, what’s the hold-up in Tredyffrin?  The answer may be simple – the township and the police union started the police contract negotiating process in extreme opposing positions.  By my count, there were 18 police officers in attendance at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting – about as many police as there were regular audience members.

The police union started the contract negotiation process from a status quo position, seeking a new contract with the township that contained benefits in their 2009-11 contract, including the post-retirement medical plan.  Faced with the $40M unfunded medical liability, the township’s position was the polar opposite.  It is my understanding that the township’s starting position in the police contract negotiation process was to eliminate post-retirement medical benefits for all new-hires.  I’m guessing the answer for the arbitrator must lie somewhere between these two positions.


Since January 2012, the collective bargaining agreement between the township and the police union has been in arbitration.  An independent arbitrator, Michael Zobrak, is the third member of the arbitration board (jointly chosen by the township and the police union).  The other two members of the arbitration board represent the township and the police union, respectively.

In reading Pennsylvania Police & Firefighter Collective Bargaining Law, Act No. 111, there is no timeline indicated for a determination.

PA Act No. 111: An Act specifically authorizing collective bargaining between policemen and firemen and their public employers; providing for arbitration in order to settle disputes, and requiring compliance with collective bargaining agreements and findings of arbitrators.

Will Tredyffrin Township’s Proposed 2013 Budget increase or decrease level of staffing in Police Department?

The consulting firm, International City/County Management Association (ICMA) has completed their operations review and data analysis of the Police Department; click here to read the detailed 92-page report.  The agenda for Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting includes a presentation of the ICMA Police Operations Report.

As reference, the Board of Supervisors approved this $49K police operations study in July.   Before approving the study, there was discussion from some of the supervisors about whether the money would be better spent on bringing the police officer staffing up to the authorized level of 47 (currently at 41) or using the money for Police Department equipment.

Will the ICMA report influence the proposed 2013 preliminary budget or have a bearing on the ongoing police contract arbitration? Probably the most important question that many of us wanted answered by the consultant’s study – How many police officers are required in Tredyffrin Township to provide adequate safety for the residents? Did the study suggest increasing the department beyond the authorized level of 47 or would the recommendation be to decrease the staffing level?  

The ICMA police operations study concludes that a minimum of two additional police officers needed to be immediately hired and assigned to patrol.  According to the report, the consultants were informed that two officers have been authorized, increasing the level to 43 police officers.

The ICMA report recommends the Police Department take immediate steps to review the current shift schedule and consider the alternative 10-hour and 40-minute shift schedule, see ‘Patrol Personnel, Shifts and Shift Strength, Four-Shift Model’ on pages 79/80. According to the report, this new schedule can reduce patrol over-staffing; thus decreasing personnel requirements.  However, the report notes that changing the shift schedule may be limited by the Police Department’s collective bargaining agreement. By modifying the current schedule, ICMA suggests there would be a reduction in the department’s need for patrol personnel.

According to the report, the current shift schedule provides a “total of six overlap hours during every 24-hour period. In other words, for six hours each day, two shifts (or approximately eight patrol officers) are scheduled to be working at the same time. The data analysis portion of this report confirms this. As stated elsewhere, these hours can be used for training and other purposes, such as participation in the department’s physical fitness program. But as the data analysis indicates, this dramatic increase in manpower suggests some inefficiencies that are built directly into the shift schedule.”

ICMA claims that the alternative schedule, which uses four starting times for shifts each day instead of three, will provide for greater flexibility, “both in terms of varying start times and in aligning manpower with calls for service.” By making this change in scheduling, the report indicates a reduction in supervisory staffing requirement.  As I understand the report, if the Police Department were to move to the alternative 10-hour and 40-minute shift schedule, the standard of service to the community would be maintained with 43 officers (implying that the additional 4 authorized staffing vacancies would not be filled).  However, the report points out that if the schedule is not changed, it may require the staffing level to increase to 45. Currently the Police Department has authorized staffing for 47 officers – my read is that ICMA does not recommend filling those two additional vacancies.

The current breakdown of the 41 members* of the Police Department are as follows:

  • 1 superintendent
  • 2 lieutenants (operations and administration)
  • 8 sergeants (6 assigned to patrol, 1 detective sergeant and 1 traffic sergeant)
  • 6 detectives (1 assigned to patrol)
  • 7 corporals (6 assigned to patrol, 1 assigned to traffic)
  • 1 community policing officer
  • 16 police officers

*My understanding from reading the report is that an additional two police officers has been approved and these officers will be assigned to patrol, bringing the total to 43 officers. The additional two officers will help reduce the overtime expenditures.

It makes sense that the reduction in Police Department staffing directly affects overtime expenses. With vacancies of six police officers (47 authorized down to 41), the report provides overtime data that underscores the additional overtime expense. The Police Department’s overtime costs in 2009: $55,175; 2010:  $66,231; 2011: $144,037 and up to August 15, 2012: $138,914.  Overtime expenditures in the first 8 months of 2012 were nearly as much as all of 2011 and clearly the overtime costs will continue to rise until the end of the year.

Will the recommendations contained in ICMA’s study have any effect on the township’s proposed 2013 preliminary budget? In reviewing the proposed 2013 budget, the actual level of police staffing is not obvious.  Does the proposed 2013 budget allow the Police Department to increase staffing to its authorized level of 47?  We should remember that the authorized level of 47 police officers is actually a decrease from previous years — at some point in the past, the Police Department had 50+ officers.

As it now stands, the proposed 2013 preliminary budget includes a 5.5% tax increase with the $40M unfunded medical liability dark cloud hanging over the township. In addition, the ‘elephant in the room’ is the ongoing contract negotiations between the township and the police union, Tredyffrin Township Police Association (TTPA). Since January 2012, the contract between TTPA and Tredyffrin Township has been in arbitration; the 3-year police contract expired the end of 2011.  The process has been held captive for nearly a year, waiting for a ruling from independent arbitrator, Michael Zobrak.

Because of the comments on my post, “Lifetime healthcare benefits of Tredyffrin Township Police Association result in $40M unfunded liability – What’s the solution?“, I filed a ‘right-to-know’ request with the township.   I received copies of TTPA 2004 and 2009-11 contracts.  Until a new contract is signed, the Police Department continues to work to their last contract, 2009-11.  The  starting point for the collective bargaining agreement is with the 2009-11 contract; therefore, my comments below are taken from that contract. (Click here to review TTPA-Tredyffrin Township 2009-11 contract).

 Without a copy of the police contract, there was conflicting information and questions, much having to do with the medical coverage of retired police officers. Here are the facts according to the 2009-11 contract:

  • For officers (and their spouses/dependents) hired prior to 1/1/99 who retire after 15 years of service, medical coverage is provided without cost, except for co-pays and deductibles.
  • For officers (and their spouses/dependents) hired after 1/1/99, who retire after 20 years of service, the township shall pay the premiums for medical coverage in the amount of 4% multiplied by the officer’s years of service. An example given: 4% x 20 years of credited service = 80% premium payment.

According to the 2009-11 contract, if an officer retired on or after 1/1/2009, the township may coordinate its obligation to provide post-retirement medical coverage with available Medicare coverage.  “For those persons eligible for Medicare, the township shall reimburse them for any cost associated with acquiring Medicare, including the cost of Plan B coverage. In addition to being responsible for all costs associated with Medicare coverage, the township shall purchase supplement insurance and the township shall self-insure such as is necessary to provide the retired officer and spouse with the same level of insurance coverage they enjoyed before coverage was coordinated with Medicare.” 

It was my understanding from the budget meeting, that retired police officers received lifetime health care benefits; however that point was debated on Community Matters.  Reading further in the contract, it states that, “… Officers who retired prior to 1/1/09, as well as their spouses and eligible dependents, shall be permanently vested with, and continue to enjoy, the same level of healthcare benefits being provided for them by the Township as of 12/31/2008 at no cost, except for co-payments and deductibles then in effect.”

The missing link in the discussion was the 1/1/2009 date and whether the police officer retired before or after that date determines the medical coverage.  Until I read the contract, I did not know the requirement for retirement was 15 years of service before 1/1/99; after that date, it became 20 years of service.  I had incorrectly assumed that retirement benefits required 25 years of service.

For those police officers currently employed by the township, the township pays the entire medical premium for police officers, including spouse and children, with officers paying co-pays and deductibles.  Benefits also include dental and vision coverage.

Another question previously raised was the longevity bonus pay of the police officers and how it was calculated.  According to the contract, the bonus is computed as follows:

  • After 4 years of service              2% of Basic Yearly Salary
  • After 8 years of service              4% of Basic Yearly Salary
  • After 12 years of service            6% of Basic Yearly Salary
  • After 16 years of service            8% of Basic Yearly Salary
  • After 20 years of service            10% of Basic Yearly Salary

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.   At present, there are 52 retired police officers and their families that are receiving retirement medical benefits.  According to the 2009-11 contract, it appears that police officers retiring before 1/1/2009 are not required to  go on Medicare when eligible.  It would be interesting to know how many of the retired 52 officers have opted to go on Medicare benefits (even those not required to do so) when they became eligible.

As the T/E School District’s contract with the teachers union is a public document so is the Tredyffrin Township Police Association contract with the township.  Some in the community have voiced concern with residents speculating about the contents of the police contact.  I am of the opinion that as the T/E School Board has the TTEA contract available on their website,, the township should likewise provide the TTPA contract on the website.   Providing the public documents to the residents lessons the confusion and misinformation that comes about by not know the facts.

I look forward to your comments on ICMA’s report reviewing the Police Department and the 2009-11 agreement between TTPA and the township. Monday, December 3 Board of Supervisors meeting includes the proposed 2013 preliminary budget and the ICMA police operations report on the agenda.

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.

Tredyffrin’s Police Union Fundraising . . . a sign of the times?

All residents and business owners in Tredyffrin Township received a letter in the last few days from the Tredyffrin Township Police Association, the union for the police officers in Tredyffrin’s police department.

The letter from Kevin Moore (president of the local police union) stated that this was the first annual letter drive and that contributions were needed by the police for ‘local community programs’ and to ‘support our employee assistance fund’.  Many thoughts went through my mind as I read the letter; I wondered about the authenticity of the letter and the fundraising effort by the police.  Just a few weeks ago, our local firefighters had warned residents to be aware of professional solicitors asking for donations while claiming that they were raising funds for our local firefighters.  Initially I wondered if this was a similar scam; the unsigned letter did not provide a contact telephone number or email address.  Although I have been unable to authenticate the letter, I am going to assume that it is legitimate.

Since receiving the police solicitation letter, I have received a number of emails and phone calls from residents with comments, questions and concerns about the solicitation by Tredyffrin’s police union.  In addition to wondering whether the letter from the police union was legitimate, I have been asked if this solicitation implies that the police force is not fully funded by our tax dollars. The letter stated the police would use the funds for community funds — what kind of programs and (if the programs are required) why are the programs not currently funded.  Another comment I received from a resident, was in regards to the timing of the fundraising and would this resident and business solicitation somehow affect the volunteer firefighters funding efforts.  

I am not exactly sure how I feel about the solicitation letter by our local police.  I have a few questions about this fundraising effort; specifically, I would appreciate further details on the use of our contributions. Do police departments in our neighboring municipalities fundraise?  Fundraising is a common practice by police departments in other areas of the country so maybe this is a sign of the times.   I’d be very interested how others feel on this topic.

Community Matters © 2015 Frontier Theme