Pattye Benson

Community Matters

2010 Township Budget Passes Without Much Fanfare!

Tonight’s Board of Supervisor meeting made me feel like the kid on Christmas morning. You know after weeks of anticipation, it’s finally Christmas morning. You get up early, race to see what Santa has brought, rip open the presents and then a short time later you have that letdown is that all there is kind of feeling.

Although tonight’s Board of Supervisor meeting certainly had its high points, I came away feeling it was a bit anti-climatic based on the intensity which developed over the last couple of weeks. The meeting did get off to a very exciting start though — the fire company members arrived in force and brought fire trucks for effect! Young and old firefighters lined up around the entire perimeter of Keene Hall creating a very moving visual statement. CBS 3 Eyewitness News reporter and photographer filmed the meeting! I just watched the news – only about 15 seconds worth made it to the news!

Chairman Warren Kampf opened the meeting explaining that we would not follow the agenda, but rather start with the budget. Prior to opening the discussion on the budget, Mr. Kampf announced that there had been a fundraising effort by some of the supervisors over the last couple of weeks to raise funds for the fire companies to make up for their proposed budget contribution cuts. Through private donations, the Holiday Contribution Drive raised $23,200. Mr. Kampf read a long list of businesses and individuals who had made contributions (list included Comcast, Fellini’s, San Nicola, etc.). I have a feeling that this money was received in pledge format, so I am a bit concerned about the follow-up and collection.

With the money coming in from private donations to support the fire department’s reinstatement of the proposed budget cuts, there was no reason not to approve the budget. There was some shared concerned from audience members that this private donation check to the fire companies is a quick-fix for the 2010 budget and that the money does not represent a longterm solution. And there were many in the audience who believed that funding emergency services should be 100% funded by all taxpayers through the township budget rather than with private donations. (A sentiment shared by Supervisor JD DiBuonaventuro.) In fact, Berwyn Fire Department president Rip Tilden delivered a very passionate commentary concerning the ongoing and future needs of the fire company. Although Mr. Tilden (as well as the representatives from Paoli and Radnor fire companies) are extremely grateful for this show of community support, we were all left wondering why it required such an outpouring of energy, ePetition, letters to the editor, blog postings, etc. over the last couple of weeks. Remember, if we had to pay for the volunteer services of these firefighters it is estimated at $7-12 Million yearly. Here’s hoping that all supervisors (including those taking office in a few weeks) will remember tonight’s meeting when work begins on the 2011 budget. In the end, the budget passed 6-1 (Supervisor Mark DiFeliciantonio was the only vote of opposition). It should also be noted that Supervisor DiFeliciantonio left the Board of Supervisor meeting once the budget vote was taken. His departure struck me as highly inappropriate as all departing supervisors were to be officially honored during tonight’s meeting.

There were other noteworthy items discussed during this meeting (including the accolades for the departing supervisors, update on St. Davids Golf Club’s $50K sidewalk offer, etc.) but I think that discussion will have to wait until tomorrow. And I’m also hoping that a couple of my friends who attended tonight’s Board of Supervisor meeting will offer their personal insights.

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  1. Last night provided good evidence why most residents prefer to spend Monday nights watching football. At least the objective of the activity, the players and the rules are all clearly identified. At Keene Hall last night the game was all about political power and point scoring, while residents could only sit by and watch and be grateful for a competent administration to actually manage their affairs.

    Thankfully the TTPN blog had given us warning of the TTRC/BOS arm-twisting of local businesses to make up the fire companies’ missing Township contribution, but nothing could have prepared us fully for the giant check. (Who paid for that?) And the companies themselves added to the show with the massed forces in the rear and no further insight into how the $20,000 reduction from the Township specifically would affect the reports they gave of current surpluses an order of magnitude higher.

    It’s pretty sad that one wing of the BOS has to resort to a gimmick like this to compensate for its business decision on the allocation of limited Township funds. And also pretty sad that the best they can do with the money saved from cutting the July 4th fireworks is to split it among a miscellaneous set of supplies and vehicle line items, with no mention of addressing the 6% salary and 5% pension contribution reductions being forced on our non-unionized staff. Money that is going to pay for wage and benefit increases for contracted employees.

    There can be no escaping the fact that the Township has contracted for employee costs to increase above general inflation out into the future. It’s not clear that the property tax base can increase enough to pay for that. It IS clear that the Township forgoes taxes paid by residents (and not paid by non-residents) that could help with this problem. The question is will the TTRC-controlled BOS address this issue before the next December crisis?

    At least we do now know how the streetlights came to be funded from the sewer utility fund in 1992. Clearly the SUF had built up a nice surplus, despite the fee being reduced a few years earlier, and this was a way to for the taxpayers to get their money out. Which clearly they have now done (two years earlier than was predicted back in 1992).

    So now we have two funds for providing Township services that are in the same general financial position – a good surplus, but running an operating deficit or break-even. Both depend on taxpayers for their revenue. One assessment is called a fee, the other is called a tax. The one with a so-called fee was most in need, so that was increased.

    Which brings me to the most stunning part of the whole proceeding: the vote at the very end on the increase in the sewer fee. Shimrak – Aye; Olson – Aye; Di Filippo – Reluctant Aye; KAMPF – NO; Lamina – Aye; DiBuonaventuro – No; DiFeliciantonio – Long gone. No explanation whatsoever from the Chair – not that we need anything beyond the number “157”. All’s fair in love and politics?

    On a brighter note, we should not forget that last night marked the retirement from the Board for a very emotional Judy Di Filippo. She received heartfelt accolades from the other board members and from the community. I’ve only been here for half of her twenty years of service, but that’s long enough to know that she will be very sorely missed.

  2. According to last night’s discussion, the shift of streetlights to the SUF actually happened in 2002, NOT 1992.

    I agree, Pattye, there was a bit of a letdown in the room when the fire department funding issue was resolved by the contributions. The fire departments were very gracious, while their representatives resisted the temptation to revisit previous discussions of their funding, and instead looked ahead to working with the Township and the BOS to address their long term funding needs. BTW, I am hopeful that this topic has raised the community’s awareness (as it has mine) to the responsibility we ALL have to support the fire departments with our charitable dollars. Maybe someone should hand over the ePetition to the Fire Departments for their fundraising efforts?

    As for Mr. DiFeliciantonio, he came late, his cell phone rang a couple of times, he made one snide comment, and left way early. Along with his performance at the last meeting, he disrespected his office, his supporters and the community. Quite a contrast to the class and professionalism of Ms. DiFillipo.

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