Pattye Benson

Community Matters

2010 Budget Includes $50 Sewer Increase . . . Tax vs. Fee Increase or Simply Semantics!

In the last couple of minutes of last night’s Board of Supervisor Meeting something very interesting occurred. The regular meeting had ended and the Public Hearing had a couple of items, one of which was to increase the Sewer Utility Rate for the year 2010 to $250/EDU. Increasing the Sewer Utility Rate to $250 is a $50 increase which equates to a 25% increase and affects 80% of the township. There was much bantering about this being a fee increase rather than calling it a tax increase. To me, the end result is the same . . . more money is coming out of the taxpayers pocket. Let’s not forget the mantra during this recent election cycle was based on not raising taxes. Isn’t a 25% increase in the sewer rate raising taxes? Again, I don’t care what you call it . . . the taxpayer is paying $50 more! Can we please expect honesty and transparency from our local government leaders?

The interesting part for me was that moments earlier the Board of Supervisors had approved the 2010 budget which included this $50 increase to the Sewer Utility Rate. We now have the motion presented in the Public Hearing to ‘officially’ adopt this increase. Supervisors Shimrak, Olson, Lamina and DiFilippo voted for the increase; Supervisor DiBuonaventuro voted against, followed by Supervisor Kampf against the increase. At this point of the evening Supervisor DiFeliciantonio had already left the meeting. What was fascinating was as Supervisor Kampf called for the votes, he started at his right and there were 3 votes in favor of the increase (Shimrak, Olson and DiFilippo). He quickly jumps to get Lamina’s vote in favor so that he would be able to vote ‘no’ to the increase along with Supervisor DiBuonaventuro. This way Supervisor Kampf could get the motion to pass for the sewer increase but politically be able to still claim that ‘he had not raised taxes’. What was this gamemanship about? Had Ms. DiFilippo not voted in favor of the increase, the vote would have been 3-3 (rather than 4-2) and would not have carried. If the motion for the Sewer Utility Rate increase had not passed, it would have been back to the drawing board for the just-passed 2010 budget!

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  1. The brilliance of this move can not be over-estimated.

    With one word Warren cements his “no 2010 tax increase” positioning, casts Judy (whose idea it was to mitigate the 25% increase in the first place) as the one in favor of raising taxes, while assuring that the budgeted fee increase (needed to keep the sewer fund healthy) actually passes.

    It will be up to the voters to decide if that’s the kind of leadership they want.

  2. I missed the comment from Mimi regarding whether or not it was common for townships to pay for streetlights and stoplights out of their sewer fund. I don’t know if this is worth its own entry, but the discussion left me confused about what was legal and/or commonly accepted practice and/or the proper way to handle the expense.

  3. The $250/year is a user fee – it is an annual fee for USERS of the Tredyffrin sewer system. If you don’t USE the Township sewer (about 20% of the Township does not), you didn’t pay $200 before and you won’t pay $250 in the future. Similarly, the Township has an alarm user fee – if you have an alarm system, you pay it – if you don’t have an alarm system, you don’t pay it. These are not taxes and therefore the increase is in the sewer user fee is not a tax increase.

    1. What’s interesting about the alarm fee is that no one pays it. It’s simply not enforced. This same ordinance that has the $25.00 fee to have an alarm in Tredyffrin also defines a fine structure for false or malicious activation of burglar AND fire alarms. I wonder if they would have had to make cuts to the police budget and fire funding if they used the ordinance as “deterrent revenue” like it was designed for.

      Without getting too far off topic, I think that our time is better served calling the BOS out on the structure and core of the problem. The problem is that there are questionable items being paid for out of the sewer fund that shouldn’t be. Those additional items are part of the reason for the increased fee.

      As JD pointed out last night, the sewer fund has been running in the negative for some time, and that even if they were to move the streetlight funding out, it would still be in the negative. I wouldn’t be upset about a modest fee increase if I knew the fee was actually paying for what it is supposed to. But this also shows another example of the BOS living above their means. All this so someone can say they didn’t raise taxes or fees. I call shenanigans.

      It’s like the captain of the Titanic. Just because he wasn’t on duty when the ship hit the iceberg, doesn’t mean he isn’t responsible for the entire ship going down.

      I don’t care what you call it, a tax, a fee, whatever it’s still mismanagement of taxpayer money. Lets concentrate on that instead of what the name is.

    2. Mike – Alarm fee is a permit fee, one-time, seniors exempt. Sewer fee is annual, and has been supplementing expenditures that are normally accounted for in the general fund since 2002… Big difference.

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