Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Tax Study Group to Present EIT Findings . . . Will Yellow Signs by Republican Candidates Influence Residents?

As part of the budget process for the T/E School District, a Tax Study Group composed of community volunteers was formed to determine the impact of an earned income tax (EIT) on residents and the school district. The goal of the group was to identify the pros and cons of an EIT for residents and then present their findings in a public presentation to the community. The Tax Study Group will offer its findings on Thursday, November 3 at 1 PM at the T/E Administration office, 940 W. Valley Rd, Suite 1700, Wayne and again at 7 PM at the Valley Forge Middle School, 105 W. Walker Road, Wayne. Please plan to attend so that you can make an informed decision on EIT (in the event it is on the Primary Election ballot in April 2012.

I have expressed my disappointment that the Republican candidates (school board and supervisor) took an advance stand against an earned income tax prior to the presentation of the Tax Study Group. In fairness to the process, and to the volunteer’s time of those serving on the study group, why not wait until after the presentation of the EIT before publicly declaring that you are against it. The severity of our school district’s economic situation requires that all options be explored – the presentation by the Tax Study Group on the earned income tax is one of those options.

An ‘As I See It’ article written by John Petersen, resident of Paoli appeared in the Main Line Suburban newspaper a couple of weeks ago. The article was written shortly after the first bright yellow, ‘no EIT’ signs began appearing in the township. Because the article was not included on Main Line Media’s online site, I could not provide a link on Community Matters.

It is with permission from the author, that I include the article below:

As I See It: Those little yellow GOP signs: proof the GOP does not respect you

If you have been driving around Tredyffrin (since this is not a walking township), you may have noticed a new type of yellow growth sprouting up all over the place. Naturalists have classified it as Fungi Reipublicae. In fact, these yellow growths are actually a new version of the yellow GOP signs that we saw in 2007. These signs come in two flavors: “No Earned Income Tax” and “Top Ranked Schools.” Both cite that you should “Vote Republican”. Let’s break down the claims.

No Earned Income Tax

This sign would have you think that there is an active question in front of the voters and that if you vote Republican, you will be saved from the evils of an Earned Income Tax. Let’s set aside the fact that many already pay an EIT for a moment and instead, concentrate on the straw man argument that Tredyffrin GOP is perpetuating. In fact, there is an earned income tax study committee that has been commissioned by the school board. That committee was first suggested by Republican school board member Kevin Mahoney. To review, there is no active tax question in front of the voters and the only group that is studying the feasibility of an EIT in Tredyffrin was suggested by a Republican.

Top Ranked Schools

It’s true, T/E Schools are quite good. The Tredyffrin Republican Committee would have you believe that Republicans, and Republicans alone are responsible for our “top ranked schools.” In fact, there are a number of Democrats on the school board. I guess they have nothing to do with the successes. Fine, let’s give all the credit to the Republicans. But if we do that, let’s examine the whole cloth. Of Lower Merion, Radnor and T/E, is T/E the best? In terms of facilities, absolutely not. While T/E has retrofitted old buildings, both Lower Merion and Radnor have made a commitment to invest in infrastructure, the type that is required for children to get a top-notch public education in the 21st century. As for test scores, college acceptance, etc – Lower Merion and Radnor are at least as good as T/E.

How about labor relations? T/E is definitely not at the top of the class there? How about fiscal responsibility? T/E is about 9 Million in the hole. You know all of the sweetheart deals for teachers the Republicans are complaining about? Guess what, it’s the Republican led school board that has consistently given the unions what they wanted. At the same time, they are not keen on paying for it. Those same Republicans have consistently raised our property taxes year after year. And yet they are the same people who claim to be protecting us from the evils of an earned income tax.

Any organization that would try and sell the political rhetoric that we see in these yellow signs clearly does not respect their customer. The Republicans believe that we are all too stupid and too quick to fall into the fear trap. The Republicans are banking on the fact that we will believe the scare tactics that the other side is just out to tax and spend our money. Seems to me, the Tredyffrin Republicans have done a good job of that on their own already. They don’t need help from anybody! And never forget, the Tredyffrin Republicans is the party of Bob Lamina, and Paul Olson. If that is not enough reason to give the Tredyffrin Republicans a vote of no confidence, I don’t know what is.

John Petersen
Paoli, PA


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    1. One inconvenient fact that Mr. Petersen did not share:

      Total Indebtedness of these 4 districts (as of 6/30/2011 — the end of the fiscal year just ended):

      Lower Merion: $304,975,000
      West Chester: $302,533,000
      Radnor: $112,109.951
      TE: $70,755,320

      All that building envy comes at a pretty steep price.

  1. While I am not endorsing all of John’s comments above, the yellow signs are a bit disingenuous. They imply that the Democratic Party and/or Democratic school board candidates have taken a position in favor of an EIT. Please correct me if I am mistaken, but I don’t believe anyone has said they are in favor of an EIT.

    The most that can be said is that the school board (comprised of both Republicans and Democrats)decided to study the question – a prudent thing to do in light of current budget challenges. But they have no power to enact it. All they could do is place it on the ballot as a referendum for voter approval – in a future election.

    1. Kevin is correct as always…

      And Mr. Peterson’s rhetoric is simply that — he can create any sort of argument he wants, and yet he chooses to do exactly what he says the signs do — he confuses the electorate with information without tying it to the facts.

      Here are the facts from the 2011-12 school budgets:

      LM: 23.0270 mills 23.5% higher than TE
      Radnor: 21.1439 mills 13.4% higher than TE
      TE: 18.6474

      These three districts compete in the same labor market. They hire from the same applicant pool. And yes, the teachers do look to move to other districts for more money.

      I am on record as saying that I do not think the current teacher’s contract was well done — as the turnover in board members did not create the information stream that the PSEA maintains as the reps for the teachers. Several things were lost in the process that had taken some effort to achieve. But there is a bottom line context to all of the claims about good and bad management:
      Ex: Lower Merion spent 15 years fighting about facilities, and yes, now they have $130M in bonds for two new high schools — which are not the same building and still create law suits about which school should have which neighborhoods of kids attending.
      TE had a community hearing to consider the upgrades for Conestoga. The township wanted TE to acquire additional land for parking and a ring road to get waiting parents (why are they there again?) off the roads. TE ultimately spent $30M to renovate Conestoga, and while “building envy” may exist in comparing the two districts, the notion that “infrastructure” for a top notch public education is inadequate at TE is simply bluster. In fact, as more and more charter programs evolve, and online learning increases, do we have the first clue what a public education will look like in the 21st century? It may happen in hotel-like settings with tablets and curriculum delivered electronically. Meanwhile, TE has a single high school with equal access to programs across the district.

      So seriously — please TALK to the candidates. This collective mentality is what creates the issues. TE has never been an “all Republican” board — it has never been a partisan board. There isn’t a good and bad side. It’s one district. School Board members are elected to serve four year terms — and negotiations take place against a very strong and very experienced state teacher’s union. Board members do it for free. (Supervisors receive an annual stipend, which while small is still compensation for their time — $3000 or more at last review).
      So instead of taking shots at what our history is, we need to ask what our future will look like, and not just what we want ….but what we are willing to pay for. And whose pockets we want to reach in for the account due.

      Sorry for the rhetoric of my own — but if you have read me before, you know this:

      IF you buy a house assessed at $350,000, your taxes in these 3 districts are:

      Lower Merion: $8,059.45
      Radnor: $7,400.37
      TE: $6,525.59

      Increases in the future? No doubt. Bang for your buck….give it some thought.


      1. Thanks Andrea. I think what you just said is absolutely correct. It is easy to find things to criticize, particulary in regard to contract negotiations, but I hope people will keep the bigger picture in mind. TE has much less debt than other districts, lower taxes, a fund balance. Who is better positioned to ride out the current economy? TE, which spent $30 million on a high school (which by the way is fine) or a district that spent $130 million on two high schools and is already taxing at a much higher level? It turns out that the decisions made by TE were fortunate in light of what happened. It could be much worse had we spent four or five times the money. No, past and current boards have not made perfect decisions – but they have made good ones overall. Whether or not that continues depends upon people TALKING to candidates as you suggest, and electing or keeping the very best people they can on the board.

  2. Patty, I was with John Peterson for the first paragraph, then he lost me. He seems very angry at republicans. I am a republican but am very open minded about eit and didn’t like the signs. I have no idea who Bob and Paul are. BTW our taxes hardly go up at all around here (at least for the past 2 years). When I lived in Blue Bell, Montgomery county, our taxes went up 3-5% every year. T/E school tax will be going up 2.9% or more maybe this year, but we need it for the school. I respect you and your blog. I think John Peterson could have been a bit more moderate in his re-marks if he wants to win over republicans like me. If he wants to rally the base, then I am sure the base agreed with his words.

    1. Gary,

      I have to guess you very recently moved to Tredyffrin and started to read CM or you would certainly know who Bob and Paul are. Bob (Lamina) supervisor at large (not running for relection) & Paul (Olson) supervisor District 1 which is the east (running for reelection), and both are republicans.

  3. I did a little bit of research for myself and Chester County has 73 municipalities and 14 School Districts. I found something very interesting.
    68 of the 73(93.1%) of the municipalities have the Earned Income Tax.
    10 of the 14(71.4%) of the school districts have the Earned Income Tax.
    I pay the tax myself and I would rather have the tax help my home taxing district rather than someone else’s

  4. Thank you pattye for posting the article and for providing a forum for the airing of perspectives on the issue. The public discouse is important.

    Thank you also for your attempts to get those running from office to provide direct responses to some important questions, and to publish those as well, even if some of the candidates have chosen not to participate.

    A free ranging public debate, with as little bitterness or vitriol as we can manage, is to all of our advantage, regardless of any individual’s viewpoint.

    A fully informed electorate with the opportunity to engage in public debate on the issues is the greatest protection of civil liberties devised. Ben Franklin would be pleased at this public service.


    1. A free ranging public debate, with as little bitterness or vitriol as we can manage, is to all of our advantage, regardless of any individual’s viewpoint


      MA —

      I couldn’t agree more. However, I would not be surprised if some of the candidates chose not to participate because, unfortunately, too many of the people commenting on the Q&A Pattye attempted during the 2010 campaign in the 157th could not stay away from the bitterness or vitriol. I admit to even having been carried away myself at some point.

      The truth is, the comment board in 2010 became the exact opposite of a palce where a fully informed debate took place — despite Pattye’s best intentions to have it happen as such.

      If I remember correctly, Pattye even made the decision to shut down comment at one point because of the very type of vitriol you mention.

      If I were one of the candidates and were meeting voters, participating in the League of Women Voters survey, etc., I know I would probably think twice before opening myself up to what occurred in 2010.

      As for Mr. Petersen, I continue to find his endless need to disparage those he disagrees with in a personal manner disgusting. While I may or may not agree with his views on EIT, I do think he once again crossed a line by trying to besmirch Mr. Olson and Mr. Lamina in a way that was totally unrelated to his argument. Sadly, it is not surprising and, at least for me, reduces the weight of his overall argument by turning it into a more petty vendetta than civil discourse.

      1. agreed. Maybe we should get back to the merits or lack of merits of the EIT.. Im just surprised that he didn;t mention Warren Kampf in his opinion piece.

        Would like to read here more on the EIT and opinions about it. thanks

  5. We keep saying that the supervisors have no intention of levying an EIT….has any candidate for Supervisor made that claim?
    New here or not, the school board cannot levy the tax — they can only put a vote about it on the ballot for voters to decide. The Supervisors can levy one. So while Mr. Broadhurst has said no Republican candidates support it, it is meaningless on behalf of any school board candidate. They do not control the question, only whether to put it on the ballot.

    1. I would think if he said “no Republican candidates support it” that would mean School Board and Supervisor. As I recall, his answer to the newspaper wasn’t about just School Board.

      1. I understand what he said — what I am asking is that since people are offended that he said it is whether or not ANY candidate has made a similar pledge….He has spoken on behalf of Republicans….and here people say that it’s not an issue for the Supervisors. So — is it? Have all the D supervisor candidates pledged to not vote to levy it?

  6. For the record —

    All candidates (school board and supervisor) supplied their resumes to me for this year’s May Primary. And in July, all supervisor candidates from both parties (except for Molly Duffy) responded to my question re the Paoli Transportation Center and offered a statement for Community Matters on what they would do in regards to the transportation center, if elected. And if you go back to February of this year, the three candidates (2 R, 1 D) that were vying for the supervisor appointment were willing to participate with statements and resumes on Community Matters.

  7. I just learned that the school board debate will not be broadcast on Tuesday. I am a working single parent and cant afford a sitter to go to the township building to see it. went to the candidate websites but theres no information about EIT views or how they suggest funding the deficit next year. How are the candidates prepared to help with the teacher negotiations.

  8. Pattye — has anyone explained why one is being broadcast and not the other? Anon — I would suggest you contact a candidate and ask about why they aren’t broadcasting….the candidates probably could make it happen. Who is the LWV contact? I’m assuming there is a cost to doing it…though I hear that some of the supervisors are having all sorts of fundraisers (?) so maybe they are paying for it? If it’s in the township building, maybe there is a fee that some candidates cannot afford? . Maybe there is a way someone could see why the difference?

    Again — we act like the township supervisors are the most important candidates — though they are the ones who don’t need a referendum to pass an EIT? Anyway, here are the relative costs to living here:

    Real Estate Tax Millage Rates

    Tredyffrin Township 2.23 (2011)
    Easttown Township: 3.919 (2011)
    Chester County 3.965 (2011)
    Tredyffrin-Easttown School District 18.647 (2011)

    1. Candidates do not pay for the League of Women Voter debate to be televised. It is my understanding that Gene, who works for Comcast and is in charge of the recording studio at the township is only prepared to tape the supervisors. Gene needs to have at least 2 volunteers to assist with the recording. There is a relatively short list of qualified volunteers — you have to have taken the course that Gene teaches to qualify to operate the equipment, etc.. I actually took the course several years ago and it is quite involved. The equipment is very expensive and people have to know how to properly operate it, etc.

      As it now stands I don’t think that the political parties have been able to find necessary qualified volunteers to help with the taping of the school board debate.

  9. Love the new yellow signs…. Are these courtesy of TTDEMS or of a candidate?? >>>> “Lower Property Values – Vote Republican”

    Congratulations to whomever stooped to the level of the TTRC, now everyone sucks….

    Will some candidate or office holder from ANY party, please demonstrate some integrity and denounce these tactics?? Anyone? You win my vote if you do.

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