Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Citizens Should Matter More to Township Staff and Elected Officials

This is a follow-up to my last post on Community Matters. Without repeating the entire post, here is the short version – on Monday at the Board of Supervisors meeting, the township manager Mimi Gleason presented the 2012 preliminary budget including a power point overview of the budget. Copies of the preliminary budget and the township manager’s 4-page budget summary were available at the meeting and online. Included in the budget draft was a 6.9% millage real estate increase.

In his review of the preliminary budget, former township supervisor John Petersen found multiple mathematical errors in Gleason’s summary report. On Tuesday, Petersen sent several emails to Gleason detailing the mistakes. I was copied on all the emails as was resident Ray Clarke and township supervisor John DiBuonaventuro. Before writing my last post on Community Matters, I double-checked the budget summary numbers as did Ray Clarke and we agreed with John that errors were contained in both the revenue and expenditure summary tables. The errors when applied to the budget narrative further compounded the problems in the summary information,

With declining revenues and increasing costs of our current economic climate, it is more important than ever to account for every dollar. As a taxpayer, I want to feel confident in our local government. Beyond the troubling math errors, there was no response to any of John Petersen’s emails; absolutely no acknowledgement to him (or Ray Clarke or myself) from the township manager.

Our supervisors talk about the importance of communication to our residents, so what does this lack of response say? A resident takes the time to do an analysis of the preliminary budget and is not afforded the courtesy of a response. In addition to Petersen’s efforts, Clarke also reviewed the budget materials and reached a similar conclusion as to the errors. As residents and taxpayers in this community, do we not matter?

Here is another concerning point. Petersen, Clarke and I live in the western part of the township, in District 3 – Supervisor DiBuonaventuro serves this district (which explains why he was copied on the emails from Petersen to Gleason). DiBuonaventuro ran unopposed in last week’s election and was re-elected to the Board of Supervisors for a second 4-year term. During the early years of his first term, residents often remarked about DiBuonaventuro’s strong constituent service and quick resident response. The Petersen, Clarke and Benson families are all constituents in his voting district yet we received no email response or phone call in regards to this serious situation.

This got me thinking – if there is no acknowledgement from the township manager or response from our district supervisor, what does this really say about our local government. The supervisors received the budget information in their packets the week before the meeting so there was time to review the summary.

The township’s Finance Committee (supervisors DiBuonaventuro, Paul Olson and Phil Donahue) had been working with the township staff on the budget so it is expected they reviewed the preliminary budget before it was sent to the other supervisors.

If Gleason and DiBuonaventuro choose not to respond to the citizens, I then question if either of them bothered to advise BOS chair Bob Lamina of the errors in the budget summary. If the other supervisors were not told of the citizen concerns, how would they know there were mistakes in the budget summary – by reading Community Matters, TE Patch or the Main Line Media News?

This is not intended as some kind of ‘gotcha’ moment against the township staff or supervisors! We all make mistakes. Rather to ask where the respect is for the citizen who takes time to review the budget, sends emails and receives no response?

I want assurances from our elected officials that they are ‘watching the store’ for all the residents of this community. DiBuonaventuro should have responded with an email or phone call to tell us he appreciated the seriousness of the situation, and to assure us that, if warranted, the math errors would be corrected. Given that Supervisor DiBuonaventuro is a member of the township’s Finance Committee, our district supervisor and someone who repeatedly speaks from the dais on the importance of ‘due diligence’, I am disappointed.

Somehow, it seems we have lost our way. Township staff and elected officials – don’t you care about the residents of this community and doing what’s right?

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  1. Although a ‘read receipt’ type of email would be nice, I almost think that you need to give people a little bit of time before calling them out for being mute.

    I am not saying your concerns for the document validity aren’t of concern, but it’s not being approved tomorrow. Just simply that this document is available to the public now is an important part of the community input option.

    1. I don’t know how great it is that the budget document is available online to the public — the budget narrative and budget summary online contains the math errors.

      How much time would you suggest is adequate as a response — the emails were Tuesday and now no response is likely until at least Monday, if at all. Communication is a particular pet peeve of mine – even if it is an automated response, at least the citizen knows that it was received. It could simply say, ‘your email was received and we will respond to you in X number of days, weeks, …………’

      In lieu of a response, do you think someone should correct the mathematical errors in the budget summary tables and budget narrative that are online? I think it is important that township budget information be correct if it’s going to be out in the public.

  2. It’s out in the public so the public can have input. If it makes it to vote with error, then the process has failed.

    Overall themes are the larger concern of mine.

      1. Thanks to the resident who caught the errors. I get this budget is not the final budget but I still want the math to be correct. Our tax dollars pay for township staff and we elect supervisors to oversee the township. If the preliminary budget isnt accurate are we supposed to believe that the final budget magically corrects itself.

        1. This generation of spreadsheet math no doubt plays a role. Assuming any errors made are either transposed or bad formulas. NO one does the arthimetic anymore, and perhaps since it was a draft, the supervisors had already caught the problem. Disappointing to have the errors for sure, and they should have acknowledged the email — but given the source of the email, I’m betting they thought there was no point in acknowledging it — as “no good deed goes unpunished” is typically the way things go around here.
          I appreciate your dedication to the truth, but getting the data right is all that really matters. Our moral indignation only results in further polarizing the process. As to JD’s silence — that’s surprising. Perhaps a personal phone call would resolve the confusion. Since it’s contrary to his typical actions, maybe there are some bigger issues here which are protected by personnel policies.

  3. I’m surprised at JD. I was also surprised when you mentioned he gave his 40k budget to Mayock. Next time I hope the Democrats do not give him a free ride.

    1. I have not mentioned anything about campaign finances for this last election. Someone else posted that information about JD giving $$ to Kristen’s camppaing. It is interesting to look at campaign contributions as I did in the 2010 State House 157 race. I’m not sure what the filing date is for this recent election — all contributions greater than $50 must be reported. With the expenses of political mailers, signs, websites, robo-calls, it could be interesting to see how much candidates spend on local elections.

    2. Pattye never mentioned anything about JDs money. That was another unsubstantiated partisan rant that I have twice pointed out can be easily proven or disproven thru the campaign finance reports. I have also asked for an apology for that and other baseless claims (GOP spent 200k in Tredyfrrin) if/when they are proven false. Based on the hyper-partisan nature of the original post and the fact it was to blame others for the Dems poor campaign showing, I don’t expect it.

  4. Township Reader what does the source of the email have to do with anything. If all the supervisors are aware of the problem why would they let the math remain uncorrected on the township website. And it is more than just addition mistakes, Gleason summary of the budget is incorrect because it is based on the use of the incorrect numbers. More than just ‘disappointing’ as you suggest.

    1. Budget Watcher
      While Pattye refers to John Petersen as a “former supervisor”, and that is technically correct, he has been a combatant and theatened legal action against them in the past year or so. His scrutiny is LOOKING for errors. I wouldn’t expect the supervisors want to engage.

      I have now read the report and I know that it’s more than addition mistakes — sadly there is a phrase that goes “close enough for government work.” I would imagine this draft will either be corrected or pulled at the start of business on Monday. I don’t think it can just be corrected since it is a document, but perhaps an update can replace it. I’m fairly certain there will be an additional level of scrutiny gong forward. I’m not apologizing — I’m just suggesting lesson learned and let’s move on.

      1. The preliminary budget available to the public has by your own admission, “more than addition mistakes”. Were it not for John Petersen taking the time to review the budget, send the emails to the township manager and then copy other residents on the email, I for one would never have recognized the errors. Rather than scrutinizing and questioning his intentions, as a citizen I am grateful.

        I guess we will never know if the finance director, the township manager, the supervisor finance committee or the supervisors themselves would have eventually found the mistakes in the budget summary or not.

        As for moving on — I’m all for that idea except I require some kind of closure for that to happen. To date there has been no communication from the township or JD to the residents, so I can not be certain that the other supervisors even know that there is a problem with the budget. However, I do hope that the BOS and the staff are working on the budget for Monday’s BOS meeting. If someone corrects the narrative and the summary tables in the preliminary budget, I will be glad to move on.

        1. I appreciate your vigilance, but I’m not convinced of the egregious nature of the errors. I find it disappointing, but it’s a preliminary public dog and pony show. I’m certain a lesson is learned. I ran into a supervisor and I have received assurances it is under review.

  5. On a lighter note, Congratulations to the boys soccer team for winning the Central League, District 1 and PIAA AAA State Championships this year. Last year they won the Central League, were finalists in the District (shoot out loss) and lost in overtime in the State quarterfinals. Also, unprecedented is winning 4 State Championships in boys sports, in the last 6 months.. boys baseball, lacrosse and tennis, plus now soccer. As a community we should be proud of these accomplishments.

  6. Campaign finance reports will only show how much money JD personally gave to Mayock’s campaign. We will have no way of knowing whether or not he gave his budgeted money from the TTRC or the CCRC to her. If true, JD really showed his true colors. To the Democratic leaders: no more free passes! Make them fight (and spend their money) on every seat.

    1. Again, wrong.

      JD’s campaign committee reports will show what, if any, he gave to TTRC or CCRC beyond any personal donations.

      Same deal with TTRC — we will be able to see what they gave/received/spent.

      This consipiracy theory will either be proven or disproven, but my guess is both claims are patently false — and nothing more than excuses for a poor showing by the Dem campaign team.

  7. The slightest notion that a local supervisor candidate had $40,000 is beyond silly. If it were true, it puts more enthusiasm behind my exhortation that people stop giving to candidates and campaigns….let them pound the streets and meet their constituents and stop buying mailings, print ads and advertising on TV.

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