Pattye Benson

Community Matters


Radnor’s Proposed Budget Calls for 17% Real Estate Tax Increase; Phoenixville Talks of Cutting Police Force & Lower Merion Residents Collecting Signatures in Opposition of Their Tax Increase

Lower Merion’s proposed 2011 budget indicates a 14.7% real estate tax increase . . . Phoenixville is working with a 24.7% proposed increase . . . Easttown Township announced their proposed budget includes a 5.3% real estate tax increase and on Friday, Radnor Township released their 2011 operating budget which indicates a 17 percent real estate tax increase! Radnor residents will be facing this 17 percent real estate tax increase for 2011 on the heels of 2010’s 11 percent increase.

Radnor’s administration points to similar problems as other neighboring municipalities due to the economy and that the municipality is struggling to recover from the recession. With revenue growth slowed, Radnor is looking at various ways to reduce operating expenditures. Included with Radnor’s budgetary information, is a memorandum from the assistant township manager, William Martin which details some suggestions for increased revenue. Some of these suggestions are interesting – I wonder if any of these revenue recommendations or expenditure reductions are suggestions that Tredyffrin should consider. I have highlighted some of Martin’s suggestions below:

Revenue Recommendations

  • Sell Selected Parcels of Township-owned Land
  • Negotiate Payment in Lieu of Tax with Universities and Colleges
  • Lease Office Space in Township Building
  • Perform audit of Cable TV Franchise License and permit fees
  • Increase Youth Sports Program Field Maintenance Fee for non-resident participants to $25 per participant
  • Consider corporate naming rights for select Township assets

Expenditure Reductions Suggestions

  • Reduce total employee expenses by 8% in 2011
  • Implement a moratorium on acquisition of land or open space
  • Reduce Township facility costs to maximize the value
  • Reduce Legal Expenses
  • Mandate within legal limits that employees use accrued vacation
  • Explore share services agreements with neighboring townships
  • Evaluate Parks and Recreation Programs that do not met expenses
  • Review status of government and public access television channels
  • Perform energy audit
  • Reduce usage of Township vehicles
  • Rely on Citizen groups instead of hiring consultants
  • Perform audit of purchases to insure sales taxes are not paid

In looking at various ways to increase charges for services in Radnor, the administration is proposing to amend the local inspection laws to include mandatory inspection of all rental units in Radnor Township (to include colleges/universities) and to increase the fee to better align it with the cost of providing these inspections (rather than having a general tax). I am imagining all kinds of problems with this mandatory inspection . . . cost of inspection and scheduling issues, privacy concerns, etc. It would appear that managing a mandatory inspection idea would not be easy. Owning a rental property myself in Tredyffrin, I am not sure how I feel about this idea.

Still grappling with the 24.7% proposed real estate tax increase in Phoenixville, there is some discussion about cutting two police officers from the budget to help lower the $600K+ deficit. It is my understanding that Phoenixville is already understaffed with their current police force. With the economic downturn and unemployment rising, it would seem that crime could also be on the increase (particularly with the holidays coming) . . . so I’m not sure that cutting back the police force is the correct approach. Apparently all departments have reduced costs by 10% and that all that is left is to look at reducing the police force.

The recently announced proposed 12.7% proposed real estate tax increase in Lower Merion has residents rightfully upset. To counter the proposed 2011 budget, residents are getting their voices heard through an online petition (1400+ signatures to date). Wonder if the Lower Merion’s Commissioners are likely to give any credence to the petition?

To: The Commissions of Lower Merion Township

Petition – 2011 Lower Merion Township Proposed Budget

Economic indicators demonstrate that our Country is still struggling to recover from recession.

Since 2002, Lower Merion Township has raised the real estate tax millage rate by a total of 44.3% and has doubled its indebtedness (from $56 million to $112 million).

Lower Merion Township has raised the real estate tax millage rate in seven (7) of the last eight (8) years.

In 2010, Lower Merion Township raised trash collection fees between 10% – 41% for most residents.

Now, the Township Manager of Lower Merion Township has proposed a 12.7% increase in the real estate tax millage rate for 2011 which, if passed, would mean a cumulative increase of 62.6% since 2002, the year in which the current Township Manager was appointed.

The Lower Merion Township Manager proposes to increase 2011 spending by 5.5% over 2010 spending, which adds to past additional spending and represents a cumulative increase in spending of 45% since 2002.

By contrast, since 2002, inflation has increased 20.44% (through September 30), and overall national wages have grown just 22% (through 2009).

Further, the Township Manager has targeted a 17% General Fund Reserve Balance. The Township’s reserve policy has a goal of maintaining the General Fund Reserve Balance in the range of 15% – 18% of the Township’s prior year general fund expenditures.

While it is the Township Manager’s role to propose a budget each year, it is the responsibility of elected Township Commissioners to determine the amount of spending to authorize and to approve a final budget.

We believe that a 12.7% real estate tax increase is an unaffordable, unsustainable and unacceptable outcome and implore the Township Commissioners to significantly reduce proposed 2011 general fund expenditures, to draw down the General Fund Reserve Balance to 15%, and to avoid much or all of the proposed real estate tax increase at this difficult economic time.


The Undersigned

Wow . . . Phoenixville Borough Faced With 24.7% Tax Increase in Proposed Budget

As the municipalities around us struggle with their 2011 budgets, there is depressing news from Phoenixville Borough. Residents of Phoenixville may be looking at a whopping 24.7% property tax increase according to the proposed borough’s 2011 budget.

The 2011 budget deficit is approximately $619K and the Borough Council is faced with a tax hike or spending cuts. Property tax increases have varied over the years – 2010 there was no increase; 2009 saw a 5.8% increase and in 2008 taxpayers received a 14.8% increase. Certainly, nothing like this proposed 24.7% increase! Although there has been discussion of police department cuts in the borough, so far that is only a rumor.

Although on the surface, it would appear that Phoenixville is a success story . . . there seems to be a new restaurant, coffee shop or boutique on every corner, apparently that is not an accurate picture. According to the Borough Council, corporate layoffs, reduced earned income revenue, slipping real estate transactions have all contributed to the challenges faced in the current economic climate. Tomorrow is the Borough’s Finance Committee meeting; here’s hoping for an alternative to the 24.7% tax increase.

Looking ahead to 2011, Phoenixville like many municipalities is struggling. Supporting revitalization is critical for future economics . . . effectively planning and implementing local economic initiatives needs to be a requirement and . . . stimulating local economies . . . all challenges to the newly elected in Pennsylvania. Phoenixville is included in Pennsylvania’s 157 jurisdiction – I hope that the residents can count on help from their newly elected representative.

Countdown to May 18 Primary . . . Can we escape negative campaigning?

Days are beginning to countdown to the Pennsylvania Primary on May 18 and then on to Election Day on November 2. As the campaign season prepares to get in to full swing, I want to publically state my strong opposition to negative campaigning. Recalling my own experience in last year’s campaign cycle, I know all too well the personal effect of negative campaigning.

On a local level, based on past performance the potential exists for negative campaigning in the Pennsylvania State House 157 race. The Primary has Ken Buckwalter and Warren Kampf seeking the Republican nomination; and incumbent Paul Drucker as the endorsed Democrat candidate. I have had a conversation with two of the three candidates to express my concern that this campaign season not take us down the negative path.

I think that negative campaigning can backfire in local political elections. Poll after poll has shown that voters severely dislike negative campaigning. Ask almost anyone and they will agree: one of the most distasteful things about political campaigns is when a candidate decides to “go negative’ on an opponent. Often times it seems that the definition of “negative campaigning” really depends on which candidate you’re supporting. Many consultants and campaign managers like to call negative campaigning “comparing” or “contrasting” candidates by showing the voters the clear differences between their choices. If your candidate starts “comparing” himself with his opponent, then you’re more likely to look at it as completely acceptable. If, on the other hand, the opponent does the same with your candidate, then it becomes “negative campaigning.”

In our local election, where many of us may know the candidates personally, going strongly negative and personal in the campaign can end up costing you our respect, and ultimately our vote. Sending out a negative mailer about a candidate who everyone knows and thinks is a fairly nice guy probably isn’t going to make us change our opinion of him. It’s much more likely to get us angry at you, instead. I look at this way: if a candidate is severely flawed, then odds are that other people know plenty about his shortcomings. If, on the other hand, the candidate is a generally well-liked person with a clean record, then trying to convince his neighbors otherwise with a negative campaign is a losing battle. Let’s stick to the candidate’s actual voting record and history on issues. An opponent may claim to support a tax cut, for example, but his voting record may show a number of previous votes in favor of tax hikes . . . that would be fair game in a campaign. But personal attacks on an opponent’s private life, name-calling and mudslinging are unnecessary and not OK, and will likely not be favorably rewarded on Community Matters.

If you’re a candidate in a local election who is thinking about “going negative” on your opponent at some point during the campaign, I hope that you will reconsider. The stuff that really wins elections is called Hard Work . . . and if you’re really putting the necessary effort into running a great campaign, you won’t have time to waste on spreading rumors about your opponent, anyway.

Here is a preview of Ken Buckwalter’s campaign mailer for the State House 157, which is going out next week. Ken is taking the ‘high road’ with his campaign strategy, here’s hoping that the other two will follow suit.

State Rep Paul Drucker to Host Job Fair on March 31 in Phoenixville

State Rep Paul Drucker’s March newsletter arrived in the mail yesterday and contained an important announcement for those in the community that are looking for a job. Together with PA Department of Labor & Industry, Rep Drucker is hosting a Job Fair on Wednesday, March 31, 2-5 PM at the Phoenixville Civic Center, 123 Main Street, Phoenixville. The job fair will include a resume writing workshop and job hunting seminars. Job opportunities at all levels will be available.

Rep Drucker is reporting that the following industries are confirmed to be on-hand:

  • Human Services
  • Retail/Restaurant
  • Non-Profit
  • Healthcare
  • Insurance
  • Financial Services
  • Early Childhood Education

Employers from various additional industries are also expected to be in attendance. The event will also feature job opportunities for veterans. Admission is free and business attire is encouraged. This is good news for local job-seekers. If you are in the job market, mark your calendar for March 31. Thank you Rep Drucker for offering this opportunity to the residents in your legislative district!

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