Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Tredyffrin Budget

Budget Cuts . . . Difficult Decisions, Particularly the Berwyn, Paoli & Radnor Fire Company

I am concerned about how the Board of Supervisors will ultimately make the difficult decisions required for this 2010 budget. I have received numerous phone calls and emails from people all weighing on in what they think is fair; or in some cases, stating what they think is unfair about the proposed budget. There has been an overwhelming level of support for the reinstatement of the Fire Company’s 5% cut in the township budget. The specific dollar amount to be cut in the 2010 proposed budget to the individual fire companies is as follows:

Radnor: $1,160
Paoli: $6,077
Berwyn: $14,073

There has been much discussion about the fact that the proposed township budget only cuts the fire company contribution by 5% versus higher percentage budget cuts proposed in other areas, such as library, township staff, police, etc. It needs to be said that unlike paid personnel, the fire companies are staffed almost exclusively by volunteers, whether it is the firefighters, local professionals who donate their professional services pro bono, etc. We need to understand the value of these volunteer services. The real cost to maintain full-time fire and emergency services in Tredyffrin is estimated to be $7-12 million per year. Interesting on the Main Line Surburban site, there is an online poll where you are asked whether you think that the fire companies should be tax-supported; 85% of the voters said yes. The community can’t help but make this an emotional discussion. We have young men and women putting their lives on the line for this community, and at what price? Is it possible to look at this subject without emotion (and without using the fireworks remaining in the budget argument, which I am guilty of) and I think we can try.

I would like to make a suggestion to the 3 fire companies which might help the public better understand. If they can email me a copy of their 2010 budgets with line item expenditures and revenue sources (or direct me to a link) I would be happy to post the information on this site. If possible, it would be interesting if each fire company could provide a statement as to what this proposed reduction will mean to their specific operations. In other words, if the 5% cut is not reinstated in the township budget, specifically what changes will be required of each fire company. We believe that the state is cutting their fire company contributions by an additional 9-10%, please include that reduction in your statement for what this means to the overall operation of the Fire Department. If this information is provided to me at , I am willing to post it. A statement from Radnor, Berwyn and Paoli Fire Companies will help make this a financial argument (rather than an emotional argument) for the reinstatement of the proposed budget cuts. So, if the fire company representatives are reading this blog, I look forward to hearing from you. There is another Board of Supervisor Meeting scheduled for Monday, December 7 — let’s get this information out there before then.

In an attempt to be fair, others in the community are equally concerned about the proposed budget cuts for the library – layoff of staff, shortening of hours, decrease of services. How do you feel about the library situation? I for one, do not feel that closing Paoli Library for a day during the week but opening it on Sundays afternoon does anything to improve the situation. The Paoli Library has never been open on Sundays so doesn’t that create a set-up for possible decrease (rather than increase) of demand with this option? Why not shorten the hours of operation during the week -maybe delay the opening an hour or closing an hour early? With either of those scenerios, you save the library 5 hours which is equivalent to what you gain by opening on Sundays. To me this makes a whole lot more sense. People are used to the Paoli Library being opened Monday-Saturday and closed on Sundays. A shortened day is easier to adjust to than closure all day (particularly if the net budget gain is the same). I’d love to hear from some of the Library Board members about your thoughts on the proposed budget cuts. Either comment directly here, or if you prefer to write a formal statement, email it to me and I would be happy to post it. How will the Library make some of these difficult decisions required by the proposed budget cuts?

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