Paoli Resident Calls for Fair Play and Common Sense From Elected Officials

The following Letter to the Editor appears in this week’s Main Line Suburban Life newspaper.  Written by Paoli resident Eugene Grace, this letter really hits on what some of us have been thinking lately.  Mr. Grace doesn’t write his letter with a particular political view or slant; nor is he suggesting that one political party is better or worse than another.  Mr. Grace’s  message is simple . . . he is asking for fair play and common sense from our elected officials.  An interesting letter — comments?

  To the Editor:

Fair play and common sense are the two traits that voters want from their political leaders.

Fair play means simply following the established rules of the game as well as their related customs and traditions. Locally, fair play does not include Tredyffrin’s use of “New Matter” to keep a significant township matter off the published agenda. Locally fair play would not allow the Lower Merion School District to plant remote-controlled webcams into school-provided computers without some form of notice.

Nationally fair play does not include the U.S. Senate’s use of a tactical tool known as “Reconciliation” to pass major legislation. Under “normal” Senate rules, 60 votes are required to move legislation through that body. Reconciliation was developed as a speedier way to move smaller budgetary or tax issues through the Senate with only a simple majority of 51 votes. The Senate’s use of Reconciliation for health care would be a departure from Senate rules and tradition.

Common sense informs us that Tredyffrin should have collected monies owed under previous commitments without further study and that the Lower Merion School District should have provided notice to students regarding a potential invasion of privacy. Common sense says that the U.S. Senate should not employ Reconciliation regarding health care, which constitutes 16 percent of the U.S. economy. Common sense tells us that leaders should lead.

The fact that “The People” are leading on all these issues tells us that fair play and common sense have been thrown to the wind. Common sense tells us that the “leaders” responsible for these decisions should have a similar fate.

Eugene P. Grace, Paoli

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Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors – Some are Political Party Committee Members – is this OK? Radnor Township Says No for their Commissioners

Tredyffrin Township is governed by Home Rule Charter, and you can find a copy on the township website, www.tredyffrin.org.    With a new year, and 3 new supervisors on Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors, I was curious about something.  When someone is a committee person for a political party and is elected to serve their community, I wondered how this subject was handled under Home Rule Charter (or was it even addressed).  From my vantage point, supervisors are elected to serve all the residents, and by remaining a committee person for a particular party, I would think that there is an appearance that a political committee person would ‘lean’ in the direction of their party.  Of the 7 members of Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors, we now have 3 supervisors who are also Tredyffrin Township GOP committee members (Kampf, Kichline, Richter).  I think that Supervisor Kampf is also a PA State GOP committee member – but I’m not 100%.

I checked Tredyffrin Township’s Home Rule Charter and this subject is not addressed.  So I looked to our neighbor, Radnor Township who also uses Home Rule Charter for their local government.  I guess the residents of Radnor Township share my concern with political party committee people serving in elected positions, as they are very clear in their Home Rule Charter. Radnor Commissioners are prohibited from holding an elected or appointed political office.  The information below is cut and pasted directly from Radnor’s Home Rule Charter.  Reviewing Radnor’s regulations on elected officials holding political party office, I was also interested in their ‘Conflict of Interest’ section (also included below).  Reading this,  I am wondering if Radnor Township’s Commissioners would have been permitted (under their ‘Home Rule Charter’) to solicit to businesses on behalf of Radnor Fire Company?  Interesting question, don’t you think?

From Radnor Township’s Home Rule Charter

§ 21.9-904. Prohibitions.

 A. The activities which follow shall be prohibited in the operation of the Township government.

   1. Discrimination. No person shall, in his employment by the Township in any capacity, appointment to any Board, Commission, or Authority, or removal therefrom, be favored or discriminated against because of age, race, national origin, sex, handicap, or political or religious opinions or affiliations in violation of applicable Federal or State laws. No person shall be accorded favored treatment in employment or appointment because of family relationship.

   2. Improper Gifts. No person who seeks appointment on any Township Board, Commission, or Authority, or employment by the Township in any capacity shall, directly or indirectly, give or pay any money, service, or other consideration to any person in connection with such appointment or employment. In addition, no elected or appointed Township official or employee shall receive any money, service or other consideration in connection with such appointment or employment.

   3. Political Party Office. No Township official elected under this Charter, no appointed official, and no full-time Township employee shall hold any elected or appointed political party office.

   4. Improper Political Influence. No elected or appointed Township official and no employee of the Township shall request any Township employee to make a political contribution or engage in political activity.

   5. Other Government Service. No Township official elected or appointed to an elective office under this Charter and no full-time Township employee shall hold any other Township employment or any other elective or appointive Township position. No Township official elected or appointed to an elective office under this Charter and no full-time Township employee shall hold any full-time employment, or any other elective position, with Delaware County or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This provision shall not apply to employees of School Districts or of other educational institutions.

 B. Violation of any provision of this Section shall constitute grounds for forfeiture of office, termination of appointment, or dismissal.

§ 21.9-905. Conflict of Interest.

 A. No elected or appointed official of the Township and no Township employee, shall engage in any activity which follows.

   l. Take any action as a result of information acquired as a Township official from which action the Township official or employee or any other person or entity in whose welfare the official is interested, shall realize a gain or advantage. Such action shall not, however, be construed to be prohibited if the gain or advantage were realized generally by a group or class of citizens as the purposeful result of such action.

   2. Solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, favor, service commission, or other consideration that might reasonably tend to influence that official or employee in the discharge of the duties of office.

   3. Seek to influence, directly or indirectly, the awarding of any contract where such Township official or employee, or other person or entity in whose welfare the official or employee is interested would benefit directly or indirectly, financially or otherwise, from said contract.

 B. Disqualification from Action. Any elected or appointed official and any employee of the Township, having a direct or indirect financial interest with any person or business entity proposing to contract with the Township for the purchase or sale of land, materials, supplies, or services of any kind, or seeking formal action of the Board or any petition application, request, or appeal, whether that interest be as an employee, a party, a partner, or a stockholder, shall disclose fully said interest and except where stock holdings in a public corporation shall be minimal, shall not participate in the discussion or formal action relating thereto. Violation of the provisions of this Section shall render the contract of such actions voidable by the Township.

The ‘Big Give’ in Tredyffrin

In today’s Main Line Suburban newspaper, Malvern resident Kathleen Keohane writes the following Letter to the Editor, titled The ‘Big Give’ in Tredyffrin.  Kathleen’s take on Monday night’s Board of Supervisor Meeting is a poignant reminder to us all on the importance of sufficient funding to our volunteer fire companies.  Here is her letter from the paper:

To the Editor:

After following Tredyffrin’s budget brouhaha for several months, I attended Tredyffrin’s final Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Monday night with a mixture of hope and low expectations. As one of many who came to support full restoration of 2009 funding levels for our volunteer fire companies to the 2010 budget, I doubted there would be enough votes to reverse the cut but I had hope the Christmas spirit would move at least one supervisor to change his mind.

Instead, at the start of the meeting, BOS chair Warren Kampf pre-empted a nasty shout fest by announcing to a standing-room-only crowd that over the last two weeks he and fellow supervisors Paul Olson and Bob Lamina had gotten commitments from local businesses and residents to the tune of $23,200 to close the gap. Mr. Kampf said he thought even more private contributions were likely. He seemed very pleased that no taxpayer dollars were involved.

Short-term, it is good news for the cash-strapped fire companies, but it offers no assurance of future funding. As Supervisor John DiBuonaventuro noted, some of these generous end-of-year donors may be ones who would normally contribute directly to the fire companies and will not do so again during their 2010 fund drives. It is hard to gauge the net effect of this.

Also, the problem of establishing reliable funding streams to allow Paoli, Berwyn and Radnor fire companies to plan for major equipment purchases and other capital expenditures in the future remains. Though fire and EMS services are among the most essential services a township provides, these volunteer companies are left to wonder what lies ahead.

In my view and that of over 500 residents who signed a petition in support of maintaining fire funding at 2009 levels, it is ultimately the responsibility of local government and not private citizens or groups to ensure adequate fire protection. The buck stops with the board.

And we must not take a step backwards! If anything, Tredyffrin supervisors should be looking for ways to increase their support for our volunteer organizations in the future. We need to support them in ways that enhance the fire companies’ ability to recruit more volunteers, whose interests lie in helping the community – not in year-round fund-raising or enduring dismissive treatment from tone-deaf supervisors.

In this era of declining civic engagement, we need to honor our volunteer firefighters/EMTs, who put their lives on the line for us. Not providing a dedicated and predictable level of funding is disrespectful to them and endangers our community’s safety.

The proposed budget cuts to our firefighters sent the wrong message. And while one-time private contributions are much appreciated, they are a seat-of-the-pants response to an ongoing problem.

Kathleen Keohane, Malvern

Just in . . . Paoli Business & Professional Association Supports Reinstatement of Fire Company Budget Cut

I am on the Board of Directors of Paoli Business and Professional Association and I am pleased to report that our organization has approved the following statement of support for the reinstatement of the fire company budget cut. A copy of the statement will be emailed to each member of Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors.

__________________________________________________

Dear Tredyffrin Township Supervisors,

Our organization supports the Paoli, Berwyn and Radnor Fire Companies and the volunteer firefighters. Our support does not include Tredyffrin Township’s proposed 5% reduction in contributions for local fire and emergency services. We ask that the Board of Supervisors maintain the 2010 fire company funding at the 2009 level.

Sincerely,
Board of Directors
Paoli Business and Professional Association

Board of Supervisor Meeting – Monday, December 21

Here is the agenda for the Board of Supervisor Meeting for Monday, December 21, 7:30 PM.  The final budget will be approved at this last meeting of the year. Will the fire companies see their 5% cut reinstated?  Will the ePetition make a difference in the decision-making process? (Over 460 people have signed it, is your name on the list?)  Will the audience hear any follow-up to the St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk issue . . what is the status on the subcommittee which was formed? 

Based on the last 2 Board of Supervisor meetings, I am forecasting another episode of action packed, reality must-watch TV for Monday night!

Immediately following the Board of Supervisor Meeting, there will be a Public Hearing to:

  • Amend the Pension Ordinance to change the employee contribution
  • Increase the Sewer Utility Rate for the year 2010 to $250/EDU

Let it Snow. . . Let it Snow. . . Let it Snow

There may be a run on milk, eggs and bread today at the grocery stores!  A major storm warning has just been issued for Chester, Montgomery, Delaware, Philadelphia and So. Jersey.  The warning goes in to effect Saturday morning, 1 AM and snow is expected to continue throughout most of Saturday before ending late Saturday night.

It is being suggested that this could our first major snowstorm of the season!  Accumulation will depend on the storm’s track but I just looked at the national weather and it looks like Tredyffrin may be getting 8-10 inches! 

Wonder if this will affect Monday night’s budget decisions — didn’t we loose some Public Works employees in the layoffs?  What was the final decision on the snow removal contract for 2010 — is it in or out?  I remember saying at the candidate debate (as some of the other candidates talked of cutting services) I encouraged no further cuts in emergency personnel and public works.  Actually said that I hoped there wasn’t a blizzard this winter or we could have a problem!  

But maybe since this snow removal will come out of 2009 budget rather than 2010 budget, we will be OK?!  Our volunteer fire fighters and police department may also be called in to service with this weather prediction.

Progressive Budget Decision re Earned Income Tax

At times misunderstood when campaigning, I often suggested that the township needed to explore Earned Income Tax (EIT) as a possible revenue source.  There was (and continues to be) a lot of inaccurate information circulating about Earned Income Tax.  An example of misinformation occurred at the last Board of Supervisor Meeting, when Supervisor Chair Warren Kampf indicated that those individuals who lost their jobs would pay Earned Income Tax (if Tredyffrin were to have an EIT).  I hope that Mr. Kampf did not intentionally try to confuse the public with his words;  the fact is that individuals receiving unemployment benefits would not pay Earned Income Tax; unemployment benefits are not subject to EIT.

I thought it might be useful to list examples of income which are not subject to Earned Income Tax:

  • Retirement Pensions
  • Disability Payments
  • Active Military Pay
  • Unemployment Compensation
  • Insurance Proceeds (non-business)
  • Workmen’s Compensation  
  • Bequests
  • Stock Dividends (non-business)
  • Gifts/Lottery Winnings
  • Social Security
  • Interest (non-business)
  • Military Bonuses

Earned Income Tax is based on gross wages, salaries, commissions and other earned compensation. As stated numerous times, approximately $3 million is being paid to other municipalities by Tredyffrin residents.  If an EIT were in place, this revenue would return to the township.  Dave Brill, Township Finance Director, has offered that the potential township revenue could be as high as $8 million (should Earned Income Tax be instituted). 

Assuming that we get through the township budget discussion on December 21 with the proposed draft budget more or less intact, I still contend that the 2010 budget is nothing more than a Band-Aid solution to a far greater financial problem.  I believe that the township will limp along through 2010 with the budget in place.  However, without financial foresight, this time next year the township will be faced with a far greater problem than the reinstatement of $20K to the Fire Department.  The 3 new supervisors all campaigned (and were elected) on the ‘no new taxes’ mantra and they will probably take office on January 4 with that promise intact.  However,  it doesn’t take my London School of Economics education to believe that their promise will be short-lived.  Financially the township is in a very precarious financial situation and we are going to witness firsthand the result of shortsighted financial planning.

I know that this posting of Earned Income Tax discussion will bring opposing comments, and I actually encourage the dialogue.  Tredyffrin’s 2006 Tax Study Commission and voter referendum overwhelmingly were against imposing an EIT.  Warding off that particular argument, clearly 2010 can not possibly be compared economically to 2006; it is a vastly different financial climate facing this township.  I may have been one of the voters in 2006 who opposed an EIT; believing that the township at that point did not have severe financial needs to warrant that taxation approach.  However, if in 2009 this township’s annual budget of $37 million can not fund $20K to our firefighters, something is dramatically different in this current picture.  Each and every taxpayer needs to take a careful look at the proposed 2010 township budget — I believe the future is going to require more than simply tightening our belts as has been suggested by some of our township leaders, as a response to our economic problems!

I came across an interesting article from December 11 concerning the borough of Yeadon, Delaware County — a community located close to the Philadelphia Airport.  I pulled up the demographics to compare Yeadon with Tredyffrin; as you can see they are vastly different.  The median income of Yeadon is approximately one-half the level of Tredyffrin, with 3 times the number of people living under the poverty level.  The point of the comparison is that Yeadon is making a progressive budget decision for 2010 and instituting an Earned Income Tax!  The borough manager believes the move will diversify the tax base and help the seniors stay in their home (the EIT will reduce their property taxes).  I have no idea what the average education level is in Yeadon, but I’m going to make a broad guess and bet that it is far lower than the average Tredyffrin resident.  Why do you suppose than that Yeadon’s leadership was able to conclude that the severity of the economic situation required an Earned Income Tax?  I am  guessing that paying an additional 1% tax to residents of Yeadon is going to be a lot more difficult than a similar tax would be to Tredyffrin residents.  It’s probably a safe assumption that our average Tredyffrin taxpayer is in a far better financial situation than a Yeadon resident. I salute Yeadon Borough for analyzing their economic climate and making this progressive budget decision.

Below is a demographic comparison of Yeadon vs. Tredyffrin with the article concerning Yeadon’s progressive 2010 budget decision. 

Demographics of Yeadon, Delaware County:  As of the census of 2000, there were 11,762 people, 4,696 households, and 2,967 families residing in the borough. The median income for a household in the borough was $45,550, and the median income for a family was $55,169. The per capita income for the borough was $22,546. About 14.6% of the population were below the poverty line.

Demographics of Tredyffrin Township, Chester County: As of the census of 2000, there were 29,062 people, 12,223 households, and 7,834 families residing in the township. The median income for a household in the township was $90,915 and the median income for a family was $121,809. The per capita income of the township was $47,584.  About 3.7% of the population was below the poverty line.

Yeadon Adopts EIT, Decreases Property Taxes

Published: Friday, December 11, 2009

YEADON — Officials will end the year with two bold financial moves.

Council voted 4-0 Monday to impose a 1 percent earned income tax, expected to channel about $900,000 into borough coffers annually.

While municipalities often adopt EITs to close looming budget shortfalls, Interim Borough Manager Paul Janssen said he recommended it as a means of diversifying the tax base.

“Seniors have to pay property taxes like crazy to be able to stay in their house. If council can shift this to an EIT and add a property tax cut it has huge benefit to seniors.” And “They get a tax source that grows.”

Officials plan to use the new tax to decrease property taxes by 1 mill, lowering the rate from 9.89 to 8.89 mills, about 10 percent. The reduced rate had been advertised and is scheduled for adoption Dec. 17. The EIT will also eliminate need to dip into the borough’s fund balance. Janssen said Yeadon had a balanced budget, but it included $197,000 from reserves.

Said Vice President Jack Byrne, “The EIT will generate more revenue for the borough and we’re going to reduce taxes. We have a lot of seniors here and it’s going to be helpful for them.”

Byrne noted that many residents who work outside the borough already pay the EIT, but to the municipality where they work. Adopting an EIT will allow Yeadon to capture those monies.