Subscribe to new Community Matters Location: www.pattyebenson.org

For all of you who have subscriptions to Community Matters — you need to visit its new location at www.pattyebenson.org and sign up for a new subscription.  Subscriptions will not automatically transfer, you must sign up again if you want to follow Community Matters.  Go to www.pattyebenson.org and see the subscription button on the upper right-side of the home page.  There remains some tweeking but I think that we are about 95% complete with the new independently hosted Community Matters.  Community Matters now joins the ‘big guys’ with all the horns & whistles . . . most of which I do not understand and am not quite sure what to do with . . . but it is exciting!

Thank you all for your support . . . I look forward to receiving comments and suggestions of important issues in our community.

Email Address:  TredyffrinCommunityMatters@gmail.com

Community Matters Blog Address: www.pattyebenson.org

 

Community Matters Has Moved — Do Not Post Comments Here

There have been 3 comments that will not be posted to this site . . . Please go to Community Matters at www.pattyebenson.org for new posts and to leave your comments.  Community Matters has been transferred to its new home at www.pattyebenson.org .

Pennsylvania Voter Registration Deadline Approaching

The deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania’s upcoming primary election is a month away. Individuals must register with the state by April 19 to be allowed to vote in the election, which will be held on May 18. In order to vote in a primary election in Pennsylvania, voters must be registered with a political party, and can only vote in the primary for that party. All registered electors are allowed to vote on ballot questions and on special elections held simultaneously with the primaries. For information and forms to register to vote or to change your party affiliation, click here.

Our Fire Companies Should Not be Political Pawns

Working together, the volunteer firefighters of Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies serve  Tredyffrin Township.  Many of our residents and their families are involved in the volunteer firefighting effort and proudly serve our community.  Firefighting is demanding. There are hours of training involved, requirements to be met, standards to uphold, and volunteer firefighters are not compensated in the traditional way. There is no big paycheck or large monetary bonus to work harder.

John DiBuonaventuro has served as a volunteer firefigher for the Paoli Fire Company for many years and is passionate in his support.  In his position as a member of the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro also serves as the fire company liaison.  As an audience member in this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting,  I witnessed an uncomfortable exchange between Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Warren Kampf in regards to the fire companies and their funding.  Understanding DiBuonaventuro’s long-standing support of the  fire companies vs. Kampf’s vote against full-funding of the fire companies in the township’s 2010 budget . . . one might question Supervisor Kampf’s sudden interest in our local fire companies and their funding. 

Our volunteer firefighters deserve our community’s support . . .  but I think we would all agree they should not be used as pawns in a political campaign. Today’s Main Line Suburban newspaper includes the following As I See It opinion article, The continual politicization of our fire services, which speaks directly to this topic.

    As I See It: The continual politicization of our fire services

By John V. Petersen

As if the big cardboard-check moment during the Dec. 12, 2009 Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting wasn’t enough, we had another play at Monday night’s BOS meeting involving the fire service as a political football. As we all know, Warren Kampf, current Tredyffrin BOS member and previous chairman, is seeking to challenge Rep. Paul Drucker for the State Representative seat for the 157th Legislative District. At Monday night’s BOS meeting, Mr. Kampf stated that he met with members of the Berwyn Fire Company and the topic of a stable long-term firefighter-funding source was discussed. What Mr. Kampf failed to tell the public was his visit to Berwyn was in connection with his 157th candidacy, not in his capacity as a Tredyffrin supervisor. For the record Supervisor and Paoli firefighter John “J.D.” DiBuonaventuro serves as the fire liaison.

 In that capacity, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro has had such meetings concerning the fire task force and funding with Berwyn and Paoli FDs and updates on that progress have been shared with the public, most recently at the March 1, 2010 meeting. On that same day Mr. Kampf sought the Montgomery County endorsement for the 157th and therefore did not attend the March 1 meeting and clearly was not aware that the matter was already discussed during the previous meeting.

What I find disingenuous is Mr. Kampf on one hand stating the importance of finding a stable long-term funding source for the fire companies and on the other hand, most previously in his role as BOS Chairman, supporting cuts to the fire service and at the same time retaining funding for the annual July 4 fireworks display. These two viewpoints are completely irreconcilable. It should also be noted that earlier in his tenure on the BOS, Mr. Kampf served on fire task force. Accordingly Mr. Kampf has already had an opportunity to address the issues that are currently being addressed by Supervisor DiBuonaventuro. It is clear that the only motivation here is Mr. Kampf’s pursuit of higher political office. And to that end he is seeking to use the fire service as a pawn in his political chess game. Between the big cardboard-check event and last night’s meeting, it is clear Mr. Kampf is using a public forum dedicated to township business for his own political purposes. In a word it is inappropriate.

When the firefighters and EMTs perform their heroic work, they don’t ask about party registration. To be used as a political football of sorts is to denigrate that heroic work. Ultimately Mr. Kampf is free to run his campaign as he sees fit. As citizens we have forums like this to hold candidates and office-holders accountable. All I would ask is that Mr. Kampf campaign on his own time, not during the time when the business of Tredyffrin Township is to be addressed. Further, I would ask that all candidates leave the fire service out of their political calculus. There are plenty of other matters ripe for politics. The fire service is not one of them.

John V. Petersen lives in Paoli.

State Rep. Paul Drucker’s Bill to encourage ‘green’ building for schools passes House

News from Harrisburg . . . Our State Rep. Paul Drucker’s House Bill 689 to provide incentives for school districts to construct cleaner and more efficient schools has passed the House with a vote of 106-85.  My understanding is the roots of this legislative bill began in 2008 under former State Rep. Carole Rubley’s direction.  With some 2009/10 updating, Rep. Drucker was able to successfully move the bill through the House’s voting process.  The following is excerpted from Pennsylvania State House press release:

 Current law requires school boards to first receive voter approval before commencing any major construction plans over a certain dollar amount, including new buildings or significant renovations. That law, he said, inadvertently impedes the construction of environmentally friendly schools due to the high up-front cost, which may push the cost of green construction over the limit. House Bill 689 would exclude any costs incurred by a school district in the construction of a school building that meets the Green Building Standard from the calculation of construction costs when determining if voter approval is needed. At a minimum, Green Building Standard projects must include performance-based credits that will improve a building’s energy performance and promote the use of environmentally friendly building materials and technologies. Documentation to support the energy efficiency of the project is required. Green Building Standard projects must also employ third-party, post-construction review and have a performance record of certified green buildings in the United States.

The bill includes a requirement that Green Building Standard costs be submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education at the same time that construction cost estimates are submitted for approval. Drucker said that inclusion of Green Building Standard costs with construction costs would allow districts to demonstrate any long-term savings produced by investment in green building technologies.

“Over time, green buildings save money by reducing energy costs and provide a healthier internal air quality for our children,” Drucker said. “My bill would allow school districts to realize these long-term benefits without being burdened by the up-front costs associated with green building.”

Rep. Drucker’s bill will now go to the Senate for consideration and here’s hoping for a successful outcome!

Economics Driving TESD’s Budget Woes . . . EIT to Be Explored

Ray Clarke attended the TESD Budget Workshop last night and provides the following commentary.  I am fascinated that the school district is bringing EIT out of hiding.   There is much misunderstanding about Earned Income Tax – we need an open and thorough airing of EIT.  I would suggest that the TESD and township partner for the discussion, have an outside expert give a presentation (like Easttown Twp did for its residents).  The presentation should be taped and then shown repeatedly on both the school district and township cable networks.  Some people hear ‘tax’ in the Earned Income and then simply shut-down. 

Whether it is the township or the school district we are talking about — we are currently facing tremendous economic hardship and all revenue sources must be explored.  Personally, I don’t want to pay more taxes and my personal household will suffer with EIT (my husband works for Unisys) however, . . .  there is also a reality to the situation.  I applaud the School Board for recognizing the need to explore Earned Income Tax and would hope that the Tredyffrin’s supervisors would be likewise motivatedit’s called exploring options.  Both the township and the school district have been faced with major deficits in their budgets that have required cuts in personnel, services, programming in an attempt to close the gap.  But to what end can we continue to make these cuts?  At what point do we weigh the quality of life that all enjoy in this community vs. increase in taxes?  I do not see how continuing to say, no new taxes  is a long-term solution to the problem.  Comments?

A quick report from the Budget workshop. Only 25 or so residents tonight, probably reflecting that there was little discussion of program changes. The occasion was used mostly to lay out a framework, stake out some board member positions, and set up the important April 12 Finance Committee meeting where the next level of expense reductions will be discussed.

However there were some really significant outcomes, worthy of full attention.

The basic parameters being positioned to balance the budget are:
– Implement the $4 million of expense reductions already discussed
– Tax to the full 2.9% cap
– Use $2 million of fund balance
– Find at least $0.7 million of 2010/11 reductions from $1.5 million of mostly non-educational strategies
Round numbers, subject to tweaking up or down.

The principal dissent came from Dr Brake, who is not thrilled with the proposed changes to the Middle School program. He seems to be the only one on the other side of this.

Dan Waters and Kevin Mahoney lost few opportunities to highlight the fact that these 2010/11 actions leave the structural problem untouched (shades of Tredyffrin’s “structural deficit”!). And they are right: 50% of the $4 million is one year only, and of course the fund balance use can’t continue for ever. The deficit for 2011/12 after the above programs would still be $7.5 million (8.2 – 0.7).

So, the administration is going to do the following:
– Deepen the study of the $2.6 million of class size, CHS period changes, etc. that – practically – can not be implemented until 2011/12. (Strategies 47-56, approximately.) If all were implemented, the deficit would be down to $4.9 million.
– Study the implementation of an income tax. Taxing to a likely 2% Act 1 property tax cap next year would still leave the district $3 million short, so this – to me – seems inescapable.

Some EIT information that’s new to me, and definitely has a major impact on the revenues for TESD: Kevin Mahoney stated that there is the potential to reclaim not only taxes paid to neighboring municipalities, but also to Philadelphia (which would apparently get reimbursed from gaming revenues).

Kevin Grewell has posted a lot of helpful EIT information here. Important features confirmed tonight appear to be that this would be implemented under Act 511, which is coordinated with the Townships. Resident tax is split between School District and the townships, non-resident money is collected by the Township (which turns out to be looking at fire department funding).

Debbie Bookstaber (from the last TSC) asked that the study include a comparison of an EIT and a PIT.

The Board took pains to emphasize that program changes must be fully vetted, particularly in the Education Committee, and subject to public input. Back to that April 12th meeting. Also, decisions will need to be made soon on the health insurance funding and bond issuance as part of the $4 million 2010/11 programs – the former in particular being highly susceptible to assumptions. I’d like to be convinced that all aspects of utilization risk have been thought through

Update . . . Tonight’s Supervisors Meeting

My primary reason for attending the Board of Supervisors meeting tonight was for the announcement of the Sidewalks Subcommittee members. Three members were chosen from the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission and Sidewalks, Trails and Paths (STAP) Committee.  Supervisors Kichline, Donohue and Richter; Planning Commissioners Bob Whalen, Trip Lukens and Vicki Snyder; and STAP members Sean Moir, Jim Donegan and Molly Duffy are the 9 members of the Sidewalks Subcommittee.  Township Manager Mimi Gleason will serve as the facilitator of the committee.

After the announcement of the Sidewalks Subcommittee, I expected an outline of the committee with a stated process; but none was offered.  What was the meeting schedule – how often would the committee meet? Would the meetings be open to the public?  What was the timeline for the committee? Will the community be given regular updates at future supervisors meetings?  In other words, I was looking for specifics on the subcommittee and the process. 

In a review of the February 22 Board of Supervisors meeting minutes, I found the following:

” . . . He [Lamina] said the plan is to have the new subcommittee begin work in March with the goal to conclude the process by the end of this year. . . “

So during the next 9 months, I guess the Sidewalks Subcommittee will begin a process to re-examine where the community wants and needs sidewalks.  I believe that the end-goal is for the Board to adopt formal policies and procedures to provide guidelines for the development and construction of sidewalks in the township.  Although not mentioned tonight, I am assuming that the subcommittee will set a goal to include the residents through area focus groups.  Transparency and openness of the Sidewalks Committee is going to be important if the community is to trust this process. 

I have publically stated, and remained concerned, that during this re-examining process by the Sidewalks Subcommittee there are liability issues to the township from developers/contractors doing work in Tredyffrin.  As long as the formal policy on sidewalks remains a ‘open issue’, this liability will exist.  Here’s hoping that the Sidewalks Committee is able to get underway quickly, remain focused and meet their goals and objectives by the end of the year.

Another item of personal interest to me tonight was the Mt. Pleasant town hall meeting.  Scheduled twice before and cancelled each time due to snow, I am pleased that the meeting is re-scheduled for next Monday, March 22 at the First Baptist Church on Upper Gulph in Mt. Pleasant.  Today I had received an invitation to attend the meeting from Officer Larry Meoli and was glad to hear the town hall meeting mentioned tonight.  Supervisors DiBuonaventuro, Kichline and Richter will be the liaisons from the Board of Supervisors at this Mt. Pleasant community meeting. Also in attendance will be representatives from the township staff, police and zoning.