About admin

Born and raised in Lower Macungie Township in the village of East Texas. B.A. in Political Science from Slippery Rock University. Co-owner of Bar None Weddings & Entertainment. I love and care about my hometown and frequently blog about local issues that I think are important.

On hedging bets

I prefer campaigning by focusing on what I need to do to get our message out by running on my own record as opposed to worrying about what others are doing. This blog is a 4 year record of ideas, conversation, positions and accomplishments.

However, I will briefly comment on someone else potentially getting into the race because I’ve been asked what it means since it’s been reported by the paper. The Morning Call this week posted that incumbent Ryan Mackenzie is apparently “hedging his election bet” (their words) and circulating petitions for both the 134th and the #PA15 Congressional seat.

I understand what he’s doing, but find it unfortunate someone sees representing us in Harrisburg as a backup plan if their more ambitious one doesn’t work out. No matter what he decides to do, it doesn’t change things for me. I am in this race to win and represent my hometown. To solve the problems that career politicians for whatever reasons have not been able or are unwilling to do.

5 essential State Government reforms

I believe in term limits and I love being a small business owner, so I have no desire to become a career politician. (I will reject any state pension, lavish perks and per diems) I want the chance to serve and take my record of results to Harrisburg to improve our district and the state. Together in Lower Macungie we enacted residential property tax relief that lowered residential tax bills, we preserved farmland and open space, we reduced yearly spending, we proactively planned for our future and we made our local government the most transparent in the region. I delivered here and I know can do the same in Harrisburg.

About Ron
Ron in the news
What others are saying

The #PleaseStand super bowl ad the NFL rejected.

Below is a link to the veterans ad the NFL won’t allow in the Super Bowl program.

I’m a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles Fan and will be watching the Super Bowl, cheering for my favorite team. I was proud when the Eagles did not organize any team wide kneeling during the season.

Player kneeling from the beginning has been counterproductive, serving only as a barrier to any kind of productive conversation. Yes, we have injustices in this Nation but those important conversations got lost. Kneeling only served as a wedge to divide us.
 
I was again disappointed to see that the NFL will not allow AMVETS National Headquarters to place this simple 1 page ad in the Super Bowl program. American Veterans is the nation’s most inclusive veterans service organization. Their intent was to simply bring the anthem back to what it has come to symbolize above all else. That being the values that unite us, rather than divide us. Those values include respect for those who sacrifice.

 

Also, consider a 20 dollar tax deductible donation to the organization.
You can do so here. 

When Will States Run Out of Federal CHIP Funds?

Working families ought to be able to afford insurance on the private markets. Today, unfortunately many can’t. Enter CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

What is CHIP?
CHIP is short for the Children’s Health Insurance Program – Pennsylvania’s program to provide health insurance to uninsured children and teens who are not eligible for Medical Assistance. CHIP covers kids whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but who can’t afford private insurance. This is increasingly a problem as healthcare costs continue to rise under Obamacare. 

How does CHIP funding work?
CHIP is a block grant program. This means Congress must act periodically to extend funding for the program. It serves nearly 9 million kids each year. States receive an allotment based on projected expenditures and generally have two years to spend their allotment. Unspent funds go into a redistribution pool.

When will CHIP run out of funds? 

  • Funding for CHIP expired on September 30, 2017. PA was able to continue to operate our programs in the short term with leftover funds from 2017.
  • Just before the December recess, Congress approved $2.85 billion in CHIP funding in a  “patch” as part of the Continuing Resolution (CR) that expires January 19. The CR also changed the way that redistribution funds are awarded to states, no longer guaranteeing a specific share to any state.
  • If Congress fails to approve long-term funding for CHIP in January, 1.7 million children in separate CHIP programs in 21 states could lose coverage by the end of February 2018. As February 1 approaches and Congress has still not taken action, some states are likely to send notices to families alerting them that their child’s coverage is in jeopardy and may begin procedures to freeze enrollment.
  • In March, Pennsylvania will be in shortfall position. Without sufficient funding to cover March expenditures, we will be unable to cover children beyond February without accessing redistribution funds.

Conclusion
Someday I would love nothing more than for CHIP to exist as a rarely used safety net no longer needed in the widespread numbers it is today. Meaning, today with healthcare so un-affordable for large segments of working class families not eligible for medicaid who still can’t afford private coverage – the need unfortunately remains. This is a failure of the healthcare system in general. The goal ought to be getting working families OFF assistance simply because they no longer need it. We accomplish that by making healthcare premiums affordable. That’s the long term fix.

But in the immediate term, with this not being reality – CHIP remains an absolutely crucial tool for working families. Parents across the state (many I know personally) literally now scrambling. The uncertainty is hugely disruptive. This has to get addressed.

Congress must act now. Continued delay is unacceptable. We need a bi-partisan solution to this and we need it right now. There is no excuse. Partisan bickering equals uncertainty for 1000’s of Pennsylvania families surrounding their children’s health resulting potentially in higher health care costs, added financial burdens, and in some cases – a complete loss of coverage for their children.

Important Tax Bill Information – Are you enrolled in Homestead?

IMPORTANT TAX BILL INFO:

Lower Macungie Homeowners – Are you enrolled in Homestead? It’s a program the board enacted to further reduce your property taxes. The chart below shows your savings. The green column is the amount of your bill after homestead savings.
(*Note, school property tax bills are separate and set by the School Board)

Morning Call: Lower Mac Commissioners give homeowners tax break

Recently, Homestead and Farmstead exclusion applications have been mailed out to eligible households by Lehigh County who are NOT already enrolled.

Once again, the township has set the homestead rate to the maximum allowed by the state. Eligible homeowners deduct the median home value from the assessment used to calculate their property tax bill.

This year that increased to 121,200 since home values increased in the township. This means 1,329 Lower Mac homes assessed under that amount are eligible for full relief. All others get a reduced bill. The chart below shows your savings. Lower Mac has the lowest Township property tax of any suburban Lehigh County community.

Properties eligible for exclusion include primary owner occupied homes. To receive the discount you must be enrolled. Applications are due March 1st. You can check your enrollment status by calling the County at 610.782.3038.

Information on if your home qualifies here.

Chart above shows your homestead savings. The Green column is your bill after homestead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interested in the 2018 township budget? Click here: 
The adopted 2018 budget – A snapshot

Commonwealth Court finds no ‘judicially manageable’ standards in Pennsylvania redistricting case

Commonwealth Court finds no ‘judicially manageable’ standards in Pennsylvania redistricting case.


Couple things here:

First, I support the initiatives of Fair Districts PA to address our severe gerrymandering problem. They propose appointing an impartial and independent citizens commission to direct redistricting — as opposed to what happens today, which is career politicians drawing their own district lines. I’ve written about the issue numerous times on this blog.

As a Commissioner, Lower Macungie unanimously adopted a resolution urging elected state officials to support independent commission legislation.

That being said – I don’t believe the solution to this is a judicial one. Maps should not be fixed by activist Judge’s.

Gerrymandering is a political problem with a political solution. In other words, we need elected officials to CHANGE the (bad) law(s). The Judge here rendered the right opinion based on the state Constitution, current law and (bad) policies. A Judge is tasked with rendering a decision based on the law, not his/her personal opinions. Whether they believe a law or consequences of a law are right or wrong is irrelevant. In this decision, while the Judge here made his personal opinion known – he can’t and didn’t let that influence answering the legal question. Read opinion here.

Clearly, the policies and law are flawed. Gerrymandering needs to be addressed, but not by an activist court. We need change in the halls of the State legislature. (State legislatures control the redistricting processes).

So, the work continues to address our severe problem we have in Pennsylvania. We do this by changing the problematic state law(s) and systems that undermine democratic elections. To that end, we need elected officials willing to take a stand. As a candidate for the State House I support legislation to establish an independent non-partisan commission and would serve as a co-sponsor AND vocal advocate to that end.

#SlaytheGerrymanderer – We will get there, but as a good government advocate it matters to me HOW we get there. Don’t rely on activist court, change the bad law. 

 

The adopted 2018 Township Budget – A snapshot

I voted in favor of the 2018 budget this year. The 31.7 million dollar budget accomplished a number of important items on behalf of our 32,000 residents. First, it reduces general fund spending year over year, maintains the lowest suburban millage rate in the entire Lehigh Valley and continues the use of homestead and farmstead to reduce residential property tax bills including complete elimination of the township bill for 1,329 residents. While being a taxpayer friendly budget it also maintains the high level of municipal services that our residents expect and ensures continued capital investments in our community according to our adopted 5 year capital plan.

General Fund spending reduced:
2017 approved General Fund Spending: 14,702,900
2018 approved General Fund Spending: 13,682,385
This represents a 7% decrease in planned general fund (recurring) spending.

On the capital side of things major investments include:
-A new traffic light at Minesite and Cedar Crest tentatively planned for 2018.
-A new aerial truck and other apparatus’s for the Fire Dept.
-Incremental park improvements
-Purchase of more snow plow capable pickup trucks and 1 additional small dump.
-1.6 million set aside for farmland and open space preservation

Homestead Property Tax Relief.
The first column is your assessment, the second is what your tax bill would be without Homestead (the lowest Suburban millage in the County), the 3rd green column is what your bill is with homestead and finally the amount you save this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*2018 (for 2017 tax year) Homestead applications have been mailed out to homeowners by Lehigh County. Make sure you are enrolled! Call Lehigh County assessment office at 610.782.3038 if you aren’t sure. 

Last year I voted “NO” on the 2017 budget. I explained that vote here. This year, I voted “YES” despite dissatisfaction with the scale of the community center expansion. My vote was primarily on the merit of reducing the planned overall general fund (recurring) spend year to year. This was a goal. I was not going to vote on any budget that increased general fund spending. We did one better, we actually reduced this year.

With the Community center project – I opposed at multiple points growing costs, including most recently voting against the addition of a $95k reception area front desk “add on” which was proposed very late in the game and added to project scope and costs. We were able to secure a stand alone vote on that item, but unfortunately we failed to remove it 3-2. While failing at removing that item, we were however able to remove by a 3-2 vote another 70k last minute addition of a sound proof ceiling in the 2nd gym. These last minute add ons represented luxuries not necessities. And if needed, things that should have been addressed in the initial design phase. Not cobbled together at the last minute and at great (in the case of the desk shockingly so) cost.


Also, I was again disappointed that the budget included another 15% sewer rate increase. But please note and understand, this is an unfunded mandate dictated by the EPA. I’ve talked about this at length here on this blog. Learn more about the EPA mandate here. The township must (and in fairness should) address the sewer infiltration issues or face significant fines from the EPA. While this year represented a right sizing of the quarterly bill relative to the mandate, I will not support any additional increases next year.

For 2018 I also have the following goals for the budget:

1.) It’s my intention to introduce a homestead rate that completely eliminates the township property tax for homestead qualifying residents. This was setup by the successful passage of the November homestead referendum. I’ve written about this many times on this blog over the last couple years why and how we accomplish this.

2.) I would like to propose a policy that future spending increases cannot surpass the rate of inflation without a referendum. This would be a companion to the fund balance policy we adopted a few years ago. It represents financial restraint as a matter of policy and would send major discretionary spending decisions directly to voters. 

BOC Agenda 12/7

HERE IS A LINK TO THE AGENDA WITH DETAIL
All township BOC meetings are available on video online. (Budget workshops also)
You can also watch all our board meetings live on Channel 66 RCN cable.

Below, is your agenda preview for the Thursday Dec. 7th Lower Macungie Twp. meeting. Board of Commissioner meetings are the formal business meetings of the township and are held every 1st and 3rd Thursday at the municipal building located at 3400 Brookside Rd.

This week, we have very few action items. We do have two interesting ongoing conversations outlined below.

First, Commercial fire inspections:
We will first have a presentation by LMFD Chief Nosal about the Knox Box aspect of the commercial fire inspection ordinance. A few weeks ago, there was a WFMZ article on the topic. I do need to say that none of the business owners interviewed who voiced concerns approached the township BOC in a formal fashion prior to approaching the media. This despite personally encouraging one particular business owner to do so. Had they, they would have had a sympathetic ear at least from my part to taking another look at some aspects of the program. Also there was some factually incorrect misinformation in the article put forth by one of the business owners. This is, in part why I requested this agenda item. I felt it was important to push back on that.

Two things to note: First, the commercial inspection program was passed by a prior board. So I’ve never voted on this subject, however as a resident and small business owner myself I did comment at the public meeting it was adopted before I was a Commissioner. You can read about that here.

Second, while I believe it’s been clearly demonstrated that installation of a Knox Box system on a commercial building makes sense for both first-responders and business owners in the case of an emergency, I do think there should be a way for business owners to opt out if they are willing to completely absolve the township and fire dept. of any liability. Again, (as a business owner myself) I think that’s the wrong decision, but individuals should have the ability to each make that decision and opt out off they choose. This is what I would like to discuss Thursday.

2018 Rate fee schedule: Last meeting we tabled approving the 2018 fee schedule since enough Commissioners (myself included) had additional questions about a staff proposed new construction permit for installing a new tub liner. I questioned whether it was necessary and asked for clarification what public concerns would be addressed. Although pitched as a revenue neutral permit, I always question new regulations and permits. 2 years ago there was a proposed new permit to install a back yard swing set. 3 Commissioners (including myself) opposed this and that new permit was rejected.

The next meeting on Dec. 21st will have many more action items and I’ll be sure to do a preview the week of. 
-Ron

2017 Lower Macungie Santa Run!

The 2017 Lower Macungie Fire Department Santa Run is scheduled for:
Saturday December 9, 2017 (Rain Date December 10). Santa will be leaving the station at around 3:oo pm.

Link here for routes and times LMFD expects to be in developments. This is a wonderful and longstanding yearly tradition that I remember from when I was a kid! Thank you to the Lower Mac Fire Dept. Volunteers.

FYI – A question I usually get each year, is “Why doesn’t Santa come to my development?”. Below is the likely answer.

“Lower Macungie Fire Department The reason the LMFD has not come thru your neighborhood with the Santa Run is traditionally we refrain from those developments that are under construction and have not been ‘turned over’ to the Twp. The philosophy is; those types of developments under construction typically have basic roads (no top coat, not flush with the manhole covers, not maintained or cared for by LMT…etc). Additionally, in those situations you also have construction equipment and/or dumpsters lining the roads and you also can find small construction debris that can potentially flatten tires, etc. With that being said, however, in you particular case I know your development has been in existence for quite some time and I made a special trip out there this morning to see how it looked. While I won’t take the trucks thru the southern portion of the development where they are actively building, I think running Santa thru the area north of the development shouldn’t be an issue. Please check our website in the next 10 days or so and we will have the specific street by street routes up. Dave Nosal – Fire Chief”

 

Important reminders and information about the Santa Run:

1) We provide the turn by turn routes and time frames so you can plan accordingly; as you may have to come to a street / intersection that we will be passing by. It is not realistic or feasible to go down every street in the Township. The routes are set up in order to keep them running efficiently and effectively and so that we can hit the maximum amount of area in a reasonable time frame.

2) The times listed are approximate; as we will also have to respond and handle any emergencies that may come in while we are out.

3) Candy will be thrown to the kids, so please make sure your kids are careful when picking it up.

4) If you would like to submit a picture that you took of the Santa Run, please email it to: info@firestation30.org. We will be posting them on our Facebook / Twitter pages.

5) The Alburtis Fire Department will be doing their Santa Run on December 3rd. and will be going through the Hills at Lockridge and the Heritage Heights area of the Township.

Thanks, Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday!

Read more, Lower Mac in the news:
Lower Mac moves to preserve 55 acre farm

With official map, Lower Macungie takes more proactive stance on land use issues.

Two Lehigh County townships in pilot program to save farms

Lower Macungie jumps on opportunity to preserve more farmland

Lower Macungie approves Shepherd Hills Golf Club preservation deal

Lower Macungie to give homeowners a tax break.

Property tax relief – Vote YES on Nov. 7th property tax referendum.

Below is a letter to the editor that will be published in the Morning Call next week. Lower Mac uses homestead today, and I’m advocating for us to increase it to 100% if this referendum passes. This means we would effectively eliminate the township property tax for residential homes.

 

Vote YES on Nov. 7th property tax referendum.

On November 7th, Pennsylvanians will have the opportunity to vote on a referendum to reform property taxes through the state’s homestead exclusion program.

This would enable municipalities to exclude up to 100% percent of the assessed value of a home from taxation. Essentially, property tax bills could be reduced to zero. Currently, the homestead exclusion is arbitrarily limited to 50% of median assessed property value.

Lower Macungie now utilizes that maximum 50% homestead exclusion. This allows us to keep our low millage in place to collect revenue from impactful commercial land uses like warehouses and shopping centers while at the same time we can provide much needed tax relief to homeowners.

If the referendum and corresponding legislation is passed, Lower Macungie will be able to eliminate the entire residential property tax for every qualifying residential household.

Today, 1100 of our lowest income households pay no property tax because of our use of Homestead. A good start but it’s my hope we can eliminate the property tax for all households. A yes, vote would give us the local control to do just that.

Note, the referendum has bi-partisan support across the aisle. This is a no-brainer. Please vote yes on Nov. 7th.

Ron Beitler – Vice President Lower Macungie Twp. Board of Commissioners

Our State Government is Broken.

It’s time for a constitutional convention. And thanks to Sen. John Eichelberger and Rep. Steve Bloom that ball is in play. This editorial by Pennlive from the summer nails the reason. Read the op-ed here. In the op-ed the authors also touch upon a number of suggestions. Most (but not all) I agree with. This conversation has been ongoing but it seems like momentum is gathering. This is likely because frustration with state government is at an all time high.

Below are some of the good government structural reforms that I support. All of which could be addressed by a limited constitutional convention. I’ve written about a number of these at length on this blog over the last few years. A state constitutional convention is the mechanism to address all of these and other concerns at one time in a very transparent but also highly efficient way. Constitutional conventions give voters who are frustrated with broken state government the chance to take a very direct role in reform efforts such as:

  • Term Limits
  • Address the size of the legislature. For ex. reducing the size (and cost) of Government begins with eliminating the pointless office of the Lt. Gov.
  • Campaign finance reform
  • Gerrymandering reform
  • Reforming the completely broken and totally backwards state budget process.

These efforts would go a long way to draining the swamp at the state level. And a limited constitutional convention is the way you address them all at once. 

Here are some more resources:
Lawmakers file memos to initiate a Pennsylvania constitutional convention.
Eichelberger and Bloom news conference.