Do cyclists pay their fair share?

I have to applaud PennDOT efforts to raise awareness about cycling on the road network lately. In PA, on our roadways responsibility is a two-way street. Both cyclists and motorists need to be aware of and follow the rules of the road relating to cycle safety.

Last couple months I’ve noticed once a week PennDOT has been making really nicely crafted social media posts aimed at cycle law awareness issues. Here is an example:
Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 12.26.23 AMUnfortunately whenever a post like this is made a very small but vocal and extremely uninformed minority of commenters always follows with a litany of silly posts.

One of the most common and most uniformed narratives is usually along the lines of: Cyclists should have to pay for plates, registration, inspection and insurance like every other vehicle on Pennsylvania roadways“. 

Couple problems with this sentiment:
First, cyclists do pay their share. Actually they pay a far disproportionate share. Here are the facts:

  • User fees (license, registration etc) pay for only 34% of the costs of roads in Pennsylvania. The rest comes from general funds that cyclists also pay for.
  • 80% of cyclists also own cars so 80% also pay the user fees associated with those cars.
  • A bike has 1/20th the impact of a car on the roadway. This includes funding for bike facilities. (which usually just involves moving paint around)

Essentially, when a motorist makes the decision to bike instead of drive they are saving us ALL. Because 1.) They also pay the bulk of costs to maintain roads. Pair this with 2.) bikes require significantly less expensive specialized facilities and 3.) cyclists create a fraction of the impact.

So basically, as a driver and taxpayer… next time you see a cyclist take a moment to thank them. They are mathematically doing their part to keep your tax burden lower in a number of measurable ways. If it were a fair world they should probably get a rebate for cycling since they save everyone alot of money when they ride.

On referendums

I support most forms of ballot initiatives & referendums. Specifically on the local level and especially relating to local tax and spend decisions. Access to these tools should be expanded. Unfortunately, ‘Citizens in Charge’ a foundation that monitors initiative access ranks Pennsylvania one of the lowest in terms of ballot initiative rights.

thumbs up or down

The subject came up frequently here in Lower Mac over the last couple months in relation to open space funding and 3.3 Million dollar discretionary spending line for synthetic fields in the 2015 township budget.

In Pennsylvania:

  • We can’t recall elected officials
  • We have zero statewide initiative or referendum rights
  • We cannot propose state constitutional amendments via amendment
  • Silent majority has no access to final check & balance on Government through putting acts passed by legislators to a vote of the people.
  • It is currently muddy in PA if citizens can even legally petition for non-binding advisory questions. Even if to simply to gauge resident sentiment.

We are one of the worse states in the union in terms of local referendum rights. Is it coincidence we suffer from some of the same issues as other states who also have very low referenda access scores?

Elected officials tend to dislike initiative processes because they see it as infringing on their monopoly authority to legislate. This often takes form of dismissive statements such as “I was elected to make the tough decisions“. This is one we heard recently. Another is “most people don’t vote“. Which kind of puts the person making that statement in a hypocritical position since they simultaneously discredit the very electorate that put them into a position of power in the first place. Not sure exactly how that works.

Of the many advantages to initiatives at the local level one of the most important is they create rigorous inquiry on questions of policy by placing issues squarely in front of voters. Rigorous vetting of major spending decisions was certainly something missing in Lower Macungie’s 2015 budget process which included a major discretionary capital spending plan. Studies have also consistently shown that ballot initiatives result in more people voting. So again, back to the claim that “not enough people vote”…Initiatives are actually one of the most sure fire ways to address voter apathy by giving residents a direct voice. 

Although it’s definitely a bi-partisan sentiment many conservatives see initiative access as a much needed core reform. This includes Heritage Foundation co-founder Paul Weyrich.

Weyrich who passed away in 2008 wrote of critically needed reforms:  “Conservatism should promote increased use of ballot initiatives and referenda, term limits, putting ‘none of the above’ on the ballot and ending legalized bribery under the name of campaign contributions.” – Paul Weyrich. (I just happen to be reading one of his books currently)

It’s certainly not just conservative groups. Many groups advocating for better government across the political spectrum openly advocate for initiative access. Typically those who take the biggest issues with initiatives (this includes activists on both sides of the aisle) are people who champion viewpoints that run counter to the silent majority. Obviously, these folks would not support the great public check and balance available in our system.

Our referendum question was laid to rest last thursday in Lower Macungie accompanied with the usual statements of “we were elected to make decisions” and “not enough people vote”, however I still enjoy the conversation about this issue and will remain an advocate for good Government.

If your interested in more information check out:



Municipal pensions face 7.7B in debt. Why is Lower Mac not on the list?

Recent headline in the Morning Call: Municipal pensions in Pennsylvania facing combined $7.7 billion debt

All surrounding municipalities are on the list with Macungie listed as ‘not distressed”, Alburtis, Upper Milford and Upper Macungie as “minimally Distressed” and Emmaus Borough as “moderately distressed”.  The level of distress relates to debt vs. assets in municipal pension plans.

The reason Lower Macungie is not only un-ranked but also not on the list at all is because our pension plan is a defined contribution not a defined benefit plan.  Therefore we do not have the actuarial issues of determining funding liabilities. In a defined contribution system participants gets back what was put in for them each year, plus, hopefully, some earnings rather than losses. The issues of “fully funding plans” don’t apply.

Basically, Twp. leaders decided back in the late 1970’s to head down the defined contribution plan route as a cheaper way to pay employee benefits. To put it mildly, we lucked out thanks to those old dutchies. 🙂 

For now our situation is stable. One of the biggest ways this could someday change is if and when the township creates a local police force. For example: The pension plan Upper Macungie Township created when it formed its 22-member police force in 2012 is already carrying debt of about $2.2 million dollars putting it in the minimally distressed category.

As the Morning Call article states “Bills being circulated in Harrisburg, new municipal police, fire and nonuniform workers would have a corporate-like “cash-balance plan” that guarantees a smaller rate of return of 4 percent on contributions made by employees and employers.” If something like this passes before we ever have to change our police or fire protection arrangements it would benefit us immensely.



Defined Benefit Plan (distressed plans)

With a Defined Benefit employers pay a specific retirement benefit based on salary and years of service. The most common formula to calculate benefits is based on the employee’s earnings at the end of the worker’s career. The problem is the employer or government bears funding and investment risk. As is the case in many PA municipalities these can (most oftentimes) create crippling unfunded liabilities that get worse over time. This puts the whole system in jeopardy for newer employees. 

Defined Contribution Plan (Lower Mac)

Defined Contribution (DB) plans provide a means for both employees and employers to contribute a steady stream of revenue into the participant’s retirement account.

Plans generally allow participant-directed investments and vest (or allow employees to receive benefits) sooner than DB plans. Benefits are also portable, which is becoming more important for workers in today’s evolving marketplace where the average worker may switch jobs and even careers multiple times over the course of a lifetime. While DB plans are managed collectively, employees have ownership of defined-contribution retirement plans and choice over their retirement investments. Since they are fully funded up front, this prevents pension obligations from sneaking up on future generations of taxpayers and allows for more stability in budgeting. 

Thank you to Township Volunteers

Thank you to all township volunteers and welcome to our newest. Below is an overview of appointments from last night to various Boards & Commissions.

In a Commonwealth like Pennsylvania local Gov is designed to be hands on. Commissioners aren’t elected to go off to far away places like Harrisburg and DC to make decisions for us. Locally, every resident has the opportunity to get involved directly. Attend meetings, talk to elected officials who are also neighbors, circulate petitions etc. Can’t attend in person? Watch mtg video at YOUR convenience. Prefer to read? Review minutes online. Best of all you can volunteer like the folks below and get involved directly.

In Lower Mac we have a deep bench of qualified applicants. We have wait lists. Great problem to have. Many more qualified applicants than vacancies. Most recently to address this we’ve created additional ad-hoc positions on the Public safety Commission and are considering others. This to ensure that people who want to be involved have the opportunity.

Thank you to everyone who last night we appointed or re-appointed:

•Charles Sabo & Fred Zahradnik appointed to the Environmental Advisory Council. Sabo is an emergency medical technical for St. Luke’s. Zahradnik is owner of NetCrafter Solutions.

David Wieder reappointed to the Building Code Board of Appeals. Wieder is vice president of Burkholder’s HVAC.

•Ann Bartholomew reappointed to the township’s planning commission. Bartholomew is a retired author, writer and book designer and also an active member of the historical society. Ann quite literally wrote the history of the township. Purchase Ann’s history of Lower Macungie Township here.

•Keller Kline is an attorney and former township commissioner reappointed to the Zoning Hearing Board. Richard Ward also reappointed as an alternate. Ward is a senior vice president of Alliance Advisors LLC, also served on the Public Safety Commission.

•Four reappointed to the Public Safety Commission: Scott Forbes, the chairman; Michael Dattilio, vice chairman; Elizabeth Ackerman & Tony Alsleben. Forbes has background in telecommunications and business served on the board for five years. Dattilio is a Hellertown Borough police officer. Ackerman is a corporate sales manager at Bear Creek Mountain Resort. Asleben is an Allentown police officer. In December we also appointed to new members. Mark Spengler is a teacher at Emmaus High School and Dr. Janine Mathesz a fmr. assistant principle at EHS as an Ad-Hoc member.

Volunteer boards & Commissions include: (visit for more info)
The Audit Advisory Board
The Environmental Advisory Board
Emergency Management
Historical Society
Library Board
Planning Commission
Public Safety Commission
Vacancy Board
Parks and Recreation
Building Code Board
Zoning Hearing Board – What is a Zoning Hearing Board?
And of course everyone has the opportunity to RUN FOR OFFICE!



Local Gov’t 101 – What does the County Controller do?

Every four years those of us in Lehigh county vote for the row offices. By and large, folks have no idea what these offices are or what the people in them do. I’m including myself here. At least up until a couple years ago. Link to Controllers 2013 report.

In Lehigh County one of those elected “row offices” is the County Controller. Next year it’s one of the positions that will be up for election. Currently the office is held by Glenn Eckhart. In Lehigh County the position is paid. In the past there has been discussion on whether the row offices in general should be elected or appointed. The job description is defined by the County Charter. Today the controllers office has 6 employees ranging from clerks to accountants.

According to the LC government website the Controllers duties include:

  • Examine the propriety of internal control
  • Assess compliance with statutory requirements
  • Evaluate operating procedures
  • Audit the accuracy and completeness of records and files pertaining to the receipt and disbursement of County funds by all officers, agents, and employees of the County

To sum this up the controller is basically an elected working manager for the county’s accounting dept. He/she is the elected fiscal watchdog of the County. The office conducts assessments of management performance and program results of county departments and agencies to evaluate efficiency and use of taxpayer funds. To sum this up the controller is responsible for delivering a yearly report to the Board of Commissioners. 

Although controller candidates usually run based on party affiliation they do their job best when they operate from a political neutral standpoint. Beyond the watchdog role in Lehigh County the controller only has one responsibility that directly has to do with policy. That is the controllers seat as secretary (and voting member) of the retirement board. It’s basically the controllers one direct influence on policy decisions but it’s a pretty important one in relation to the County’s long term finances.

WFMZ – Lehigh County Controller Annual Report

Here is a link to the Controllers complete 2013 report.

House bill proposes changes to Sunshine Law

PA is a sunshine state. This requires by statute that government meetings are open to the public. This critically important concept ensures elected officials are transparent and accountable to voters.

PA’s sunshine laws require elected officials conduct official action and conduct deliberations leading up to official actions in the sunshine.

There are only a few justifications for holding private executive sessions. These include: Personnel matters, discussion of pending litigation, considering the purchasing or lease of land and labor and arbitration issues. 

H.B. 1671 sponsored by Rep. Rick Saccone (R), would more stringently define when a public body could enter private executive session meetings to conduct business. In recent testimony considering the bill widespread abuse of executive sessions was revealed across the Commonwealth. 

“The committee heard very detailed and disturbing testimony from reporters, organizations and citizens about instances where public bodies improperly went into executive session to circumvent  Sunshine Law,” said Saccone. “Abuse of executive session privilege appears to be widespread, with government entities apparently calling private meetings outside the bounds of the law Action clearly needs to be taken.” – Rep. Rick Saccone 

House Bill 1671 would streamline the definitions of instances when executive session can be used. It would also require an audio recording of the executive session so if an allegation arises that the meeting was improperly held, it can be verified later by a judge.

  Continue reading

LVEDC calls for 1 cent Lehigh Valley Sales Tax.

Lots of reaction on social media this morning to this Mcall story posted last night. Here are some initial thoughts and questions.

You can read the report in it’s entirety here. The LVEDC paid around 100k to the Georgia firm  “Garner Economics” for the report.

LVEDC Website

First what made the headlines is the report high priority recommendation for a 1 cent sales tax which would generate 33 million a year. LVEDC’s current budget is 2 million. Knee jerk reaction is that this proposed tax increase would create a bloated slush fund for a nebulous board with unelected leadership lacking checks and balances. There were some recent reorganizations of leadership and structure of LVEDC in 2013 and I’d like to learn more about them. But from what I understand decisions in the past were made in private with a public component that was understood to be nothing more then a rubber stamp.

Beyond the big picture issue I took some time reading about what exactly the report outlines be done with 33 million. Some of it is good.

For example, regionalization studies. PA has 2500 individual municipalities and 600 school districts. No other state comes remotely close. This is a big reason why we face some of the statewide problems we do. Here is what the report says:

The Lehigh Valley alone is comprised of two counties and 62 municipalities. The scale of perceived—and, as noted by the taxpayer (businesses interviewed), real—inefficiencies in providing community services is significant. Oftentimes, to a non-resident, there is no separation of lines when traveling from one municipality to another.

No, I am not in favor of forcing individual muni’s to give up local control. As a bottom up government proponent I believe local gov’t to be the most efficient taxing body. Locally a resident can account for every dollar brought in and every dollar spent. A local dollar goes much further then sending your dollar to Harrisburg or Washington to be re-distributed through a broken system. That being said I agree we should conduct studies to identify where compelling cases for consolidation are. Then, if muni’s willingly see the economic and fiscal benefits (in some cases would be a no-brainer) we should make it easy to re-organize.

It’s my understanding Alburtis at one time initiated a study of this subject on it’s own. Remember, Alburtis raised taxes again this year. Macungie raised taxes again this year. Small borough’s often find themselves in tight fiscal jams and their leaders often worry about financial future. This has nothing to do with leadership but everything to do with small size, small population and redundancy of services. Take police protection. In EPSD there are 5 individual police entities operating in one geographic area each with it’s own facilities, union and overhead. I believe in voluntary regionalization and resource sharing initiated from the bottom up.

Another issue cited is the LVIA: I truly have mixed feelings about subsidizing the airport. It is a compelling argument why. The report states:

“Focus group participants and electronic survey respondents noted the need for
additional air service and more affordable rates out of the Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE).”

Can’t argue with that. But the answer is how do we get there? How do we get a fully operational LVIA? Is the answer more subsidies distributed by another level of bureaucracy? I honestly don’t know.

Lastly here is one example of something that scares me. It deals with infrastructure subsidies. Here is one line:

“Sustainable funding source to allow for mega site development, municipal water
and sewer in more areas of the counties, broadband connectivity in the rural areas, deal closing opportunities, and more.”

This is rural sewer line expansion. That means one thing to me. Sprawl subsidies. More sprawl Industrial complexes paving over cornfields in the outskirts of the valley. More mega strip centers and suburban office complexes. These practices represent the very lowest economic ROI on valuable land. Sprawl subsidies skew the land market. Without subsidies companies will build close to the people who need the jobs and where the infrastructure already exists. Not where the land is justifiably cheap cause it’s in the middle of nowhere.

It boils down to more subsidies for a wildly inefficient development pattern. Sprawl subsidies will encourage local muni’s looking for a quick windfall to build new infrastructure with no accounting on if they can actually afford to maintain it over the long run. After the subisidies dry up and greenfield developers move on to the next field local taxpayers are the ones left holding the bag. We pay for the ongoing improvements and maintenance for projects that were big ole feathers in the caps of local politicians. In many cases unfortunately new liabilities created far exceed the new revenue generated. It then becomes a simple issue of math. Sprawl is financially unsustainable over the long run.

This is definitely something to keep an eye on. I’ll say this sales tax probably has absolutely zero chance of being approved either by Lehigh or Northampton County councils. Def not with their current legislative boards. I do need to learn more about the LVEDC and this study. I’m interested in hearing from folks who have alot more knowledge on this subjec then me. Arguments for and also against. Please feel free to contact me at

Act 111 reform is needed in Pennsylvania

Last night, the Lower Macungie Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted unanimously to continue with Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) as our primary police provider. This decision came after conducting a comprehensive crime study. Results show we have the 7th lowest crime rate of Pennsylvania’s 35 largest townships. Our rate is 1/3 of Lehigh County’s average.

We have the luxury of basing a decision on data. We’re statistically a safe community and PSP does an outstanding job. Someday however, our community will have to address the method by which we secure coverage. This will happen either when A. crime data rises or B. state requires municipalities pay for PSP. This may happen in 5 years or it may happen in 20 years. No one knows.

Understanding some day we’ll face this decision we must consider all the factors involved. One of those factors is efforts to reform Act 111. Act 111 outlines how municipalities are required to negotiate legacy costs that make local police/fire departments financially unsustainable. 41 percent of Pennsylvania’s population live in municipalities facing fiscal distress. Local police/fire services are the single biggest cost item in many local budgets.

Act 111 arbitration awards contribute to escalating costs by handcuffing local governments. The act requires unions and municipalities to engage in binding arbitration during contract disputes. While the intent is good, the mechanism is 45 years old and needs reform. Act 111 gives unions unfair advantages – reaping large settlements that cost us all.

Until reforms are addressed as one member of the 5 person BOC I am wary about taking Lower Macungie down a path where issues like this are front and center where unelected outside arbitrators have so much power. Someday we’re going to have to address the potential of a local force. Until then it’s a concern that we don’t enter the township into a flawed system 

Here are two examples where Act 111 has led to financial stress and tax increases:

1. In 2013 after a 19 month Act 111 process paid for by Borough taxpayers, an unelected “neutral” arbitrator with no ties to the community rendered a ruling that forced Chambersburg to hike taxes. Here, Act 111 prohibited a locally elected council from managing their paid fire department in the best interests of their residents.  Read more here: From town council to the citizens of Chambersburg Borough.

2. Last year Bristol Twp. was forced into Act 111 Arbitration seeking relief from $85.8 Million in unfunded liabilities including $77 Million in Post-Retirement Health obligations. Bristol received nothing from an unelected arbitrator to help reduce crippling legacy costs. The union was awarded 4% and 3.5% raises. Today the township has 10 less Police officers than it did in 2012. Unfunded liabilities have now increased to $91 Million. The can was kicked down the road and the underlying issues were left.

Act 111 has serious consequences for communities. It removes what should be exclusively local decisions from residents and their elected officials. The system requires municipalities to negotiate in good faith but unions don’t. Everyone wants to see fire and police professionals treated fairly. The intent of Act 111 is good, but as it stands today it’s a 45-year-old outdated law in desperate need of modernization.

There are those seeking fair reform of Act 111. I support these efforts. Our State Senator Pat Browne (R) 16 is one of them signing on as a co-sponsor of SB 1111. The bill was crafted by Sen. John Eichelberger, (R) Blair, chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee.

Senator Browne addressed his position in a statement:After 45 years, it is appropriate that the General Assembly take a comprehensive look at the local government collective bargaining process to ensure it strikes the proper balance between the rights of our important municipal police and firefighters and the taxpaying public,” Senator Pat Browne said. “We should ensure that when labor contract decisions are taken out of the hands of local elected officials and placed in arbitration that the process maximizes transparency and thoroughly considers the implications that any prospective reward will have on both municipal financial sustainability and public safety employment attraction/retention.

This is a large part of what SB 1111 addresses. Highlights of SB 1111 reforms include:

  • Penalize either party for failing to engage in good faith bargaining;
  • Must show ability to pay through justification and consideration of new costs;
  • Start arbitrator selection process between both parties by coin toss;
  • Expand the list from which a neutral arbitrator is selected from 3 to 7;
  • Require the cost of arbitration be shared equally between both parties;
  • Codify the avenues of appeal of an award by either side.
  • Require evidentiary hearings to be open to the public (sunshine law);
  • Prohibit post-retirement health care and pension benefits from being subjects of collective bargaining.

These reforms will inject much needed fairness into the Act. 111 process.

As an elected local municipal official I often have to deal with mandates that take away our ability to make the right decisions for residents of Lower Macungie. I believe that Act 111 reform is essential. The effort currently has widespread bi-partisan support from municipal leaders, business leaders and community development organizations such as the Pennsylvania Economy League, Coalition for Sustainable Communities and the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Commissioners.

Survey: Let East Penn officials know what’s important for new Superintendent.

Let East Penn School District know what characteristics are important to you for new superintendent search. Read more here on patch. The school board asks parents, students, teachers, residents and taxpayers to help shape the search by completing the survey online.


Fill out the survey here

My thoughts:
Surveys like this are hard since there are no listed characteristics that are unimportant. They’re all important characteristics for the districts top admin. But here we have to rank them and I took my best shot.

Section 2 I ranked items like communication with legislature, comprehensive planning, negotiations and finances high. Development has repercussions for schools. In the past we’ve done a good job with strategic planning. Plans should be updated as Lower Mac has continued to deviate from comprehensive planning over the last 3 years. Since the last look at growth, Lower Macungie has changed zoning on nearly 1000 acres of land previously agriculturally protected.

Meanwhile traditionally senior oriented developments without restrictions are slowly changing over. More young couples are moving into these neighborhoods. (ex. Fairways at Brookside) Class size and the projected capital expenditures (new buildings) should be regularly updated. New superintendent needs to continue keeping a pulse on growth.

Negotiations with public unions are huge. New superintendent should be experienced on that front. He or she should have a proven track record to point to.

Communication with legislature I put into top 3 since schools face so many government mandates. Many fundamental issues affecting taxpayers can only be addressed at the state level. Given that here were my top 3:

1. Communication with legislature.
2. Negotiations
3. Comprehensive planning.

Section four I ranked items like class size (since relates to comprehensive planning), Finances, Gov’t mandates, New buildings and increasing student enrollment highest. In section 5 here were my top 3.

1. Class size
2. Finances Budget
3. Increasing student enrollment

What did you think was important? What jumped out at you? What were your top 3 concerns overall? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

The East Penn School District: Serves the Boroughs of Alburtis, Emmaus and Macungie. Lower Macungie and Upper Milford Township.

What else is going on in Lower Mac?
Tax issue continues to be debated
Santa Claus is coming to town LMT Santa Run schedule
Hamilton Crossings issue 

Latest Mcall article on proposed Lower Macungie property tax

I am adapting this from a Facebook post I made this AM where I posted a link to the latest Mcall piece by Pat Lester. In it all seated Commissioners weigh in. (Pat by the way who does a great job of covering local Lower Macungie Issues)

I provided Pat a quote at his request for the article but it didn’t get included. Likely my fault. I was asked for 1 or 2 sentences and provided a paragraph. The short answer is ‘No’ I do not want a local property tax. I do not want ANY of my taxes to go up. No one who owns a home does.

The problem however is this issue deserves more thought then a boilerplate quote. It’s much more complicated due to unique circumstances here in LMT. I won’t be an elected official who waters down complicated issues to get a quote in the paper. Some issues lend themselves to that, some like this issue do not.

Below is the quote I provided. I’m unwilling to commit the township to another period of hyper growth to put off a property tax another 5 years. Not only will this hurt our quality of life, but one time windfall revenue associated with hyper growth does not make a sustainable financial policy. As the article outlines, we were able to eliminate the tax because of the large reserve fund that was the result of 40% growth over 2 decades. (Going from roughly 15,000 when eliminated to over 31,000 residents now)

Long term, sustainable low taxes are my goal. While I respect Commissioner Conrad’s opinion that taxes will inevitably be raised if we open the doors again, I respectfully disagree. We can have a stable low tax rate without fear of it rising. I don’t always see eye to eye with Ryan, but generally we’re in the same ballpark and he has been commenting about the subject on his social media and engaging residents which I always appreciate.

So how do we ensure that if we enact a tax we can keep it low? The answer is smart growth. Financial sustainability is precisely what smart growth is all about. Growing in a way where revenue exceeds liabilities and demonstrating this by conducting lifecycle cost benefit analysis of proposed zoning changes is critical. I have been consistently advocating for this for a little over a year.

This will be one of the first items I propose if elected in January. That any proposed up-zoning of open space or farmland be accompanied with a cost benefit analysis of the potential impacts. Remember, farmland and open space costs the taxpayers very little if anything in liabilities. It generates no traffic, it creates no crime, it puts no new students into our schools and it contributes positively to the tax base. We have no obligation to up-zone any property unless there is a financial benefit to the community.

Also of note I do echo Conrad’s call for the township manager to provide the BOC with a list of alternative tax/fee options to the proposed. 33 mill real estate tax. The First Class Township Code and the Local Tax Enabling Act provide several different tax/fee options that can be considered as alternatives to a real estate tax. These and all options should be explored.

The only option I personally will not support in any way shape or form is initiating another period of “hyper growth” through en masse zoning changes to artificially keep taxes low. That strategy is selling out the future. Relying on one time building permits, real estate transfer tax or the selling off of township assets does not make a sustainable or responsible fiscal policy. We’ve been playing with fire for a decade. It’s time to stop gambling and start planning. The fund balance policy was a fantastic start.

With smart growth yes, we can maintain a low sustainable tax rate. If we bury our heads in the sand and sell the township to the highest bidder for near term cash we will bury our future under a mountain of liabilities. Blindly up-zoning large swaths of agriculture protected land in the western portion of the township to industrial and commercial uses is doing just that. We cannot continue to swap short term gains for long term liabilities. The smart growth plan reinforces the need to encourage growth in locations where we get a return on investment since infrastructure will already be in place to handle impacts. Namely the Hamilton Corridor. Projects like Hamilton Crossings. (without the public funding aspect..)

Here was the quote I provided:

“The tax issue goes hand in hand with poor growth decisions. We’re now much closer to needing our own police force while our infrastructure obligations continue to grow. Over the years we’ve swapped near-term cash for long term obligations. This has hurt our quality of life and put us in an unsustainable financial position. On the horizon is a time-bomb of unfunded liabilities. No one wants to initiate a property tax but due to poor development decisions the luxury of having a choice may soon be taken away from us. If we don’t control growth now the tax we face now will be nothing compared to what we face in 10 years. “