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I would like to thank Mr. Lamastra for his editorial in last week’s paper and share some additional information on this earned income tax issue.
This current board of supervisors has spent almost a year trimming/cutting costs out of our operating budget. We have cut employee healthcare costs, engineering costs, our reliance on consultants and much more. The preliminary 2013 budget shows over a $300,000 decrease in expenses from 2012. Most of that reduction is due to our constant review of budget, expenditures, and implementing spending cuts.
Unfortunately this is not enough, and even though I recognize there is still more we can trim, it’s nowhere near enough to handle our unfunded capital improvements (failed roads and bridges) that keeps getting pushed aside year after year.
These roads have been neglected for almost 20 years, so to blame one board or another is pointless and non- productive. The current estimate to fix our roads and bridges is $1.6 million, and the longer this can is kicked down the road the more it will cost each resident. The money that we saved from implementing these spending cuts went directly towards balancing our budget and unfortunately does not help pay for the capitol infrastructure needs.
The London Grove local municipality tax last increased in 2006 for the adoption of the initial EIT tax, prior to that it was not raised for many years. The ordinance we will be voting on includes a two year sunset clause, putting it in writing that this tax increase will only last for two years. Due to feedback we received in the public discussion, I am having a separate resolution prepared that would specify this additional tax monies can only be used for our failed roads and bridges. 47 percent of residents in London Grove already pay this additional .5 percent tax because the municipality they work in has enacted such and ordinance. These 47percent will see no additional increase; London Grove will simply take priority over the township they work in. For the 53 percent that this will affect, it will translate into $372 per year for two years on average.
Jerry made a case for an alternate three point plan, a plan that reflects where my personal thoughts were 12 months ago. Here are some hurdles with his suggestion:
1.Continue to cut “fat” from our spending. I acknowledge that we must continue to find ways to cut our spending. We have already trimmed our spending by almost 10 percent. Frankly, any further cuts in spending will only help us to continue to balance our budget and improve the spending on our roads maintenance program, not help pay for our capitol infrastructure needs.
2. Sell properties – We are looking at selling some real estate that London Grove owns and there are several problems as it relates to funding our capital infrastructure needs. First, it could take many years before we realize any funding from those sales. Second, there is no guarantee it would sell at all and if it does sell what price would we get? Lastly, even if we get the perceived market price for these properties it is nowhere near the $1.6 million we require. The only realistic property that we could sell at this time is the Quarry; this precious water is part of the Cockeysville Marble aquifer and provides many of our, and other, communities with wonderful and clean well water.
3. Repeal Open Space tax -- While we can debate the level of positive affects open space has on our community, that item was voted on by the people and as an elected official I am not comfortable with repealing it. Elected officials are in office to serve at the pleasure of the voters, and we have a duty to respect these initiatives that are handed to us.
The supervisors have been meeting; in addition to our monthly meeting, every six weeks for the past year and reviewing/discussing our operating budget and implementing changes. These meetings have been posted, public, and unfortunately not very well attended by fellow residents. We held a public budget meeting on Sept. 25 at which the board authorized a hearing to formally review the EIT Tax proposal. We then held that public hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 23. This issue is scheduled to be voted on Nov. 14, at 7p.m. There was also a public budget meeting held on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 9a.m. I encourage all London Grove residents to get involved and come to our meetings; you can sign up for e-mail alerts on the township web site.
David Connors is chairman of the London Grove Township Board of Supervisors