Thursday, December 12, 2013

An Open Letter Addressing the 2014 McSherrystown Borough Budget, Tax and Sewer Rate Increases

"Steamroller Policy" enacted by "The Few"

The votes concerning the Tax and Sewer Rate Increases, and the passing of the 2014 Budget which contained revenues from both, were not unanimous, with Council member David Bolton opposing the tax increase, opposing the sewer rate increases as presented, and also opposing the overall budget, as it included funds from both of the previously mentioned items. 

It is also noteworthy that the replacement costs of the municipal building roof went from $30K (when first discussed at the previous meeting), to $50K-$70K as presented at this meeting, without a single educated quote from any contractors as to the estimated amount it will cost the Borough to have the work done. 

It is also noteworthy that the items in the 5 Year Comp Plan, which were used as the reason for the tax increase, were already accounted for in the first draft of the budget, prior to the revenues from a tax increase being placed into said budget, as the Plan was already presented prior to the formation of the budget.

In addition, if the sewer upgrades are of dire importance (which they are), why did the Finance Chair recommend (and ultimately got approval for) the transfer of $58K from the Sewer Reserves to a "Misc Reserve" fund, replacing it with approximately $27K in NEW revenues from the proposed (and now passed) sewer rate increases?  (It will be noted that the Finance Chair was not present at the meeting to answer questions concerning or to pass the budget he proposed).

Also, why did the Council jettison the plan proposed by the Sewer Committee Chair for raising the funds for the sewer repairs, which would have adjusted the sewer rates to reflect the 2007 Hanover Borough rates (remaining less than Hanover's current rates), while not raising rates on lower-usage, fixed-income residents, and would have returned those rates back to current levels after 2-3 years of reserves to identify and repair the I&I issue?  This would have negated the need to raise the millage tax and would have placed the burden of expense on those who use the system the most, and would again safeguard those responsible citizens in the Borough who are already strained financially with fixed budgets of their own.

The "unfunded mandate" concerning the gas tanks was a new piece of the puzzle only first presented at this meeting, and were not a consideration when the discussion of budgetary matters occurred over the past few meetings, and there has been no documentation shown that says the State is mandating these upgrades at this time.

When Councilmember Bolton raised these questions and opposed the advertising of these new increases, a remark was made after the vote in General Session, "He's allowed to do that; that's his right".  Knowing that the measures would still pass with only one dissenting vote, this comment demonstrated an air of smug arrogance towards any opinion differing from the "Establishment" leaders on Council.

At least we had one Council member in there questioning and opposing this "Steamroller Policy". Kudos to Councilman-Elect Doug Duvall and citizen Rick Groft for standing before Council and asking the tough questions, even if they didn't get the clearest or truest answers.  

One thing is certain; "The way we've always done it" will continue only as long as we have members of the Council that have "Always been there" to do it "The way it's always been done".  With a new member joining the Council next month, perhaps we have finally started to see a changing of the guard.  Hopefully, we will see an increase in the involvement of the public at these Council meetings.  Perhaps the heavy-handed governing of "The Few" will finally give way to a local government "For The People, By The People". 

David "Scotty" Bolton 

McSherrystown Borough Councilmember and Citizen
VP and Legislative Committee Chair, Adams County Boroughs Association
PA State Association of Boroughs Board of Directors-member
Adams County Transportation Planning Organization-member
Hanover Regional Economic Development Committee-member

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