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Upper Dublin Commissioners Approve 5.91 Percent Tax Increase

The board also voted to rebid the Old Fort Washington Elementary School at Tuesday's meeting.

The board of commissioners voted Tuesday to approve a 5.91 percent property tax increase for next year. The vote follows three deliberative meetings held in the past month, as by Patch. Commissioner Chet Derr, of ward 3, voted against the motion.

The increase of 5.91 percent represents an increase of 4.939 mills in 2011 to 5.231 mills in 2012. A mill corresponds to one tax dollar for every $1,000 dollars in real estate value. Given that number, a home assessed at $195,000 would see an annual increase of $56.94, a home assessed at $250,000 would see an increase of $73, and a $350,000 home a $102.2 increase. Township taxes account for approximately 17 percent of property taxes, with the bulk coming from school district increases, according to township officials.

"It's important to note… that none of that is for operations," said vice president Ira Tackel at a . "Operations [costs] have actually gone down, and services have not declined, they've been maintained nearly 100 percent."

The 5.91 percent figure came after the seven member board of commissioners decided to invest in two capital projects: the construction of two flood retarding structures and separate "neighborhood storm water projects."

  • 2.5 percent of the increase would go toward debt service on $3.5 million of borrowing for the construction of the two structures.
  • One percent would go to debt service on $3 million in borrowing for the storm water projects, with an additional one percent to follow in 2013.
  • 1.28 percent of the increase would go to the final portion of debt service on the new firehouse.
  • .75 percent would go to capital improvements for the library.
  • .38 percent to fund debt service on the township's purchase of 730 Susquehanna Road.

Commissioner Chet Derr, who voted against the increase, previously stated his belief that the township should instead use money from its $12 million community reinvestment fund instead of paying for the structures through taxes.

"I understand the necessity of these, especially the storm water projects…but we have a fund of 12 million dollars," said Derr at a previous meeting. "We're sitting on a chest full of money. Why not take the money, that was basically community money, and put it into these structures?"

Commissioners countered that using money from that fund could harm the township's credit rating, and also said they believe it is an opportune time to take advantage of low interest rates on loans.

Board votes to rebid Old Fort Washington Elementary

Also on the agenda for the board Tuesday night was a measure to rebid the . Township commissioners said they were not satisfied with the previous bid process, including some ambiguities in the language of the bid, and believe a better result can be achieved.

"By asking this to be rebid, the board believes we can do better at the end of the day for the community, the commissioners, those who are bidding on the project and the historic commission," said Tackel. "Those are the underpinnings of the motion."

"There was some ambiguity in both the receipt of the bid, and in the bid document itself-- it needed to be cleaned up," added Derr. "The bids came in, some pretty good, however there were some issues with the legality of the actual document itself and our advertisement."

Commissioner Chet Derr moved that the board reject all previous bids, and put out a new bid within 45 days. The motion passed unanimously.

The board also said they had received a letter requesting a delay on the final decision from the Greater Abington Township Society of Model Engineers (GATSME), which pays rent to use the building's basement for a large model train track. GATSME also agreed to pay for all utilities and snow removal for the building over the next 90 days, and roughly two dozen members of the organization attended the meeting.

Zoning change at Maple Glen Shopping Center

The board also approved a zoning change at the Maple Glen Shopping Center, which they say will conform the property's zoning to match currently existing structures. Greg Davis, a legal representative for Safeway Corporation, which owns the property, met with the township commissioners in a special public hearing shortly before the meeting.

"Safeway has paid some attention to this property; they put in some new sidewalks, resurfaced the parking lot, made some facade improvements, and they also want to take the opportunity to clean up some of those zoning lines and parcel lines that exist on the property," said Davis.

The changes will convert the property's five lots, some of which are zoned CRL and A-residential, to two SC commercial lots. As it currently exists, some of the 's building actually exists in a residentially-zoned plot.

Commissioner Ron Feldman expressed concerns that this might allow commercial structures to infringe on adjacent residential communities, but township officials stated that the zoning changes will actually better prevent such a situation, as commercial zoning requires larger setbacks.

The zoning changes were passed unanimously.

The meeting also saw the retirement of board president Robert Pesavento, who stepped down after a 20 year career. Check back with Patch soon for more.

Joe Koenig December 15, 2011 at 12:47 AM
We should not be borrowing anything considering the economic times, regardless of interest rates. YOU STILL HAVE TO PAY IT BACK!!! The bond rating is irrelavent if we do not BORROW!!! Use 50% of the fund to PAY for what we need. You guys live in a vaccum. You keep doing the same thing over and over, INSANITY!!! Storm management is very important, but keeping the township an affordable place to live is paramount. Between this increase, the School districts increase, and the County's tax increase, we are looking at a 10% increase in total taxes. The credit card is maxed out. But I guess the residents don't care, you guys keep getting reelected. I give up, but will keep on posting.
Bob Pesavento December 15, 2011 at 12:43 PM
Joe, In 20 years as a Commissioner I have never seen you at a single budget hearing nor at any Commissioner meetings for that matter. The article says homes "valued at" but that is incorrect. The taxes are levied on the assessed amount of a home which is currently about 60% of the "value". The average assessed home in Upper Dublin will see an increase of $1.10 per week in taxes (a half Venti cup of Starbucks coffee) and all of that is for capital projects, primarily stormwater. Absent any grants, the Board DOES intend to use millions of dollars in the fund balance for the flood control project and you would have known that if you attended a budget meeting. Please come to a meeting sometime and tell the Board what services should be eliminated. They want to hear these suggestions. Trash (and snow plowing since those are the same trucks)? Leaf collection? Police layoffs? Cut funding of the Fire Company? Close the library on weekends (184,000 visitors in 2010)? My point is that unless you have studied the operation of the township, attended some meetings to get an understanding of the issues and so forth, other than just newspaper/web stories, you will not understand the budget. This year a total of two residents not associated with the township attended budget meetings (and they wanted MORE services). No one likes to pay taxes but most don't want those services eliminated either. The Board will welcome your ideas in a meeting so please attend.
Phil Goldstein December 15, 2011 at 01:04 PM
Bob, I knew your response sounded familiar. Because when I questioned you about tax inreases more than a year ago, I received precisely the same response, literally word for word, from you! Did you simply cut and paste from the email you sent me or is this your stock response to anyone who dares question you or the commisioners? Your response to Joe and to me (at the time) was and is incredibly condescending. You never think anything can be cut from the budget. Want an example? Just drive by the Taj Majal which you call the new Fire Dept. building and tell me with a straight face that a more basic design wouldn't suffice! Doesn't matter if we attend meetings - you'll just do whatever the hell you want anyway.
Gerry Lowery December 15, 2011 at 01:21 PM
Unfortunately this is an an accurate statement Phil, and the push back is always spun with the premise that only a cut in services can result if we exercise fiscal responsibility. As someone who has been to a number of meetings, participated as a community liaison and attempted to provide meaningful feedback that was then summarily ignored, I have to agree that it is frustrating
Joe Koenig December 15, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Mr. Pesovento, it's obvious you're not returning as commissioner. You response to me shows your true personality now that you no longer have to kiss the behinds of the electorate. I appreciate all those who serve, whether I agree with them or not. All I said this time and prior is that the majority on the board votes lockstep. A minority suggestion is thrown out of hand, regardless of ts merit. You did not address in your reply to me, Mr. Derr's suggestion that we use some of the reserve to pay for the flood remediation issue. Nor did you acknowledge that if we do not borrow, the bond rating has little or no effect to the Township. Nor ddid you explain why the TRUMP FIRE HOUSE needed to be built in such a manner. But you are correct, I have not been a steady attendee of the meetings. I will try to get to more and see it that changes anything. From the above comments, I doubt it. You are correct, no matter how much $$ you spend, and how much you raise taxes, you'll (D) get reelected. So faar the residents(on the whole) are not concerned. P.S. I got involved a year and a half ago, after Mr. Obama won the Presidency. I have attended various township meeting since then, but obviously not enough.
We are all Upepr Dublin December 15, 2011 at 07:23 PM
So let me follow your last paragraph...if the VP of Finance at any local company who happens to reside in Upper Dublin doesn't come to a meeting and watch the 7 members talk, then that resident will not understand the budget? Did you seriously just type that?
We are all Upepr Dublin December 15, 2011 at 09:09 PM
I would like everyone who is upset about paying more in taxes, even though the economy is in a recession, to browse on over to Hatboro-Horsham Patch and see today's page about Horsham Council holding the line on taxes in their meeting this week. I guess you get what you vote for Upper Dublin...we have a lopsided majority that ignores common sense. Why is Upper Dublin raising taxes at a rate 5 times that of neighboring Horsham? Last time I checked, the homes in Horsham were just as nice as those in Upper Dublin. That seems to leave more fiscally sound management over in Horsham as the answer. Maybe instead of telling residents to attend your meetings to tell you what to do, you should reach out to those communities that get it right and ask them for advice.
Phil Goldstein December 15, 2011 at 10:37 PM
I raised this issue with Pessavento a year ago. My question, why, in the midst of a recession, would you build a fire station that looks more like a Four Seasons at the same time the high school is being built? I got the same condescending response that Joe got above - literally word for word. His answer was school taxes and township taxes are separate entities. Right, Bob - just ask our wallets where the $$ is coming from. A number of charming townships like Lower Gwynedd, Whitpain and as noted, Horsham, have done much to hold the line on taxes. But not Upper Dublin. Pessavento's arrogance is appalling to me and should be to all UD residents. God forbid our commissioners should reach out to neighboring townships for ideas on alternative options. You might learn something.
danny roturra December 16, 2011 at 01:28 AM
bob, just go away...you've done enough damage. in terms of understanding the budget, your increases demonstrate succinctly you don't since it keeps growing in a time it should be cut. please don't lecture joe or anyone else with your pseudo authoritarian posture. you haven't earned it...
Phil Goldstein December 16, 2011 at 12:47 PM
As I read my Ambler Gazette this AM I see articles indicating that the township tax rate increase of 5.91% and the school board proposes an additional 4.47% tax increase for 2-12-13 fiscal year. An editorial slams the commissioners for lack of transparency in the budget process. And I read with interest, but no surprise, that Whitpain township has approved NO increase in its township budget for the second straight year. And yet, I also read that Bob Pessavento gets an ovation at the conclusion of the township meeting last night. In the words of Ricky Waters, I ask simply this: "For who, for what?"
Joe Koenig December 16, 2011 at 12:51 PM
To be fair Phil (and it pains me) Abington is raising their taxes about the same %. It shouldn't be personal, it makes our comments less credible, (although funnier).
Truthseeker December 16, 2011 at 03:51 PM
Here's how it works: 1) Township Manager Paul Leonard decides he wants something (such as the palatial firehouse across from the high school and trails that nobody uses.) 2) Neighbors and residents come to meetings to object to the expense and the neccessity of it (especially in a recession.) 3) The commissioners have already decided they will do what Leonard wants. 4) Some of them appear to listen to residents; others like Pesavento just try to make it personal and denigrate the resident who has the utter gaul to question the latest "plan." 5)the commissioners might commission a study that backs up Leonard's plan. 6)They vote it in. 7) When questioned by residents why they don't represent the people who voted them into office, they say they are doing "what's good for the whole township." Never mind that those who elected them have to pay for, and live with the consequences. 8)Taxation without representation is the name of the game.
Phil Goldstein December 16, 2011 at 04:09 PM
Joe, I know that some townships are raising taxes, and all of us want high quality, top end services for UD. I, like Truthseeker above, just really object to the process. He's exactly right on how this works. The commissioners seem to forget a very basic fact - they work FOR US, not the other way around. I just really resent the condescension that is well documented on this thread and other threads relating to township taxes.
alex December 17, 2011 at 03:09 PM
I think people forget that there is a lawsuit filed currently against The Township,(Mermelstein, Pesavento, Leonard and others) by Peter Penna. I hope that when Penna wins That there will be a Grand Jury investagation just like County Commissioner Matthews faced!!!!
Dorothy Parker December 17, 2011 at 08:52 PM
Truthseeker, You are completely correct about the process. In addition, expensive research has been undertaken for a number of pet projects (e.g., Mermelstein's insistence that the community needs a warm water pool, Tackel's insistence that community wi-fi was necessary) with no accountability for those expenses. Further, every bit of information provided to township residents is very tightly controlled by the township manager, the board of commissioners, and the township solicitor. The failure to disclose proposed budgets fully (as reported in this week's Ambler Gazette editorial) was no accident. Unfortunately, UD residents don't get very involved by attending township meetings. However, those who have done so know that their efforts are futile, and, as Truthseeker says, have suffered personal attacks from commissioners. The UD Democratic Committee has sat silently, permitting such behavior from various commissioners (notably, Pesavento and Mermelstein) for years, and they are equally to blame for the embarrassment the Board of Commissioners has become under their leadership.

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