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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 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 G. 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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