Since Oct 9, 2005
York Mayor Kim Bracey has proposed a nearly 98 million dollar spending plan for next year that increases property taxes by 13 percent and sewer fees by 15 percent.
The largest spending increase is for the police department with a 7 million dollar (over 40 percent) rise to 23.4 million dollars.
Looming large in the budget plan are plans to buy the property at 101 South George Street for a new City Hall and converting the old City Hall into a new police station.
Pension costs are also on the rise. Meanhwile, a more than 100-thousand dollar cut is planned for the city's human relations commission that involves the elimination of one full-time staff position.
The rise in sewer rates is to help pay off nearly 40 million dollars in debt from sewer projects. In recent years, sewer systems in central Pennsylvania have been forced to spend milions to comply with enviromental regulations related to the Chesapeake Bay.
And who gets to pay the bill to comply with all those big government regulations, sewer customers like you and me.
Your property tax bill for local government (borough and towsnhip) is always a lot less than the school one. So it should come as no surprise that the salaries of top local govenment officials in York County fall short of those for the top offcials of local school districts.
The "York Dispatch" has published the salaries of managers for York County's local governments.
Unlike public education, the newspaper found only two making more than 100-thousand dollars a year. The manager of Spring Garden Township makes just over 117-thousand dollars a year. John Holman, the manager of the highly bureaucratic and regulatory government of Springettsbury Township is the the top money maker. His salary is nearly 126-thousand dollars a year.
Still, that puts Holman's pay under that of dozens of public school superintendents, assistant superintendents and other administrators in York County's school districts.
Its interesting to note that the townships with the highest manager salaries worked together to form York Area United Fire and Rescue and are key participants in the police consolidation study.
Supposedly those efforts are about saving money but the notion that local governments who pay the highest salaries for their managers have a money saving mentality is hard to believe.
In the last days of Ed Rendell's administration, a scramble is on to get Harrisburg under Pennsylvania's Act 47 law. Other financially broke communities in the state like the City Of Reading operate under state supervision with the law. Act 47 cities tighten their belts when it comes to spending but also get power to levy new taxes and Reading has imposed a wage tax on people who live in the suburbs, but work in the city.
There's been talk of tight finances in York in recent years including late pension payments by the city and a downgrading of the city's bond rating.
While those issues have been patched up, there's knowledge that even with tightened spending plus tax or fee hikes, the city's financial situation will worsen in the years to come.
What York's political-business leaders appear to be doing in the face of this is to develop their own plan to deal with city's financial problems under the York Counts-Metro York banner. Their plan is slightly different from Act 47 because it intends to force every suburban taxpayer to bear the burden of paying for city services by consolidating their services with those of the city.
The first services being nudged towards consolidation are the fire and police departments. York City's financial burden is deeply rooted in the costs of its police and fire services, weighted down by massive pension obligations.
A fire department study commissioned for the City of York and released recently calls for the city's fire department to be consolidated with York Area United Fire and Rescue. York Area United was created by elected officials in Springettsbury and Spring Garden townships and has recently expanded beyond those communities to manage the fire service in Manchester Township.
Meanwhile the York Counts police consolidation study is getting underway after more than 70-thousand dollars, most of it taxpayer dollars from Harrisburg, was obtained. The York Chamber of Commerce Foundation also kicked in five thousand dollars with Bob Jensenius of the chamber explaining to the media: "crime is a concern of business."
Nine local governments and five police departments are in on the study with Springettsbury Township, Spring Garden Township, Manchester Township and the City of York prominent among the local governments.
When the police is completed next year it will be used to justify consolidation of police services in York City and nearby suburbs.
Metro York-York Counts, the police study effort and York Area United Fire and Rescue are all pieces of a scheme by York's business and political leaders aimed at bailing out York City with suburban taxpayer dollars.
Two years ago Democrats may have thought that a new day was dawning in York County when Barack Obama got over 40 percent of the vote and carried some areas outside York City.
But a new and higher wave swept over the county last Tuesday. Voter turnout was nearly 48 percent and the results countywide overwhelmingly favored Republicans in contested races.
Pat Toomey picked up just over 67.5 percent of the vote in the U.S. Senate race, while Tom Corbett racked up over 70.5 percent of the vote.
For Congress, Todd Platts picked up nearly 72 percent of the vote with Democrat Ryan Sanders just under 23 percent. Independent Patriot Joshua Monighan received just over 5 percent of the vote.
In the 28th State Senate District incumbent RINO State Senator Mike Waugh got 84 percent of the vote, while 15.6 percent went to Libertarian Ed Gately.
In the contested State House races, all of the incumbent insider Republicans won with over 70 percent of the vote.
Voters sent a message about the leftward drift of the Democrats by overwhelmingly voting for the GOP.
The day of reckoning, if any, for York County's RINO state legislators will have to wait for the primary election in the spring of 2012. For now, they have time to clean up their acts and stop the business as usual taxing and spending that's now going on in Harrisburg.
York County Commissioners have voted 2-1 to hire a newspaper reporter as the county's commuinications director.
Carl Lindquist of the "York Dispatch" will become a spokesman for county government and oversee the county's website, among other duties.
Republican commissioners Steve Chronister and Chris Reilly voted in favor of hiring Lindquist at an annual salary of 58-thousand dollars. Voting against was Democrat commissioner Doug Hoke.
In these tough economic times, this is not a wise decision to create a new government job at taxpayer expense. Is it linked to the election campaign next year? Doug Hoke and the Democrats will certainly be able to make it an election issue.
Media front people are the rage nowadays in government right down to the school district level. They block direct communication between goverment officials and the media, not to mention the people.
This is a truly sad decision.
There's a tighter cap on property tax increases in next year's school district budgets. One example is the York Suburban School District where there's a 1.4 percent property tax increase cap.
York Suburban Superintendent Kathryn Orban tells the "York Dispatch" that the district is going to be making 'some hard decisions.'
With that in mind, the public is being invited to a meeting Saturday November 13th in the high school cafeteria at 9 AM.
Orban says the district is looking for ideas that will save money but not hurt students.
Let there be no doubt that spending on salaries and benefits is the biggest part of York Suburban's nearly 50 million budget.
If the teachers union can be convinced to forgo the three percent or so pay increase next year, savings of well over half a million dollars could be realized.
If the administration could be convinced to forgo any pay hikes, savings could top 100-thousand dollars.
It is apparent that the York Suburban School Board is working feverishly to have a budget plan in place early next year well ahead of the budget year's July 1st start.
Thi is so that the incumbent board members can look as good as possible when it comes to spending taxpayers money. Opposition candidates are expected to face them in the May primary election.
The choices for Congress, State Senate and State House in York County offer mostly business as usual politicians with a smattering of wild card libertarians running as third candidates.
Liberal Democrat Ryan Sanders is the latest big party challenger to face the formidable RINO-Moderate incumbent Congressman Todd Platts in the 19th Congressional District.Platts is still mentioned prominently as "pro-life" by the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation in its voter guide, but not as prominently as other candidates.
That's because Platts only votes the Pro-Life side just over half the time. Democrat Sanders wouldn't answer their questions.
The statewide pro-life group ignored third candidates and maintained its policy of featuring big party politicians, especially Republican ones in its voter guide.
The third candidate on the ballot in the 19th Congressional District is the libertarian oriented Joshua Monighan who is running on the Independent Patriot label.
Monighan stresses freedom for property owners, gun owners as well as limited government. He also takes a Pro-Life position.
Incumbent Republican State Senator Mike Waugh has been taking powerful special interest money from people outside of York County since his 1998 GOP primary contest. Now, Waugh is now fifth in line among GOP Senate leaders in Harrisburg as he seeks his fourth term.
Senator Waugh marches in lockstep with tax and spend pork barrel Republican leaders like Senate President Pro-Tem-acting Lieutenant Governor Joe Scarnati and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi. Waugh deals with Democrat Ed Rendell and Democrat leaders in the State House to pass budgets that increase spending and or raise taxes.
Waugh also takes a Pro-Abortion position according to the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, contrary to public statements Waugh has made claiming to be "Pro-Life."
Opposing Waugh this year is Libertarian candidate Ed Gately, stressing the need to reform Harrisburg. Gately is also advocating the elimination and replacement of property taxes.
Gately has told the Pennsylvania Family Council that he would support state pro-life legislation if Roe vs. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court. Waugh told that group he's opposed.
The York City Human Relations Commission would like to spend 315-thousand dollars next year, up from 258-thousand this year.
But when York Mayor Kim Bracey spoke at a city budget hearing last Wednesday, she said its time to consider whether to disband the commission or make it a volunteer organization.
Bracey said the service provided by the city's commission is duplicated by the state's human relations commission based in Harrisburg.
Speaking in defense of the commission that takes complaints and judicially resolves cases of discrimination in employment, housing and public accomodations was its executive director Stephanie Seaton.
Seaton said it would be a barrier for complainants to travel to Harrisburg. She also said the city commission deals with cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation which the state doesn't.
Under questioning from the mayor, Seaton acknowledged that the commission only handled two such cases so far this year. Bracey suggested that such a small number of cases provided little justification for spending hundreds of thousands on the human relations commission.
Tight times are forcing a tightening of belts and cities like York are running out of time and money. The York Counts scheme and or Act 47 may be in the city's future as the big leaders scramble to aovid an eventual bankruptcy of the city.
His contract was set to expire the middle of next year, the middle of a school board election year, but Southern York School District Superintendent Thomas Hensley has been reappointed for three additional years.
The school board voted to extend Hensley's contract from July 1, 2011 to June 20, 2014.
Hensley told the "York Daily Record" that contract terms are the same as before. That would mean Hensley is guaranteed a minimum five percent a year pay raise contingent on a "satsfactory or better evaluation rating for the preceding school year."
His salary for the 2010-2011 school year is 178,744 dollars a year.
The taxpayers get it again with the issue of this superintendent's high pay and high pay raises locked up out of the reach of any new fiscally responsible school board candidates who may be elected next year.
When Dover's school board meets Monday night, a discussion of strategy for next year's budget is on the agenda.
Ahead of the meeting, board member Roger Gorman says he'd like to see a budget without a tax increase. The "York Dispatch" quotes Gorman as saying: "Why are we looking at increasing millage in the second year of no inflation?"
What do these words mean?
Make no mistake, next year is a school board election year with York County's 912 Patriots involved. There is a state inflation index of 1.9 percent for any property tax hike. Any move to go over that limit and seek an exemption from the state would anger taxpayers.
Dover is under contract to give teachers pay raises of around 3 percent guaranteeing a 1.5 percent increase in its budget for just that item alone.
Business as usual tax and spend board members will have to talk tough about taxes and spending to look good for the May 2011 primary election.
Another school board re-election trick that may be pulled in Dover and other school districts next year is the use of reserve funds already taken from taxpayers in previous year's property tax hikes.
The reserve money could be tapped to reduce or eliminate property tax increases for the school board election year.
The Oley Valley School District took a couple of months to investigate the false police report allegation against South Eastern Superintendent Tracy Shank, but in the end they approved her employment as assistant superintendent in a 5-3 vote.
Shank's attorney Brian Boland says she plans to start work Monday. Her contract includes a clause that she will automatically resign if convicted on the police report charge.
The laywer who represents Oley Valley as solicitor says that South Eastern's solicitor told him the district would release Shank's commission to enable her employment at Oley Valley.
These moves do not resolve the dispute over Tracy Shank's July resignation letter, which was rejected by the South Eastern School Board in August.
Board president Ralph Marston said he was happy that Shank was getting the job and said the dispute was not an attempt to prevent her from moving on. Marston wants her resignation to exclude 60-thousand dollars in severance pay.
Shank's resignation was part of a series of administration departures from the district in the wake of an outside lawyer's investigation into South Eastern's administration.
The investigation was ordered by a school board that has come under the domination of an organization calling itself the "South Eastern Taxpayer Reform Coalition." Some say the SETRC is a vehicle for the teachers union to control the district.
This a matter for concerned patriots-citizens in South Eastern to deal with in the coming school board election year.
It was over a month ago when I was sitting at the break room table with a couple of Vietnam vets talking about a letter they got from State Representative Ron Miller (R-93rd District).
They were invited to get a medal and be honored last Thursday October 7th in a 1 pm ceremony at the York Expo Center. Hundreds were honored with family members in attendance bringng the crowd to over a thousand.
The ceremony was sponsored by York County's state representatives like Democrat Eugene Depasquale and Republicans Scott Perry, Ron Miller, Stan Saylor, Keith Gillespie, Seth Grove and Will Tallman. And that's where the whole thing starts to smell very fishy. This honor was being given less than a month before an election by incumbent elected officials. These vets are now in the their 60's and older, the group of people who vote more often than others.
Coincidence, I doubt it...
Representative Miller, who had a tough primary election fight and faces Democrat opposition on election day, said Representative Perry's service in Iraq delayed the ceremony. But when it was finally scheduled, it was timed perfectly for election season. While its certainly a good idea to honor veterans who served in a war that bipartisan politicians ran so they wouldn't allowed to win it like World War II, the bispartisan politicians now choose to exploit them just before the election.
Wouldn't it have been a better idea to have honored them on Veterans Day (Thursday November 11th). But that would have been too late for York County's state reperesntatives looking for re-election on November 2nd.
Another incumbent politician looking for re-election was in attendance at the ceremony, Congressman Todd Platts (R-19th District).
The inflation index caps for York County's school property tax hikes next year are going to be around half of what they were this year.
The lower caps include York City's dropping from 4.6 percent to 2.2 percent, Central York's from 3.5 to 1.7 percent, Dallastown's from 3.4 percent to 1.6 percent and West York's from 3.6 percent to 1.8 percent.
What does this mean for the tax and spend habits of York County's business as usual school boards in a school board election year? It will likely mean some tricky maneuvers to appease voters.
When a typical school district decides to give teachers and other employees a three percent pay hike, they have also decided on a 1.5 percent budget increase for the next school year.
Under Pennsylvania's Act 1 law, school districts can ask for exemptions to allow a larger property tax hike for special education, pension payments and other reasons.
It will be interesting to see if any districts try that route to pay for their rising costs driven primarily by pay and benefits.
But another more interesting way to keep property tax hikes down is to tap into reserve funds.
Dallastown School District, where there will be a major political fight for school board next year, has already made major additions to its reserve funds at taxpayer expense. That prompted questions from taxpayers at a school board meeting earlier this year.
Maybe reserve funds will be used in Dallastown and other districts as a political weapon to defend business as usual board members when the budget plans are finalized for the next school year? They can keep property tax hikes down covered by reserve money.
The Scholastic Aptitude Test scores from York County's students in the class of 2010 are out. They show slight increases in Verbal, Math and Writing categoies with the averages 491 for Verbal, 503 for Math and 476 for Writing.
The average scores for York County are slightly below the statewide averages.
In the troubled York City School District, the Verbal average jumped from 389 to 405, but Math fell from 417 to 408. Meanwhile the writing score went from 374 to 377.
The York Suburban School District's academic tradition continues to show with its average scores highest among the public schools. They were 545 for Verbal, 559 for Math and 534 for Writing.
York Catholic High School students averaged 542 for Verbal, 521 for Math and 542 for Writing.
Teacher pay rates did not automatically determine the highest average scores and one major non-public school (York Catholic) where teachers are paid less was right up there with York Suburban in the quality of its average scores.
Lets hope education can be focused in the years to come on math and writing skills, instead of diversity, obesity and other diversions. Keeping political agendas and ideology out of schools and securing better educational quality at lower cost should be priorities.
For York City's schools, security is a vitally important concern as well.
A Hannah Penn Middle School teacher was assaulted by a student Monday afternon, according to police.
The police report says that teacher Brian Fay was attacked by a female student who hit him in the head with a book, threw her shoes at him and punched him in the face.
The student is being charged with aggravated assault as a juvenile.
This is the third known incident of violence in York City schools in the last three weeks.
Meanwhile, York City School Board President Sam Beard has told the media why the firing of Superintendent Sharon Miller was justified.
Last Sunday, The "York Sunday News" printed Beard's view that the thousands of suspensions of students and thousands of students being sent to the office were bad policy. Beard claimed the disciplinary actions prevented the students from getting an education.
The real problems preventing education in the York City School District include the disruptive and violent students who deny themselves an education. But the out of control students also intimidate staff and other students with their behavior. That disrupts education for all students.
Mr. Beard is either in denial of these problems with his attitude about discipline or a believer in some sort of Marxist-Leninist theory that racism, capitalism or society in general bear responsibility for unruly students.
Beard and other members of the radical racial majority on the school board have already denied security officers the use of pepper spray or handcuffs to deal with violent students.
Their anti-discipline attitude makes bad worse. Safety and security for students and staff of city schools are threatened by the radical majority of school board members.
There was no doubt in my mind when Springettsbury Township supervisors teamed up with Spring Garden Township commissioners to launch the York Area United Fire and Rescue Service that this was a move to eventually implement the consolidation of fire departments in and around York City.
A few months ago, it was announced that York Area United will manage the fire service of Manchester Township upon the retirement of its fire chief.
This week, it was revealed what the next step could be with major financial implications for suburban York taxpayers.
A study of York City's fire department, commissioned by former York City mayor and York Counts-Metro York supporter John Brenner, is now out calling for the merging of the city fire department with York Area United in 2012.
Its no secret that York City is headed for the same financial fate as Harrisburg, Reading and other Pennsylvania cities. On Friday, it was announced that Harrisburg will have its government operations overseen by the state under Act 47.
What appears to be happening in York is that powerful community leaders like Louis Appell, Tom Wolf, Tom Donley and others are pushing the York Counts agenda to bailout the city by merging its departments with the suburbs.
This agenda, if it succeds, will drive up the taxes of suburban residents to pay for the city's financial burdens led by its generous pensions. The wealth of York County will be "redistributed" to the city.
Tea Party-Patriot activists should take note of the situation and involve themselves in Spring Garden, Springettsbury and Manchester township's governments. There are supervisor-commissioner elections next year.
A hearing was held before District Justice John Olwert on Thursday in connection with the charge against Tracy Shank, currently embroiled in a dispute over her resignation as South Eastern School District's superintendent.
Stewartstown police officer Jeffry Carey, who serves as a 'resource officer' for the school district, testified that Shank told him she was being followed by a car that had been outside a friend's house and her own home. Carey said that Shank later told her the car had been on school district property.
Carey then followed up on the license plate number that Shank had given him and spoke with car's owner, who is a neighbor of Shank's. The owner told Carey he didn't know where the school district was located and the man and his car didn't match the description given by Shank.
Under questioning by defense attorney Joshua Lock, Carey said he didn't consider filing a false report charge until five months later. That's when the attorney hired by the school district to investigate Shank and other school district administrators, Michael Levin, gave him a copy of his deposition of Shank. Lock said according to the "York Dispatch": "Who's calling the shots around here? It apears as if somebody else is intervening." Lock was referring to the school board and attorney Levin.
Lock got Carey to acknowledge that Shank did not wish to pursue the investigation a few weeks after it started. He also argued that since Shank did not ask for anyone to be charged, she should not be accused of filing a false report.
District Justice Olwert ruled that the case can proceed to a trial.
School "resource officers" like Mr. Carey are police department employees who do work in the school districts. Sometimes their police departments are paid by the school districts for their services. Is there a financial string tugging at the officer's decision to file the charge against Shank? Perhaps the school district pulling out of using the services of his department if he doesn't do what the school board or its lawyer wants?
York City Police have cited a York High student for harrassment after an attack Monday morning.
Police say that Jessica Ann Pena was punched in the forehead causing a bruise and swelling.
Security officers in city schools should have all the tools they need in case of fighting. The failure of the new school board to give them handcuffs and pepper spray endangers the safety and security of everyone in school buildings.
In the face of a countywide movement aimed at school district spending habits, the Central York School District appeared to be in an appeasing mode with its contract offer that was approved by teachers almost two weeks ago (Tuesday September 14th).
The board made the new three year deal official with its 7-2 vote last Monday night. The teacher pay raise for this school year is 2.5 percent, the second year is also 2.5 percent, while the third year includes a 2.25 percent pay hike.
When Central teachers met to vote on the deal earlier this month, it was said that there were some unhappy faces in attendance.
These pay raises are a little lower than other school districts in the area giving a sense of trying to appease voters ahead of next year's school board election. Board members who may be trying to defend their re-election next year can use this contract along with the one percent plus increase in teacher work hours this year as excuses for saying they are fiscally responsible.
But voters will have to take a look at the broader record including the building agenda of the school district and some incumbent board members which included the palacial high school building, the pool and artificial turf on the football field.
This building agenda has been costly to Central taxpayers and set an example that other school districts feel the need to imitate with their own pools and artificial turf fields. The burden of Central York's spending decisions has reverberated to the detriment of taxpayers in other York County districts.
The West York School District's plans for a facilities steering committee to consider tens of millions of dollars in new building