Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Budget Blues and Quid Pro Quo in Upper Pottsgrove

Photo by Evan Brandt

State Sen. Robert Mensch, R-24th Dist., discusses the Pennsylvania budget at the Upper Pottsgrove Commissioners Meeting Monday night.

Bob Mensch says this year's budget discussions in Harrisburg may involve the hardest choices he has ever seen in more than a decade in state politics.

Speaking by invitation of the Upper Pottsgrove Township Commissioners Monday night, he said "we've swept all the corners for revenues. We're at the point now where the budget is hinging on gaming and state stories," neither of which has much to offer over the long term.

"State stores, if we do what's being proposed, is a one-time boost and that's it," he said.

"Gaming is not a growth industry," Mensch warned. "Only about 4 percent of the population gambles. We can expand and put more terminals out there, but we're not really doing anything to grow the economy."

"We're at the point now where, as a state, we';re going to face some increasingly difficult decisions about what we fund and what we don't fund," Mensch said.

"Our revenues are down, primarily our business revenues, our business taxes are down, which means that while the national economy is picking up steam, we're not picking up the same steam because we haven't done what we need to do here in Pennsylvania to encourage business," Mensch said.

You can see the full content of Mensch's comments in this video here:

And while the commissioners discussed a number of subjects Monday night, most of which involved more than $300, it perhaps the bill of $300 which was the most newsworthy.

It seems that when a car show was organized and staged in the parking lot of Pottsgrove Middle School a few months ago, organizers were under the impression there would be no charge.

But weeks later, they received an invoice from the district for $300 because a custodian was on duty because the outside-access rest rooms had to be made available for the event.

That did not sit well with the organizers, township recreation and open space committee and ultimately, the commissioners themselves.

They noted that Upper Pottsgrove spends thousands of dollars each year to upgrade, improve and maintain the soccer fields at Hollenbach Park at the expense of just township taxpayers -- fields made available not only free of charge to the school district, which has students from all three Pottsgrove townships -- but fields to which the district has priority of use.

To add insult to what Commissioners Chairman Elwood Taylor called "an affront," public works supervisor Frank Quinter confirmed that the district has not fertilized the soccer fields at Hollenbach as it had promised to do.

"The township spends thousands of dollars on field maintenance for free use by district and they want to stiff us for $300 bucks," said Open Space Committee Chairman Dennis Elliott in what was perhaps the most pithy quote on that subject.

As a result, Elliott said the Open Space Committee has recommended the commissioners begin exploring the idea of charging the school district for the use of the Hollenbach Park fields.

"Well we don't charge any of the other organizations that use those fields so this could get interesting," noted Commissioners Chairman Elwood Taylor.

Instead, he suggested, it might be better for the township and school district to sit down and try to reach some accommodation.

Stay tuned.

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