Is a “Rain Tax” on the way?

Is a “Rain Tax” on the way?

Is a “Rain Tax” on the way?

At the West Goshen Board meeting on 4/12/17 there was a statement made regarding a “Rain Tax” (better known as a Stormwater Fee or Clean Water Management Fee) being considered by the township on all property owners. This was refuted by the township who was referencing campaign materials being distributed by Republican candidate Margie Swart.

It was stated by the Board chairman as not being set and that they were weighing their options due to a change in the state law. Specifically, PA HB-1325 (now ACT 62) which now allows a 2nd Class Township to charge fees without the need to form a separate authority. They also referenced having to abide by the permitting requirements.

“The Township has not received the MS4 permit yet. The township board will not be in a position to decide what programs will need to be implemented to meet the permit requirements,” stated Board Chairman Ed Meakim.

Sounds reasonable, right?

Yet, there is a small catch. Simply the DEP does not set the fee or decide what programs the township needs to implement according to a representative from the DEP Clean Water Bureau. And the MS4 Permit requirements have been out for some time and can be found on the DEP website.

 

The DEP stated the Township will need to decide what programs on their own. This would include whatever equipment, ie street sweeper, that needs to be purchased. The township is due to have its application delivered to the DEP by September 16, 2017 for implementation in 2018.

To hit the ground running in 2018, they will have to decide quickly on what programs/measures they want to implement by September. Programs that the board chairman’s statement suggest ARE NOT happening. You would think with all that is going on in the Township with Sunoco, the sewer plant, and bond issues someone should be looking into a plan. Turns out they already were.

“Our funding strategy from the get go with our elected officials, our 5 board of supervisors, was to establish an Authority fee. As soon as the 2012 legislation was passed that was our go ahead to establish it…. We plan on assessing a quarterly storm water fee, just as they will (referring to West Chester Borough),” WGT Manager. (Villanova 2015 Stormwater Symposium)

In October 2015 the Township already had a plan in place for charging the very fee we are discussing. The Township manager, with the full support and knowledge of the Board of Supervisors, presented the Township’s plans regarding the charging of the this Stormwater Fee. The Board that included at that time, Ray Halvorsen, Phil Corvo, and Sewer Authority Chairman Ted Murphy (all candidates for the 2017 primary) knew about this desire to begin charging a fee.

Mr. LaLonde even talked about their desire for HB-1352 to be decided allowing 2nd Class Townships to charge the fee without forming an Authority. They were all for it. The township even approved to pay HRG Engineering $46,715 to set up the Stormwater Authority and implement the fee, which seems to be at odds with Mr. LaLonde’s statement of only spending $14,000 at the Villanova forum.

So when we talk about open and honest government, should residents really believe all that they are being told by Township officials? I do not! Due, in large part, to the fact that I have been involved in several non-disclosure issues over the years with West Goshen officials.

The costs are inflated do to the Township wanting to establish the Stormwater Authority at that time. But Mr. LaLonde was hopeful that HB-1352 would take out the provision to allow for the Township to bill directly. The costs could be lower but as we all know Townships rarely go in the opposite direction when taking money from residents. Just look at the Sewer Authority bond issue for an example.

The estimate as described by the township manager of $1.2 million is based on the establishment of a separate authority. Now that it is not required by law, we don’t need all the extras included in the original draft. Including the $367,633 administration fee which would be charging taxpayers for the privilege of paying their bill. Not to mention all the associated costs for audits, solicitor fees, engineer fees, cell phones, billing software (Township already has) office supplies, postage, etc. We have a full time engineer on staff. What extra fees are needed?

We can achieve our stormwater goals without all the added expense to taxpayers. One West Chester Borough bill was over $100 quarterly. Currently we have a surplus in our General Fund which sits at around $9 million. The cost for equipment can be taken from this fund. We can do this smarter for the residents. The only requirement would be to hire a few people to work the equipment, or to simply train staff already working for the Township that have nothing else to do.

We need to stop keeping information from residents and give them the facts. People deserve, at the bare minimum, to know the truth!

On full video, fast forward to the 38:00 minute mark for the West Goshen Presentation

Follow this link to see what the law actually says as passed in 2016. Whatever measures the township is waiting on could have something to do with the election. If voters got wind of a new fee being pushed, than the hopes of Mr. Halvorsen, Mr. Corvo, and Mr. Murphy for re-election may be diminished. The turn “MAY” assess does not require them to charge a fee; it only allows for the ability to do it.

“…a township may assess reasonable and uniform fees…”

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