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Delaware Gets Fiscal House In Order

Delaware Gets Fiscal House In Order, Cuts Taxes
Pike County Dispatch - Thursday, December 20, 2012
By:  Lisa Mickles

DINGMANS FERRY - Delaware Township supervisors approve their $1.5 million budget and even approved a .75 mill tax decrease while also changing the tax collector's compensation.

At last Wednesday's meeting, the supervisors unanimously approved the budget with the option to reopen it in January.

"This budget is the most concise and accurate budget done by office staff," said Chairman Tom Ryan while noting that the budget was not completed by any supervisors or volunteers as it was done in the past.

A half mill was reduced from recreation, which will now be set at 1.5mills with the general fund reduced by a quarter of a mill.  Ryan said they are being conservative this year since there are still unknowns regarding expenses.  He also noted that the general fund was actually reduced by an additional 1 mill since last year's reduction was funded through a settlement through Blue Ridge Cable (BRC).

By paying off the mortgage for Akenac Park, the township is also now debt-free without having to dip into reserve funds.  The supervisors agreed to pay off the 15-year mortgage loan early, which saves the township an estimated $11,000 in annual interest fees.

Supervisor Thaddeus Parsell who is officially retired as the Roadmaster, said that the first mortgage was for 20 years, and he never thought the $1 million purchase would be paid off in five years.

The board also approved a resolution for tax collector compensation that will take effect in the years 2014 through 2017.  Currently, Tax Collector Mary Lou Corbett receives a 5 % surcharge for taxes collected for the Township.

The resolution now states that the first 1,000 taxable parcels shall be at a flat rate of $4,447.53 in the first year and go up slightly for the following three years.  Compensation for over 1,000 parcels shall be at the rate of $1.70 each.

Corbett said after the meeting that the new resolution effectively reduces her collection rate by more than half.  She said her current compensation equates to $40,000, which only included municipal taxes.  Delaware Valley School District and the county already pay a flat rate comparable to the resolution approved by the supervisors.

BLUE RIDGE CABLE

The supervisors took public comment regarding how people wanted the township to proceed in negotiating a franchise agreement with BRC.

Currently, BRC collects a 3% fee from the user that is reimbursed to the township, which equates to around $75,000 per year. 

For several years, the Township did not have a formal agreement with BRC.  The township has been in negotiations with the cable company and sought input from BRC on areas that are not covered. 

In a phone interview, Ryan said that as of Monday, negotiations with BRC have broken down.

YEAR END REVIEW

Ryan provided an overview of the progress over the last year.  He commended the staff on their due diligence in cutting and keeping expenses down.  He said when he and Office Manager Barbara Foos began looking over the finances early this year, they discovered non of the funds had FDIC coverage in addition to not receiving any interest on over $2 million in the reserves and general fund.  He said all of the funds were commingled and the accounts disorganized.  Recreation and payroll had separate accounts in the same condition and the checking accounts had not been reconciled since October 2011, which took many months to correct.  Ryan said Sharon Franks was an asset in helping to organize the office.

He said in August they hired Krista Predmore as Assistant Office Manager and later appointed her as Financial Manager and grant writer.  She also serves as the Township's legislative liaison.  Predmore has also successfully completed training and testing to become the notary for the Township.  "Over the past year much has been accomplished by the entire team here in Delaware Township," said Ryan.  For complete story, get this week's issue.

Parsell Retires As Roadmaster

Parsell Retires As Roadmaster; Was Last Working Supervisor
Pike County Dispatch  - Thursday, December 6, 2012
By Lisa Mickles

DINGMANS FERRY — After 29½ years of service, Supervisor Thaddeus Parsell will retire as the township’s roadmaster.

At last Wednesday’s township supervisors meeting, Chairman Tom Ryan said that they received a letter from Parsell announcing his resignation as overseer for the township’s road department.

Ryan jokingly said that it only took him 10 months to accomplish the task.

This means that Delaware Township will no longer have any working supervisors, something that was a sticking point for many residents since in the past all three supervisors, which included Ileana Hernandez as township secretary/ treasurer and Bob Luciano as administrative assistant, worked for the township.

Parsell will walk away with a nice pension package from his salary of $58,000 that would equate to $24,000 in annual retirement payments through the state’s pension plan.

This will be in addition to the $20,000 he already received through Equivest, the township’s prior pension plan. Parsell has waived his right to participate in the township’s insurance plan and will now be covered under Medicare Advantage Plan.

Ryan, who replaced Hernandez as township secretary and treasurer without any compensation, also announced that the budget is complete and up for public review. He said there was a substantial surplus despite the fact that last year’s budget was reduced by one mill ($99,000) using Blue Ridge Cable money.

This year’s general fund budget is set at almost $1.5 million with recreation set at $154,000. Ryan said he believes they might be able to lower the millage even more moving forward. The budget will most likely be adopted at their Dec. 12 board of supervisors meeting.

Ryan said they were able to make up for last year’s $99,000 payout from BRC for the millage decrease by reducing expenditures substantially through employee restructuring and by switching the township’s health insurance plan.

The supervisors then proceeded to approve paying off the remaining Akenac Park loan in excess of $250,000 without hitting the reserve account. By paying the 15-year mortgage loan off early, the township will save an estimated $11,000 in annual interest fees.

Parsell said he never thought that the loan would be paid off so quickly when they purchased the property almost 10 years ago. Several grants aided in the purchase... for complete story, get this week's issue.

Teamwork Helped Delaware Cope

Teamwork Helped Delaware Cope with Storm
Pike County Dispatch, Thursday November 8, 2012 (p. 3)
By Ken Baumel

DINGMANS FERRY – Delaware Township supervisor chairman Tom Ryan thanked fellow Supervisors Ted Parsell (Roadmaster) and Bob Luciano for their action following Sandy’s arrival.

Parsell said that he handled clearing road blockages (if live wires were not involved), putting up and taking down road-closed signs, and supervising FEMA/PEMA supply deliveries.

Ryan said that while he stayed at the command center, Luciano went on site whenever or wherever a crisis arose.  Ryan also thanked officials of some of the larger community developments, such as Wild Acres, for their handling of the crisis.

Township officials held a meeting with community development representatives at the center early in the crisis to coordinate emergency needs.  The center also invited representatives to the meeting last Friday.

At that meeting, Ryan updated them on MetEd’s schedule to restore power to the estimated 6,000 residents in the two townships that remained without power as of last Friday.

Supervisors Paul Menditto, representing Lehman, and Pike Sheriff Phil Bueki also attended that meeting.

At that meeting, Ryan said that although some of the community developments in Delaware were well organized during the crisis, some of the smaller ones were not.  He said that it was impossible to find a contact person responsible to make decisions at one development.

Ryan said that one of the first priorities in the post-Sandy assessment process would be to evaluate what worked and what did no work regarding the township EMA plan and regarding the expansion of the township mission into a regional one.

The assessment should address needs of the small community developments that do not have an office, emergency infrastructure, or formal contact person.

Ryan also thanked Township Office Manager Barbara Foos and her assistant Krista Predmore for coordinating 60 volunteers who helped staff the center.

Lloyd said that during the crisis PA Dept. of Agriculture inspected the kitchen.  She announced that the inspector gave the kitchen a clean bill of health regarding safe food handling.

Ryan also said that when he lifted the township state of emergency last Friday, the center has 10,000 food packs left over.  However, even though Delaware emergency center closed, when Lehman Township EMA requested food last Sunday, Ryan coordinated getting some of the remaining food packs to Buskill Fire Dept. firehouse on Evergreen Drive in Lehman Township.  The food helped feed Bushkill and East Stroudsburg residents housed at the firehouse, a regionally designated shelter.

Ryan said that the Delaware center got not reports of loss of life in the coverage area.  Some residents did require medical help.  He thanked Mary Lou Corbett of Delaware Township Ambulance Corps for responding to medical issues that arose during the emergency.  Corbett was at the township building for part of the emergency.

Ryan reported that Corbett helped a man who had no phone service or power and who needed oxygen and a Z-pack (mask).  She also found resources to help a Delaware woman who had no money and food and who required medical attention.

Ryan said that the Delaware crew sent residents needing temporary shelter to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, which housed up to 15 residents at a time, or to Upper Dingman Township Fire House.  The firehouse deployed a flashing sign in a prominent spot in their parking lot on Log Tavern Road announcing their services available, such as food, water, ice, shower and shelter.



Supervisors Talk Tough Times

Delaware Supervisors Talk Tough Times, Taxes to School District
Pike County Dispatch, Thursday November 1, 2012 (pg. 5)
By Lisa Mickles

DINGMANS FERRY – Delaware Township Supervisors met with Delaware Valley School District representatives and urged them to not increase property taxes and to give senior citizens some type of tax reduction since many are struggling and losing their homes.

Supervisor Chairman Tom Ryan asked Delaware Valley School District Superintendent, John Bell, who attended last week’s board of supervisors meeting, to be fiscally responsible during these hard economic times.

“The supervisors are doing their job by holding the line on taxes and attempting to reduce them and we would like the school district to do the same,” said Ryan.

Ryan also spoke about how he was not in favor of the school district building a new Delaware Valley Elementary School (DVES) and said he would like the school district to consider the largest population, the senior citizens, when spending taxpayer money.  He said that they have senior citizens in the township who are losing their homes due to the poor economy and lack of jobs.

“Six years in a row it has been the same tax rate, and we are doing everything to pull it off for a seventh year,” said Bell, “but it is dependent on what Gov. Corbett’s budget looks like since the school district relies on 30 percent of their funding from the state, which is lower than many school district.” 

Bell as well as School Board Director Bill Greenlaw explained about the increased costs associated with employee pension and health insurance requirements that the school district is mandated to pay for as well as why there was a need for a new school to replace the 60 year old elementary school.

Greenlaw explained that the school district is currently required to pay 8 percent of employee salaries (the largest expense in the school budget) towards pensions but as the state allocates less, the school district will be required to pay more.

“Unfortunately, the district is going to be paying not only a higher percentage each year but Pennsylvania will continue to back out of their obligation,”  said Greenlaw.

Bell proceeded to give an overview on enrollment for the Dingman Delaware campus, saying that the district is down over 700 students over the past several years while there has been an increase at the DVES.

He said on November 15 they would be debt-free after building several new schools over the past 20 years due to the growth in population, which began in 1991 with the Dingman Delaware Middle School, followed by the Dingman Delaware Primary School.  Several years later, the district built the Shohola Elementary School and the Delaware Valley Middle School that is adjacent to the high school.

“That was a lot of building for one school district to do,” said Bell noting that it is a huge accomplishment to be debt-free from all of those building projects and commended the school board and business administrator Bill Hessling for accomplishing such a daunting task.

“No one in the area is debt-free…in fact some of the districts have debt of almost $100 million,” said Bell noting that Pocono Mountain and East Stroudsburg School Districts might be closing some of their school buildings.

While the district will be taking on a new loan to build the new DVES, the debt payments will be lower than what is currently being paid, said Greenlaw.  This is because the district has a high credit rating and was able to get a low interest loan, which they plan on paying off in 10 to 15 years to reduce additional charges interest.

Bell said about 46 teachers have retired over the past several years, and the school district did not replace, which has helped hold the line on taxes.

Ryan asked why they did not build the DVES on the current campus, which was estimated at the $17 to $19 million range.  Bell said the new school, which will be located on 40 acres across from Altec Lansing in Milford Township, would cost a total of $23 million.  He said they would have had to shut the school down for a year and it would be difficult to relocate the current student population, which is the highest in the district right now.  It was also mentioned that there are always additional costs associated with constructing on a campus already populated by student and staff not to mention safety concerns. 

Bell said they are currently going through the permit process with Milford Township who gave them a list of 45 requirements for their conditional use permit since the property is located in a residential zone.  He said they have accomplished all but one, which is an emergency ingress and egress area that requires them to negotiate with an adjacent property owner.

Ryan also questioned what the district’s plans are for the property that was purchased across from the Dingman Delaware campus and why they did not consider building the DVES on that property. Bell explained that the ride for kindergarteners from the Mill Rift, Matamoras, and Milford area would require young children to ride in excess of an hour to get to school.

The school district has a cost of about $10,000 per student, which is the 14th lowest out of all 500 school districts in the state.  Bell spoke about an additional cost that is hurting the district.  He said the district is required to pay cyber-charter schools $10,000 for students enrolled in cyber-charter schools while it might only cost the for-profit organization about $3,000 per student.  He urged people to contact legislators since charter schools are receiving a big chunk of money from school districts.  This year it cost the school district in excess of $1 million to fund district students utilizing charter schools that are located in Pennsylvania, outside the state, and even outside the USA.

Bell commended the supervisors on Akenac Park and would like to collaborate with the township in utilizing the area for student activities. 

Ryan said the board is in 100 percent agreement to partner with the school district to use the facilities at Akenac Park.  Currently, the township is waiting to see if they will receive grant money through the Monroe County Share program (gaming funds) to upgrade some of the facilities in the park. 

While neither Bell nor Greenlaw could promise that taxes would not be increased, they did say they would do everything in their power to try to hold the line, noting that as state funding goes down, expenses such as fuel, employee pension and health insurance costs do not.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

The board approved the recreation ordinance that creates a new Recreation Board.  The supervisors are accepting applications for members from interested parties who should contact the office.  The supervisors also appointed Michael Dennehy, Jr. as Pension Fund Trustee, accepted Vector Security’s proposal at less than $1,000 per year to provide a security system to the Emergency Management (EM) Building, Carpentry Unlimited as the lowest bidder to complete work on the EM Building and Pocono Interiors to remove and install carpet.

The board also approved a maintenance agreement for $3,500 to treat and maintain the lake at Akenac Park.  The supervisors are also looking to accept bids for a new water well at the municipal fields.  Supervisor Thaddeus Parsell said the public has not been able to use the water for drinking purposes due to occasional poor reading levels.

Senior citizens and the public are invited to attend the Halloween Party hosted by the Pike County Area Agency on Aging at the municipal building on Tuesday, October 30 from 8 am to 3pm  Building & Parks Director Luis Barrios has volunteered to DJ, special guest star Elvis will attend, and Stroudsburg Radio Commentator Gary Smith will judge the costumes.

The township auditors will hold a meeting on Saturday, November 3 at 9am to discuss the employee pension plans. 

Ryan said the township has been obtaining quotes for employees’ health insurance from different companies, which could reduce their healthcare costs by 40 percent.

The supervisors plan to discuss it at their Wednesday, November 7 workshop meeting starting at 6pm.  The board canceled their November 21 workshop meeting due to the Thanksgiving Holiday.

The next board of supervisors meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 14 beginning at 6 pm at the municipal building located at Wilson Hill Road.

Delaware Twp declares State of Emergency

Public Service Announcement

Sunday, October 28, 2012

DELAWARE TOWNSHIP, Pike County, Pennsylvania – The Delaware Township Board of Supervisors along with the Delaware Township Emergency Management Coordinator, George Beodeker, have declared a State of Emergency. Delaware Township residents should use extreme caution. Yesterday, the Township distributed flyers to the community associations and local businesses encouraging residents to prepare themselves for Hurricane Sandy. Sandy is expected to hit our area this evening and residents should stay off the roads and remain in their homes. Please go to readypa.gov and delawaretownshippa.gov for tips on hurricane preparedness and further updates.

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