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Episode 1 Ridley Park Financial Stress - Preface & Table of Contents

Preface

Residents of Ridley Park are customers, clients, Board of Directors, voters and taxpayers. The council members are there to serve the residents’ municipal interests. Residents have full authority to hire and fire council members – it is called voting.

Elected Council members are duty bound to serve all residents of Ridley Park – Republicans, Democrats and all others as well as the family members of these political groups. I do not care if a Councilor is a Republican or a Democrat. I do care if he or she feels duty bound to serve the best interests of Ridley Park as a whole.

I believe that to vote effectively as a resident requires basic understanding of the duties of Council Members.

My objective is to provide residents with basic information about the financial aspects of Ridley Park. I hope this will motivate residents to be more informed when they carry out their duties as voters. I also hope the information motivates a few residents to be interested in running for office of Councilor. I believe that the information I am providing will help prepare candidates for serving as Republican, Democratic or Nonpartisan councilors who will serve the best interests of Ridley Park.

I have spent more than a hundred hours over the past 3 months 1) studying documents on financially troubled Municipalities and 2) analyzing the Auditor’s Reports for the Borough of Ridley Park for the years 2000 to 2009. The 2009 Auditors’ report is now being prepared by the auditors and should be available for public review in April.

I will show Ridley Park’s slide into a very distressed financial position from 2000 to 2007. I will present the financial status at the end of 2007 that can best be described as on the brink of a devastating financial abyss.

I will tell the story of the struggle to stay solvent over the period from January 2008 to December 2009.

I will reveal the root of the problem in the Blog. I will recommend solutions that may not be popular but may be essential to mitigate the problem. If desired, I will hold town meetings to discuss the Blog episodes and answer questions on how I have reached my “Ridley Park Financial Stress” blog title. I will welcome critical factual comments and constructive suggestions. I will not participate in “off the top of the head” political distortions and spin on the facts.

I gave a brief oral report on my study to Borough Council in the Public Workshop Meeting on 2 March 2010. I followed up with a 7 page copy of my analysis and suggestions to Council President Berger and members of the Finance Committee on March 4th, 2010.

I received no comments on my written report until two weeks later when I made public comments at the Public Council Meeting on March 16, 2010.

Excerpts from Response by Finance Committee Chair Murtha

“Off the top of my head I disagree with a few of the figures.”

“I realize you put a lot of time into it. I do not believe it is completely accurate.”…….. “I have had only this evening to look at it.”

“I would hope that you would not put out information that is inaccurate.”

I was surprised that the Chairperson of Finance Committee would make an “off the top of my head” comment and say “I do not believe it is completely accurate” in a public meeting. She stated “I disagree with some of your figures in particular Sanitation – we did not pay $1.3 M for trash this year or in 2008.” ……… “Your number must be for several years of contracts.”

I was able to collect accurate quotes from the meeting because they are taken from my TIVO recording of the televised broadcast which I have copied on a VHS tape and will transfer to a DVD.

My response to Councilor Murtha’s comments

The Sanitation line item that is in the Auditor’s report for 2008 shows $1,397,257. The Auditor’s report for Sanitation collects expenditures from two sub accounts; 1) $348,846 for Solid Waste collection and Disposal (trash) and 2) $1,012,411 for Wastewater/Sewage Collection & Treatment. The total of the two items is $1,397,257 which is the number she said was for trash. My number for Sanitation is correct. Councilor Murtha’s number for trash was an uninformed "off the top of her head" comment about a sub element of Sanitation.

Councilor Murtha’s number probably came from the Budget Document which is a management tool that is prepared by the Council and has different rules for collecting financial information.

I labeled my charts and said several times in the meetings that I use the Auditors’ reports which are prepared by Certified Public Accountants in accordance with auditing standards generally accepted in the United States of America. The annual audit and financial reports are prepared in conformity with the accounting practices prescribed or permitted by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Councilor Murtha used her position as Finance Committee Chair and used "off the top of her head" incorrect labeling of figures to publicly discredit my report and said “I would hope that you would not put out information that is inaccurate.”

To the best of my ability I have accurately presented facts and data from the Auditor’s reports. I do not use “off the top of my head” information when I deal with important financial information.

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