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Letter to Ridley Park Residents from Joe Yorke, former Council President
The current Council President Bob Berger has made many false statements concerning the previous Council and the finances of the Borough. Bob’s a nice guy but that doesn’t entitle him to rewrite history.
Most of the data presented in Bob’s letter was from the Preliminary Budget approved December 1, 2009. A lot changed since then. When Bob Berger, Nick Miccarelli, Perry Artese, and Hank Eberle decided to reorganize the Council and make Bob Berger Council President on December 15, 2009, they assumed responsibility for making sure that money was properly transferred into the Borough’s accounts. This was not done. In addition, all bills for 2009 were paid without using the $400,000 for a Tax Anticipation Note. However, in case it was necessary, Jeanne put the $400,000 loan in the Final 2010 Budget that was first advertised on December 8, 2009 and remained in all subsequent Budget revisions. Don’t blame Jeanne if Bob didn’t call a Special Meeting to approve a Tax Anticipation Note.
The fact of the matter is that the prior Council made many improvements to the Borough’s finances in the last two years. All outstanding bills were paid up-to-date; reimbursed $543,000 to Liquid Fuel Funds to satisfy State Auditors; saved $80,000 a year by switching insurance companies; had $7,000 surplus after deficit spending of $910,000 over an eight year period; refinanced the new Police Station because no funds were available to make the contracted $900,000 balloon payment; submitted proper paperwork to the State that removed Red Flags from all State grants allowing grant money to be received once again; instituted purchase order system as recommended by auditors; upgraded financial software for first time in decades; and, updated insurance policies by removing vehicles no longer in the fleet, staff no longer employed by the Borough, and by including the new police station that had gone nearly a year without insurance coverage.
In addition, the prior Council provided much needed maintenance to buildings and equipment and made significant infrastructure improvements. These included structural repairs to the Rosemont Avenue footbridge amounting to over $400,000; renovations to the Borough offices, Council Chambers, and Community Room including new HVAC, electrical, and painting; replacement of Tome Street Tot Lot including new drainage system; added lakeside footpath; continued improvements to the Business District; maintained, purchased, or repaired vehicles and equipment for police and highway departments; dredged sediment basin; cleaned out debris from dam area for first time in five years; provided over $500,000 of roadway resurfacing; requested AMTRAK to repair storm water inlet on W. Hinckley Ave., PENNDOT to repair inlet on Swarthmore Ave., and CSX/PECO to provide screening to tracks behind E. Rodgers Street; returned the wasteful street sweeper; and, applied for over $2 million in Federal and State grants.
The present Council just approved the 2010 Final Budget that has a total tax increase of 8.3% for a property assessed at $110,000 with no additional money going into the Capital Reserve Fund. This is the largest total tax increase since 2004. The prior Council recommended bare-bones Final Budget on December 21, after incorporating input from Bob Berger that had a 4.8% total tax increase. Jeanne even explained how there would be an additional revenue source of $22,018 from State and County grants but the majority refused to accept this. When this money comes to the Borough, it should be placed in the Capital Reserve Fund.
The present Council must realize that we are in a great recession and should put off major capital expenditures until the economy improves. The debt must be restructured to take advantage of the exceptionally low interest rates that will continue for the next few months. There have been additional costs due to the recent snowstorms. Much of these costs are reimbursable through the Liquid Fuels Fund and FEMA funds if they are properly documented by the Manager and Council. Now is the time to shift gears and react to these new realities. Now is the time to repair and maintain equipment and parks rather than take on new expenditures.
The present Council is confused about the details of the former Borough Manager’s Severance Agreement, infrastructure improvements, and general Borough topics of interest. Please see the blogs at www.ridleyparkonline.com.
There are many ways to improve the financial stability of the Borough and they all take a concerted effort by the Councilors and Manager. We did it. Others before us did it. The present Council can do it too by stop complaining about the work required and putting in the time necessary to get the job done.