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  • Writer's pictureGOP Blogger

Higher Taxes and Limits on Public Comment

A New Year is often a time of great hope that the year ahead will be successful. At the Warminster Township Board of Supervisors Re-organization meeting of 2020, the new Democrat-controlled board did their best to extinguish that hope by signaling a 75% tax increase and putting severe limits on public comment.

Joining current Supervisors Mark McKee (R) and Kathy Frescatore (D) were the newly elected board members Ken Hayes (D)and Judy Hoover (D). As Brian Munroe (D) was elected as the Bucks County Clerk of the Courts in November, his seat was vacated was earlier that day when he resigned effective the morning of January 6th. The newly elected Warminster Township Auditor, Mary Owens (D) was tapped to fill Brian’s board seat. As a result, Ms Owens resigned her position as township Auditor and was sworn in as a Supervisor. Interestingly, the board never voted to accept Mr. Munroe’s resignation.

Once the new officials were sworn in and reorganization process ended, the new Democrat majority got down to business, choosing the “nuclear option” for both the budget as well as freedom of speech for the citizens of the township.

In regards to the new public comment policy, it’s been a long standing practice to give the public an opportunity at the beginning of each meeting to comment on any non-agenda items, limited to 5 minutes per person. This is usually where citizens come to the board with real problems that impact their lives, whether it be a dangerous intersection, flooding, issues with trash collection, etc. This portion of the meeting will still be available for public comment, but only on agenda items for that meeting, and the public will be limited to 3 minutes.

Additionally, there was a second public comment portion of the meeting at the end of each meeting, where the public was given another 5 minutes per person to comment and/or question any agenda item or non-agenda item. These agenda items can be land use items, budget changes, and other items that directly impact the township and the citizens of Warminster. This portion of the meeting will now be changed to non-agenda items, which means if you have a comment and/or a complaint about anything in the township, you’ll have to wait until the end of the meeting to bring that up to the board of supervisors. Oh, and you’ll be limited to 3 minutes now.

Finally, when an agenda item is put up for a vote, and after the board members have had an opportunity to discuss the item, the previous policy allowed for the the public to comment and/or question the board members about that specific agenda item. Under the new rules, the public will no longer have an opportunity to join the conversation for agenda items at this time, unless the chairman of decides to suspend the policy and allow the public to comment at that time. In other words, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors will have the sole power to determine if you may speak when an agenda item is up for a vote. And, if you miss your opportunity at the beginning of the meeting, or you hear something that you want to comment or or get clarity at the time that item is up for a vote, you’ll have to wait until the end of the next meeting to express your views. We’ll let Judy Hoover tell you exactly how we feel about this new policy.. (click play below)

Conveniently, after declaring that there would be no public comment when individual items came up for a vote, the board moved on to the 2020 Budget agenda item, which had three parts.

Consider re-opening the budget for 2020. The law allows this since it is an election year. Grant authorization to advertise the new proposed budget for 2020. Since the previously approved budget was based on the assumption that the Warminster Municipal Authority (WMA) would be sold, and the new board deciding against that, the budget will now be overhauled, including a major increase of 71% in the millage rate for the general fund, resulting in an overall increase of 64% for every property owner in Warminster for the Warminster Township portion of your property taxes. A more detailed look at the number will be provided after the Board of Supervisors officially adopts the 2020 budget. Authorize the township solicitor to petition the state to allow the township to increase the general fund millage rate above 14 mills. The millage rate will be increased to 19 mills, which is the maximum allowed by law, but that assumes we get the approval of the court to do so. The good news is that the laws does not allow the township to go above 19 mills for the general fund, which means that will only go up when the township goes bankrupt and the state takes over. The bad news is that unless another revenue stream is found, the township will certainly be broke within a year or so, as expenditures continue to outpace the current revenues for the township. All three budget items were passed by a 4-1 vote, with the lone Republican, Mark McKee, voting “No” on all three measures.

So, based on the first Board of Supervisors meeting of 2020, with your new Democrat controlled Board of Supervisors, it looks like we’re all in for a wild ride in 2020. The Board of Supervisors will need to vote on measures before we know what’s in them (for some reason, that sounds familiar), while the public must wait a full month to ask questions about what was voted on in that meeting. We’d suggest you come out to a meeting to join the fun, but it really seems pointless as the PUBLIC has pretty much been removed from these PUBLIC meetings. So, what’s the point?

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