Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How Bethlehem Township Holds Line on Taxes

Ever try to reach Bethlehem Township's Planning Department? A meeting scheduled earlier this month was unexpectedly canceled, most likely the result of poor planning. A telephone call to the Assistant Director on the following day went like this.

"You have reached Howard Kutzler's voicemail. Kindly leave a message."

In an attempt to reach a live person, the Planning Director was later called. It went like this.

"You have reached Howard Kutzler's voicemail. Kindly leave a message."

Unsuccessful with Planning, a call was placed to the Township Manager himself, this time to complain about his unresponsive lackeys, those two Howard Kutzlers. It went like this.

"You have reached Howard Kutzler's voicemail. Kindly leave a message."

Actually, this is no joke. Kutzler, who succeeded the very capable Jon Hammer as Township Manager in August, is still wearing his two Planning hats. He even has different sets of business cards for each position.

Only one salary.

Bethlehem Township has been in hiring freeze mode since 2008. During that time, its workforce has shrunk from 95 to 88 employees. Most recently, Captain George Boksan retired from the township police department, and his role has been assumed by two sergeants.

Kutzler is a "Konkrete Kid" who spent ten years on the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. He claims that, thanks to the Internet and cell phones, Township staffers are able to work smarter and still deliver the same services. There's also a wage freeze in effect, at least for the nonunion and AFSCME-affiliated employees.

Bethlehem Township has suffered as the housing market has evaporated. It has gone from seeing 250 new homes every year to about 5. But Township Commissioners began implementing cost-saving measures two years ago, preparing for the upcoming financial storm. At their December 20 meeting, their efforts paid off. They were able to adopt a $14.38 million budget that holds the line on taxes at 5.99 mills during a brief, fifty-minute meeting chaired by a businesslike Arthur Murphy. The vote was a unanimous 4-0. Commissioner Michael Hudak was absent.

As I left the meeting last night, Kutzler started cleaned my windshield and demanded 50 cents. I complained to a cop, who gave me a $50 ticket for illegal parking.

They must want a raise next year.


Anonymous said...

I hope you're kidding about there being 80+ Bethlehem Tp. employees.

Anonymous said...

I'll give them credit. They have held the line even with that white elephant in the park known as their community center. The new manager has his hands full, I would say.

Anonymous said...

Keep up with sound fiscal management practices & well done on holding the line on increased taxes.

There's still some fat to be shaved off and it's in the sewer dept...

Anonymous said...

Did you try calling maintenance? I'm sure you'd get his voicemail there too. Then again you may actually get him live.

eckville press said...

What? Najarian moonlighting?

Anonymous said...

What's not being told is the story of how the Township blew threw all that cash from all the development that took place during the decade. That's the real problem here. They did not save enough when the coffers were running over in money.

You have a first class township relying on a manager to be both manager and development director? That's amateur hour.

They are lucky that the non-union workers took the news of no pay raises with more work so well. You know the unions will be getting raises.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:22 not sure its amateur hour. The guy they appointed knows his stuff and has a very good resume. There is no development anywhere to direct, how can that be amateur hour? Sounds like great fiscal policy by the Township to save money! Agree with Anon 7:01 that their Community Center is dragging them down.

Anonymous said...

Kutzler is the type of competent professional that Bethlehem Township is lucky to have. There are paper pushers with nothing to do in Allentown City Hall that make nearly as much as this guy.

Anonymous said...