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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bethlehem Tp Cuts Tax Hike in Half

Bethlehem Township's Board of Commissioners meets twice monthly
What was originally proposed as a 37.6% tax hike in Bethlehem Township has been cut in half. At their November 16 meeting, Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to adopt a $16.9 million spending plan for next year, with Michael Hudak casting the sole No vote. Taxes will still increase 1.01 mills (18.4%) to a 7.09 millage rate, about half the increase originally expected  According to Finance Director Andrew Freda, a home assessed at $100,000 could expect to see a $709 tax bill next year instead of the current $599.

This Budget is the culmination of four very crowded budget hearings that had to be moved to Town Hall because the conference room was too small. It may also have cost Republican Commissioners Marty Zawarski and Phil Barnard their jobs. They were defeated in the November 3 election by Democrats Malissa Davis and Kim Jenkins, who had unlikely allies in tea party conservatives.

The Budget adopted for approval decreases the fund balance by $500,000, and Freda warned before the meeting that a second hike might be necessary next year.

During budget hearings, Commissioners slashed $336,000 in spending, mostly by putting off the purchase of a $160,000 radial-arm mower and leaving unfilled a wage permit tech position. They also voted to slash the annual $40,000 allotment to The Bethlehem Township Athletic Association, more commonly known as the Bulldogs, in half. This is because the Bulldogs had built up savings of $113,000 from fundraising and donations.

A nonprofit organization, the Bulldogs consist entirely of volunteers and have had a contractual relationship with the Township that goes back to 1969. The sports group offers recreational cheerleading, football, soccer, basketball, wrestling, softball, and lacrosse to all Township residents. Under the terms of its contract, it must maintain liability insurance, and the Township has agreed to subsidize the organization. Over 1,500 children participate in one or more of these sports. Bulldogs did receive an annual subsidy of $60,000, which was reduced to $40,000 during the Great Recession.
The Bulldogs provide organized sports for 1,500 children a year. 

According to Bulldogs president Frank Grillo, "[T]he commissioners and the township manager asked our organization to do extra fundraising or saving to show good faith and put some money toward the restrooms." Those are projected to cost somewhere around $350,000, although they also include an equipment storage room. "Now that our organization did what the township asked, the BTAA is going to be penalized," Grillo complained.

Grillo and Mike Beck, another Bulldog, asked Commissioners to restore the $40,000 in funding. Noting that the Bulldogs "get blamed for a lot of things," he asked "where taking $20,000 away from the kids is going to get us."

Michael Hudak stated the cut is the result of an "outcry from the public," and that he found it "personally offensive" that Grillo would bring up kids in what is, after all, a youth sports program.'Take $20,000 out of savings and spend it on the kids," he told Grillo. "I would hope we don't back out on this," Hudak told fellow Commissioners. The public spoke at the election as well."

But that's exactly what happened. Commissioner Tom Nolan proposed restoring the $20,000 taken away from the Bulldogs, and with only Hudak voting No, this budget amendment was adopted.

Then the budget itself was approved for advertising by the same 4 to 1 vote.

Hudak, on both his Facebook page and at the meeting, derided the "lame ducks" who voted to restore funding. "We need to stand up for our decisions and have a spine."

Kim Jenkins, who is replacing "lame duck" Phil Barnard next year, is a member of the Bulldogs Board.

As the meeting ended, Pat Breslin stated he talked to several hundred people during the budget process and has several legal ads full of notes. He'd like to form what he calls a citizen's self audit committee to review the budget throughout the year.

"Obviously, we have a spending problem," he said.


Ray Nemeth Sr said...

Oh! the taxpayers should kiss the a---es of the commissioners and thank them for only raising there taxes 18%.

Anonymous said...

20,000 annually really is a small price to pay to support a volunteer organization that serves 1,500 children a year.

Anonymous said...

It's very easy to restore $20,000 in Bulldog funding when it's not YOUR money. Why not cut 20k from another area of the budget and put that toward the bulldogs funding, rather than pulling 20k more out of the residents' pockets. Well, that would just make too much sense.

Anonymous said...

7:48 - OR you could stop fucking whining about taxes and pony up the approximately $1.33 per taxpayer to fund the youth athletic leagues. My god, I am so tired of you whining old bastards. I have no kids in that age group any longer but I'm more than happy to help pay for the new generations of kids.

Anonymous said...

The kids will either be in one of two places. They will be playing organized sports or causing TROUBLE! I pick keeping them active in sports. They will learn skills here that will help them like forever. Now add in all the coaches and parents time. I think if you divide the hours spent by volunteers and divide it into the $40,000 that was given to them, their pay would be about $.50 per hour. They need the funds, they deserve the funds. I got a bargain in this vote!

And then you have crazy Hudak and his remarks. All the other commissioners are spineless. Four commissioners voted to restore funds. I guess only Hudak has this vote right. He is a sad excuse for a person who obviously didn't have his meds in order last night. I feel sorry for the two new women that will have to deal with hit rants and demeaning character.
"The Big Guy"

Anonymous said...

That $20k amounts to less than $1 per resident. Give up one of those $4 cups of coffee, and you've paid for 4+ people for the entire year. It's disappointing to know that some folks prefer the bottom line to what's good for the community.

Anonymous said...

If first impressions mean anything, the incoming commissioners will have their hands full. On-the-job training won't work at this job. If you thought Phil Bernard was mundane, wait until you see what Ms. Davis and Ms. Jenkins bring to the table. I fear for Bethlehem Township.

Anonymous said...

And they wonder why people are disgusted with the world. Tax's continue to go up and yet wages remain flat. Someone on a fixed income might struggle with a 200 dollar increase. Do they ever think about these people? Most likely not. The employees for the township will get increases of 3 to 6 % and yet the township does nothing to help those who are on a fixed income. Their priorities are evident. Time to vote new representatives.

Anonymous said...

Pat Breslin misses meetings and fabricates information as evidenced by his appearances on Gunther's show. He doesn't even live in the Township and is going to run for congress. The Commissioners have effectively kicked the can down the road again.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The contribution to the Bulldogs is $40,000, not $20,000, and in my view, is money well spent. So is the money that is spent on the Freemansburg BTAA, which is limited to baseball. I can understand those who are opposed to spending money on youth sports, but then you really should cut it out completely. Some municipalities make no contributions to the youth sports programs. Others do some funding. Melissa Shafer did a study on this some months ago, and was kind enough to share it with me. I think that if you have a change in philosophy and want to stop funding these programs, it should be done more gradually to give these organizations time to get their fiunding elsewhere.

There is a small but very vocal group, led by Mike Hudak, that seem to really have it in for the Bulldogs. I don't know if this is because they were never able to be stars or if their children were not made stars, but it really borders on hate. This has been coming over the past year, and the exorbitant cost of the restrooms has created a poor public image of the Bulldogs and township as wasteful and arrogant, even though nether sentiment is accurate.

Hudak has essentially disparaged the Bulldogs as New jersey transplants who think they are better than everyone. The Bulldogs have failed to send representatives to Comm'r meetings to rebut some of the outrageous things being said or the slurs. During courtesy of the floor, three people - Wayne Kresge, Roy Roth and Barry Roth - have been extremely negative about the Bulldogs. Ironically, Barry Roth is on the Rec Board.

Wayne Kresge inspired a witch hunt over licenses at the concession stand.

In the meantime, there is a rather large coalition of tea party conservatives who are all for eliminating almost all government services.

In this atmosphere, two Republicans have been replaced by Democrats. I do not know how they stand on issues like the Bulldogs, except i do know that one is on the Bulldog Board. She needs to resign from that Board or she won't be able to vote on anything related to youth sports. Hudak will raise that conflict and will be correct.

Anonymous said...

Typical politician tactic. Publicize a huge increase and the get credit for cutting it in half. 18% YIKES!

Ben Hedrick said...

During the budget hearings, the Bulldogs stated their case and presented their numbers. At the end of the year 2013 to 2014, they had bank accounts of $140,013 ($83,459 in savings, $15,000 in a CD, and $41,554 in their checking account). The township then gave them $40,000 because “it was what we have always done.” During the following year, their core operations of providing youth activities resulted in a profit of $109…very laudable and efficient. At the end of last year, 2014 to 2015, they had bank accounts of $168,774 ($113,624 in savings, $15,000 in a CD, and $40,150 in checking) or a net increase of $28,761. From the figures presented, I couldn’t figure out what happened to the missing $11,348 ($40,000 from the township plus $109 profit from operation minus the $28,761 put into savings).

At the budget hearings in front of the township residents, the board voted to give the Bulldogs a reduced amount of $20,000 this year in light of their existing $168,774 savings accounts. At yesterday’s meeting for the first public reading of the budget which came out of the hearings, however, the commissioners reversed the vote taken with public approval the prior week and increased the township donation to $40,000 without public input.

There are many questions about this aspect of the township budget. Why do we give this amount of money to an organization that has a savings account of $168,774, an amount which is higher than the savings of many senior citizens who will have to pay the higher taxes…and who have received only a total of 1.7% increase in their Social Security in three years? Why is this money needed when it goes directly into savings rather than funding the organization’s core function of youth sports? And why is it permissible to undo a decision made with public input and agreement at this meeting without allowing public input?

This is a very valuable and worthwhile organization and should be given whatever funds they need to perform their core function. The question, in my mind, is as to whether they need almost $189,000 to do that.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ben, They do not need that sum for operations, but were saving the money to help contribute to the restrooms and for other improvements on the North Forty.

Anonymous said...

11:16. I do not want to burst your bubble but we recently had an election that was held a week after the tax hike was announced by the manager raising taxes 37%. The outcome of the election was that the standing commissioners were elected out and two new people voted in. But now the kicker, the two people that are in our Democrats and Democrats are tax and spend liberals, you thought taxes went up in this year. Projections for next year are another one to 1 1/2 Mills and that's with leaving everything alone. I'm sure the new Democrats will come up with some super projects to crank up the budget another notch. Look for at least another 2 to 2 1/2 mill increase next year

Anonymous said...

Hudak & Nolan have the best interest of the senior citizens & taxpayers of Bethlehem Twp. Sell off the community center, its a money pit...

Anonymous said...

@11:16 It is unfair to paint with a broad brush that all Democrats as tax and spend liberals. At your basic local level of government political party has very little to do with how people will actually vote on issues. Mike Hudak for example is a Democrat. I wouldn't exactly call him a tax and spend liberal. How do you know the new commissioners are not Blue Dog like Mike?

Secondly, if you were at the last budget meeting it was explained by Bulldogs representatives that they have been raising/saving money to help fund the bathroom/refreshment/storage facility project. They are partnering with the Township to pay for the project. Thus why they have a tidy sum in savings. It is also my understanding that they are looking for grant funding to cover a large part of the costs for the project. Additionally, when completed, the facilities won't just benefit the Bulldogs, it will benefit all residents who use the park.

Anonymous said...

And they wonder why people are disgusted with the world. Tax's continue to go up and yet wages remain flat. Someone on a fixed income might struggle with a 200 dollar increase. Do they ever think about these people? Most likely not. The employees for the township will get increases of 3 to 6 % and yet the township does nothing to help those who are on a fixed income. Their priorities are evident. Time to vote new representatives.

You could always sell your house and move somewhere you can afford. I was taught to save for my retirement. There's no guarantee you can maintain the same lifestyle without saving for that scenario.

Anonymous said...

350, 000 for bathrooms. yeah ok...btw, so what it is an all volunteer organization. so is every legion baseball, jr legion baseball, little league baseball and just about every single kiddie organization. 1500 kids a year, can pay the way for any and all bills.

let the bulldogs fund raise and charge higher fees to cover their costs. do what many of us did in the past. look for private business owners to make contributions, sell signage, sell lottery tickets, sell ads on tee shirts and so on.

many leagues did this as well as other projects to fully fund the entire league, the umps, the cheerleaders, a football team , a basketball team and a soccer team.
some of the local restaurants also donated much of the food used in the snack bar.

350 grand for bathrooms. something stinks in the twsp

Bernie O'Hare said...

I agree and think most of what stinks are the vicious people who complain about everything. If you can read, and I question that, you would see that the Bulldogs was trying to raise money by doing all the things you just spoke about, the ease the burden on the township. Something does indeed stink when the people in a community does nothing to care for its children and seems to delight in going out of its way to hurt them.

Anonymous said...

If we are thinking of selling something, sell the Housenick property.That will be a money pit also. As for the bathroom, yes it may be for the good of the community but the storage space is not. That is only for the Bulldogs. Let them pay for that portion of the 350K.

Lighthouse said...

Not to make light of budgeting and the value of every taxpayer dollar, but when the starting number is small, percentages can seem misleadingly high. Headlines and political arguments based on such are purposely shooting for the shock value. With this strategy, I could scream a headline that "Congressional hopeful Pat Breslin provided a whopping 25% of the vote for an 18.4% tax increase!" Likewise, the larger the numbers the smaller the percentages. Thus, restoring $20,000 out of a $16.9 million dollar budget amounts to a mere .1183 % of the budget.

Anonymous said...

anon 2:24 must be one of the county teabagger propagandist organizers. They have the audacity to ask for 38% tax increase but cut it in half and then scream the Democrats will be worse. That is the smear bullshit they have pulled in Northampton County. They ran as conservatives and immediately moved to raise taxes 20% and settled at 10%. They also claimed the Democrats(who voted against the raises) would have done worse.

It is a stupid argument but works well for the blind fanatical teabaggers since they don't think independently of their slogans and dogma.

Anonymous said...

and South Whitehall Township in Lehigh County is raising taxes for the second straight year