FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (April 22, 2014)
Ginni Linn, Director of Communications, Pa. State Association of Township Supervisors, Enola, Pa., (717) 763-0930 (office) / [email protected].
Pennsylvania’s Townships Praise Increase in
State Funding, Support Right-to-Know Reforms,
and Urge a Return to Civics Education
For years, Pennsylvania’s township officials worried about the future. Now, they are actively planning for it.
This shift, noticeable at the 92nd Annual Educational Conference of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, is thanks to recent unprecedented increases in state funding. The new resources will deliver millions of dollars a year to support everything from safer roads and bridges to improved police and fire protection.
"Life is good, and believe me when I say that with Act 89, the new transportation funding package set to deliver $2.3 billion a year for a full range of improvements, things are only going to get better," PSATS President Les Houck told local leaders on the opening day of the conference, held April 13-16 in Hershey.
"And when you couple these revenues with the millions of dollars in Marcellus Shale impact fee funding that’s being spread out around the state, I think it’s safe to say that the days of doing less with less are behind us. We can now meet the needs of our residents."
Close to 4,000 township officials attended the conference, where they praised the passage of the new transportation dollars while tackling a handful of other issues, including urging Harrisburg to address the unintended consequences of the state’s Right-to-Know Law.
Rewritten several years ago to increase government transparency, the law has led to a steady stream of abuse and frivolous requests, which are wasting time and money in municipalities statewide. A Right-to-Know panel discussion, featuring state and local officials, shed light on the law’s problems.
"We received 11 requests – 11 separate requests from the same attorney – that would have required photocopying 36 filing cabinet drawers of information," supervisor Kathy Rader of Upper Macungie Township in Lehigh County said. "I’m all for open records, and I’m all for transparency. However, when the law was passed, no ever looked at the logistics and the costs to municipalities, which eventually get put on the taxpayers."
Two other conference speakers, the Hon. Marjorie Rendell, a federal appeals court judge, and PSATS Executive Director David M. Sanko, took the opportunity to highlight the importance of citizen engagement and education. Instead of leaving the fundamentals of civics education exclusively up to schools, Sanko said local leaders should step in and partner to teach children, from the youngest to the oldest, about government and governing.
"As communities struggle to find volunteers for everything from local government to church groups to fire companies, the answer may be as simple as asking someone for help," Sanko told township officials. "Then again, you may have to dig a little deeper and create opportunities for a new generation to learn a meaningful life lesson…that through public service, they can – and will – make a difference.
"Maybe just maybe, by sharing your story, your influences, with the kids in your community," he added, "you’ll make an impression that changes the course of a child’s life."
During the conference, township officials also established the Association’s legislative agenda, attended workshops, and elected officers, including:
• President — Tim Horner, a supervisor for Chapman Township, Clinton County
• First Vice President — Shirl Barnhart, a supervisor for Morgan Township, Greene County
• Second Vice President — Bill Hawk, a supervisor for Lower Paxton Township, Dauphin County
• Secretary-Treasurer — Brian McGrath, a supervisor for Millcreek Township, Erie County
• Assistant Secretary-Treasurer — Marvin Meteer, a supervisor for Wyalusing Township, Bradford County
Attendees also elected three members to the Association’s Executive Board:
• John "Jay" Wilkes Jr., a supervisor for Jackson Township, Luzerne County
• Jason Davidek, a supervisor for Fawn Township, Allegheny County
• Steven D. Hess Jr., a supervisor for North Centre Township, Columbia County
The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors represents Pennsylvania’s 1,454 townships of the second class and is committed to preserving and strengthening township government and securing greater visibility and involvement for townships in the state and federal political arenas. Townships of the second class cover 95 percent of Pennsylvania’s land mass and represent more residents — 5.5 million — than any other type of political subdivision in the commonwealth.