In January 2009, I was honored to be elected as your Mayor by my fellow Township Council members. Upper Darby is Pennsylvania’s 5th largest municipality with 82,000 residents. Having served as the councilman from the second district of Upper Darby for over twenty years I expected the transition to the office of Mayor to go smoothly and I thank the dedicated employees of the Township for their help in that transition.
The current state of the economy has placed additional pressures on everyone’s budget, and local government has not escaped that pressure. As we try to maintain a consistent and quality level of services to our residents we must make sound fiscally responsible decisions. The challenges facing any government in an urban setting are great; to confirm this, one only needs to read the newspapers to see the fiscal troubles facing local townships and boroughs throughout the Commonwealth.
The Upper Darby Township government has been able to balance quality services with sound fiscal decisions. With modest tax increases and a program to continually review the services provided, we have been able to change our recycling program to a single stream collection system and then, with the operational experience we gained, moved the collection to once-a-week pick-up throughout the Township. This, of course, comes with a necessary modest increase in the operational costs of recycling. The Township’s cost to dispose of trash and recycling products has increased in 2009, and is forecasted to increase in 2010. However, effective and efficient management have helped to keep the increase for these expenses in check.
The challenges of managing public safety in a community the size of Upper Darby are formidable. The skilled leadership provided by Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood and Fire Chief Ed Cubler have kept our homes and streets safe for our residents and their families.
The support of our fine recreation and library systems, the excellent senior citizens’ center at the Watkins House, the award winning summer stage program, which the Township co-sponsors with our fine school district, and countless other services maintained by the Township, help to make Upper Darby a community of which we can all be proud.
As 2010 approaches we have many things for which to be thankful and many new challenges to face. We must remain diligent in our efforts to control expenses. We need to explore opportunities to attract new businesses and seek grants to help improve our quality of life.
Like any government, local, state or federal we are asked to support many different projects or ideas. Some of these projects coincide with evaluations the administration may already be working on like our single stream recycling project. New projects could potentially put a demand on tax dollars and must be carefully evaluated. While the cry from civil and political groups may be loud and strident to take hasty action and spend taxpayers’ money without regard, our administration will continue to review all aspects of every issue and maintain fiscal responsibility.
One topic that seems to fit this model is the purchase of open space. The Township’s comprehensive plan encourages the township to obtain additional open space. As a councilman, I wholeheartedly supported the concept of increased open space. I spearheaded the purchase of the Steven’s tract on Providence Road. When the property became available we negotiated a fair market price with the owner and purchased the property with the idea of maintaining it in its current state and protect it as open space. In addition, the administration was able to negotiate a lease with the Upper Darby Marine Corps League who maintains it as beautifully landscaped open space.
The administration is working with Delaware County’s department of parks and recreation and planning to develop a greenway along Darby Creek. As second district councilman, I joined with county officials in building the highly successful dog park in the county’s Kent Park.
We have negotiated an easement agreement with a property owner along Darby Creek that will allow us to connect a walking trail from the eastern end of Kent Park to the Swedish cabin. Plans are in the works to obtain another parcel along the creek to further the enhancement of the trail.
The township continues to monitor any available parcels of land which could add to our open space acreage. We also continue to review the availability of grants to aid in the purchase of new parcels of ground.
Expansive condemnations, grants with large matching funds and other empty schemes of obtaining open space, at the expense of the taxpayers, are disingenuous methods of making political points with an uninformed public, and should be treated as such.
I address you this evening with my first budget message as Mayor of Upper Darby Township. I have spent countless hours working on the budget with my staff. Our goal is to present to you a fair and balanced budget that helps ensure a community with strong public safety, quality of services and a keen awareness of our diversity. We are determined to remain the welcoming gateway to Delaware County.
I wish to thank the township workers for their dedicated commitment to our community. Furthermore, I wish to recognize their help in expanding our recycling effort. I want to express my appreciation to everyone who participates in the Weed and Seed program and the Drug Education for Youth program, a cooperative effort between the township, school district and the district attorney’s office, which took thirty-seven of our children to the National Guard Indiantown Gap camp for a week of intense training. I will continue my program of trying to make a personal visit to every neighborhood in our community. If you have a group that you would like me to come and speak to, please contact my office.
The 2010 preliminary budget includes increases in several categories: police, fire, pension contributions and recycling.
The increases to the township’s public safety activities will account for 72% of the 2010 increase in the general fund budget.
The proposed budget continues once a week recycling and a twice a week trash pick-up starting the week of June 14, 2010 through September 3, 2010. The budget also reflects the increase in user fees imposed by the Delaware County Solid Waste Authority at their transfer stations. This budget includes the expenses associated with the expansion of the recycling program to a single stream once a week collection system. The single stream program allows residents to recycle in one container, glass, cans, mail, newspapers, magazines, food boxes, cardboard, phone books and plastics identified as 1 and 2.
Together, these activities will necessitate an increase to the township’s annual trash fee of $15.00 per residential unit.
Based on the township’s general fund budget requirements, the real estate tax increase on a property assessed at $100,000 will be approximately $1.25 per week or $65.00 for the calendar year 2010.
Thomas N. Micozzie
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