Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Memorial Day Service in Ross Township

It was mentioned at the Commissioners Meeting last night that there is a Memorial Day Service in Ross Township.  It will take place at Noon on Monday May 30th at the American Legion in Laurel Gardens.

So if the high gas prices are causing you to stick close to home, you can still observe the official Holiday and attend the service.  While Memorial Day may signal the start of summer, it should also be recognized as a day to remember those who served this country and sacrificed their lives.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Tale of a Commissioners Meeting....

It can be a bit intimidating attending your first Commissioners Meeting.  I swear the first one I attended, my knees were knocking as I entered the room.  I was there by myself and didn’t know anyone in the room.  I quickly ducked in and took the first seat I could find.  It felt like everyone in the room turned around and looked at me, even though I know this was only my imagination and nary a person moved when I entered.  I missed some parts of the meeting as I was getting situated and drinking in the details of the room.  As I mentioned in a previous blog posting, it was when a woman turned around and asked ME what was happening, did I realize that I wasn’t the only one that didn’t have a clue as to how this process worked.  In light of that and the fact that there is a relatively big issue at hand, I wanted to lay the details of the Commissioners meeting out on the table so that perhaps others will read through it, realize it is not as intimidating as one may imagine, and feel comfortable enough to join the meeting on Monday night.  Now I’m not an expert, but this is based on my observations, personal experience, and some research.
The Commissioners meet in the Commissioners Meeting Room.  If you have never been in it, this is the large room located towards the back of the Ross Township Municipal building near the Tax Office.  If you enter through the Police Department area, it is at the top of the steps.  If you enter from the Community Center, it is on the right hand side in the back, near the restrooms.  The efficient and friendly desk attendants can point you in the right direction if you simply ask.  You don’t need to sign in or show your Township ID….it is your RIGHT to be at the meeting.
The room is quite formal and almost has the feel of a courtroom to it.  At the front of the room is the table where the Commissioners sit in their comfortable high backed leather chairs.  In the middle of the room is a podium from where people can speak and where you can pick up a copy of the meeting agenda.  In addition, there is a sign-up sheet located on the podium on which you can jot your name down if you wish to speak during one of the times when public comments are allowed.  You don’t have to sign up to speak but it is nice to sign up in order to allow some organization of those who wish to speak and to make sure your name is spelled the correct way in the minutes.  The rest of the room is filled with row upon row of regular chairs.  You can sit in anyone of these chairs…well except for the high backed comfortable leather chairs at the front.
The Commissioners sit at the table and each is identified by a name plate.  If you are sitting in the back of the room the name plates can be hard to read, so you may spend part of the meeting trying to figure out who is who.  Also sitting at the table are the Township Solicitor and Township Manager as well as any other Township official involved in the meeting that night.  There is a sound system with microphones in front of each person at the table and a microphone at the podium, but it is a rather fickle system that seems to work well for some and poorly for others (some are too loud even without the help of the sound system).
There is a table in the back of the room with snacks on it so help yourself……after all, it’s your tax dollars that are supplying the coffee and popcorn!
The first part of the meeting is the Committee Meeting.  They will discuss various items that you will find listed on the agenda. This is mostly a fact finding/heated debate session.  There is no voting that will occur during this part of the meeting.  Items that are discussed in Committee are NOT supposed to be voted on at all that night but are to be set up for voting at a subsequent meeting.  At the conclusion of the Committee Meeting, there will be a brief break and then the voting meeting will start.
The voting meeting is supposed to open with the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence.  The first part of the meeting allows for public comment from the floor (that is the regular seating section for us audience members) regarding items on the agenda.  It is at this time when you can get up and speak your piece if you have an issue with an agenda item or if you are supporting an agenda item and would like to say “nice job”.   Maybe you just have a question on an agenda item or are seeking clarification.  However, if your comment pertains to the Public Hearing that will occur later in the meeting, it’s best to hold your comment until then.  Whatever the case, this is one of the chances you get to be heard. 
At the conclusion of the public comments, the meeting moves on to Petitions and Complaints.  In order to participate in this section, you would need to email the Township Manager, Wayne Jones, by 4:00 PM the Friday before the meeting with the topic you would like to address.  It is in this section that you can bring something to the attention of the board, whether it is something you wish to promote or a criticism that you would like to go on record with.
After Petitions and Complaints, they launch into the business at hand.  They start making motions, passing votes, and attempting to follow Robert’s Rules of Order for a meeting.  They adopt resolutions, introduce Ordinances, and most importantly, hold Public Hearings.  The Public Hearing is when they will bring up Ordinance Number 2303 and seek to re-establish their salaries.  They will open the hearing and ask for those that have comments in support of the Ordinance to come forward and speak.  After everyone that is in support of the Ordinance has had their opportunity, they will then ask for those who oppose the Ordinance to come forward and have their say.  After everyone has had their chance to speak, they will close the hearing and start to debate the pros and cons of the ordinance.  Depending on the Ordinance, this can be a short debate or a very long and drawn out debate (it’s a good time to make sure you have some popcorn to munch on).  Eventually, one of the Commissioners will call for action and the Board of Commissioners will vote to either adopt the Ordinance or will vote to table it for further discussion (possibly sending it into Ordinance limbo).
After the public hearing and subsequent voting, the Board will move on with other business.  They will vote to approve the minutes from prior meetings, vote to pay the bills, and then move on to the reports of the various departments.  The Planning Commission, the Recreation Committee, the Public Works department, the Public Safety – Police Department, and the Public Safety – Fire, Fire Police, and EMS Committee will provide reports, if there are any, and various discussions will be held and motions passed relevant to the department.  Once those are finished up, the Township Manager will provide his report and again there will be discussions and various actions taken.
When the Township Managers report is concluded, it is time for comments from the Commissioners.  A Commissioner may thank another person for their hard work on something, inform the room of a certain meeting they would like to call attention to (Crime Watch meeting, Historical Society meeting), or they may bring up an issue that a constituent has come to them with.  They can also voice their disapproval with something and get that on the record.  Mostly, it is a time in the meeting that the Commissioners can speak about what is on their minds.
When the Commissioner’s comment section is concluded, the floor is once again opened up for comments from the Citizens. This will be the last time to get your voice heard at this particular meeting and this time it is not limited to just the items on the agenda.  Say your piece now or hold it another 2 weeks for another meeting.
At this time, Commissioners may adjourn into an Executive Session.  While this may seem like a “top secret” meeting, it is simply a private meeting, allowed by the Sunshine Law, in order to discuss sensitive matters such as personnel issues or collective bargaining.  Commissioners may return after the Executive Session and conclude the meeting.  If they plan on returning, the Commissioners will announce whether they plan on taking any action in order to let people know if they should stick around.  If there is no Executive Session or Commissioners do not plan on taking any action in the session, then a motion is made and the meeting is adjourned.
When the meeting is laid out in black and white like this, it doesn’t seem very intimidating.  Once you know what to expect, you can comfortably follow along instead of worrying about stepping out of place or out of bounds.  In addition, when you know what to expect, you aren’t worrying about disrupting the flow of things and can focus on the information.  Remember, there are a number of opportunities to speak at the meeting. You can be added to the agenda and have your own section in the Petitions or Complaints section, or you can take advantage of the public comment sections that occur at the beginning and end of the meeting.  If there is a Public Hearing, that gives you another opportunity to use your voice and speak on the matter at hand.
I wanted to add this post to the blog because when you understand how the process works, you are more likely to get involved.  I went in to my first meeting having an initial idea of how things would play out since I served on a board years ago (granted, it was for a charity and we met mostly at bars and restaurants) and was surprised that the “formal” process wasn’t much different from the one I participated in. 
I guess what I am trying to say is that while the overall appearance of a Commissioners meeting may be intimidating and overwhelming, it is really quite simple and easy to follow. Perhaps it is like many other things in government and politics in that it is designed that way to discourage the average citizen from getting involved.  Hopefully, this post has removed some of the smoke and mirrors of the process and perhaps encouraged more to get involved.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Introducing Darci Faiello.....aka Perry Rochester......

Hi….my names is Darci Faiello.  I am a resident of Ross Township and for the last two months, I have been contributing to North Hills Exposure as Perry Rochester.  I have lived in Ross Township for my entire life, minus the time I was away at college.  I graduated from North Hills High School, where I was active in sports.  I was also a Lifeguard and taught swimming lessons for many years.  My husband is also from Ross Township and is an active member of a Ross Township Fire Department.  We chose to live here years ago because our family is here and we enjoyed the community.
However, in the recent years I have seen a decline in the community.  It is mostly noticeable in the business corridor with the empty storefronts, but as you look closely, there are other apparent “cracks” that you can see.  I drive down McKnight Road or Babcock, looking at these “holes” and usually just think to myself “nothing I can do about that”.  I’m sure many of you have thought the same thing.
About a year ago, I noticed the Ross Township Good Government Committee on Facebook and my interest was piqued.  Reading through it, I noticed that others had the same thoughts that I did.  They could see the same decline that I was seeing.  They had the same worries about what was happening to their community and their property values that I was having.  So I became a “follower” and read along.  I soon found my voice (you can ask my husband, it is rare that I am quiet) and chimed in with some of my thoughts.  I utilized my voice and jumped right in.  After all, I am a stay at home mom and this gave me a chance to exercise my skill set and education during the little bit of free time I gained when my son started preschool. 
I started to post things relevant to Ross Township on the Facebook page.  I posted things that I was interested in and topics from other news sources that caught my eye.  I was shocked when the traffic increased and astounded to discover once again that others were looking for the same things I was.  A few people did question me about the Ross Township Good Government Committee title and my marketing background kicked in.  The name was re-done, the design was refreshed, a blog was developed to expand on the interest, and an impact statement was created.  North Hills Exposure was launched.
North Hills Exposure has been growing by leaps and bounds.  So much so that I am shocked!  We just passed the 3000 hit mark and average about 50 hits a day, quite an accomplishment for a small town blog that gets noticed through word of mouth.  The only help I have had is from Ross Township residents and readers that pass the word along and have an interest in the community.
Understand something though….the opinions I express are my opinions alone.  I do not represent anyone or pretend to be a representative of anyone or anything other than myself.  It just so happens that those opinions seem to be shared by many other residents of Ross Township.  The information that I find or stumble across is public information and anyone in the public has access to it.  I know that some have shared rumors or innuendo of scandal with me but unless it is public knowledge that can be verified and documented, I’m not interested in spreading it. 
There has been one persistent piece of criticism that is getting tossed around out there.  That the blog is nothing more than a political mechanism for a candidate.  Well, as you can see from my name….I’m not a political candidate (nor am I related to one or even friends with one).  I’m a regular everyday Ross Township Resident…….just as many of you are.  I live in the community and am raising a child that will enter the North Hills School District.  My friends and family live in the community.  I shop in the area, go out to dinner in the area, and go to events in the area (heck, no one with a little boy would dare miss all the fire trucks at the 4th of July parade!).  I enjoy Ross Township and would like to continue to do so.  I appreciate the police, fire departments, and EMS that service the area as well as the people who drive the street sweeper and plow trucks (that wave to my son who has his face smashed up against the door as they drive by).  I will forever be grateful to the Public Works employee that made sure I safely got home during the flooding of Hurricane Ivan!  I enjoy the small town feel that this community radiates.
So why am I doing this?  Well, to be honest, I’m not exactly sure.  I started out doing it for me and in essence, I still am.  Yet I realize that there are many more out there like me that want to get involved but don’t know how.  They want to understand, but there really isn’t anywhere to figure it out.  I want North Hills Exposure to be the place to help others figure it out so that more can get involved. For example, attending a Commissioners Meeting can be scary and intimidating.  You have no idea how it works, what goes on, what you are allowed to do, or what all is happening.  I admit, the first meeting I attended was a bit terrifying.  I didn’t know the order of things, didn’t understand that you could pick up an agenda from the stand in the middle, didn’t know if the light snacks in the back were meant for everyone or just those involved. I sat there afraid to move.  Then a woman sat down in front of me, turned to me and said “Do you have any idea how this works?” and I realized that I wasn’t the only one utterly lost.  After that one meeting, I felt more comfortable and at ease.  I wasn’t intimidated anymore and realized that the Commissioner Meetings are a vital part of our local government process and a good opportunity to view our tax dollars at work.  It clicked in my head that as a Ross Township Resident, I had a right to be there.  Today I feel like an old pro when facing a Commissioners meeting and I’d like to enlighten others as to the process in the hopes that more will participate.
So now I am stepping out from behind the screen so that you can see that I am just an average ordinary Ross Township resident like many of you that are reading this.  I am a person that knew virtually nothing about local government (aside from the fact that we had a Board of Commissioners and a Township Manager) and didn’t enjoy my American Government class in high school.  Yet I am a person that as I have “grown up” has started to take an active interest in the community and learn how the process works.  Just goes to show you that anyone can get involved….. and that anyone can include even YOU!
Now that there is a name involved, maybe the focus can be on what is ON the screen instead of WHO is behind it......

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Find out who Perry Rochester is tomorrow!

Last chance to get your guesses in.  So far, no one has guessed correctly.  There is still time as the contest is open until I step out from behind the screen!

Look for a blog post tomorrow afternoon or evening with the who, when, where, why, and how....or something like that.

Saturday Dinner Idea

This caught my eye today in my Facebook newsfeed and I wanted to share it here. 

If you are looking for a dinner idea on Saturday night, head to a Spaghetti Dinner at McKnight United Methodist Church from 5PM to 7PM. I've copied some of the information here, but head to the Facebook page for complete details:  http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=145469022187617

Enjoy a Spaghetti dinner and your money goes towards helping a little boy out with some medical issues!

Saturday, May 21 · 5:00pm - 7:00pm

McKnight United Methodist Church
600 Fox Dr
Pittsburgh, PA

Dine in or Take Out!
Spaghetti Dinner to Benefit Nathaniel Morris
We will also be having a Chinese auction.
Tickets are 8 dollars for adults and 5 dollars for kids. To order Tickets please e-mail Jessica at: natemorrisfundraiser@yahoo.com
To order presale tickets for the Spaghetti Dinner on May 21st or the Benefit Concert on May 27th, please send money along with a self addressed stamped envelope to:

Nathaniel Morris Fund
P.O. Box 101059
Pittsburgh, PA 15237

If you are unable to attend but would like to make a donation, please send a check to:
Allegheny Valley Bank
c/o Nathaniel Morris
900 Mt. Royal Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15223

For more information about Nathaniel Morris please become his friend at Nathaniel Morris Fund here on facebook

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Election Results

I swear that they deliberately try to make these things difficult to follow in order to discourage and frustrate people.  I've scanned through all of the Election results and pulled those relevant to Ross Township.  They are posted here so that you can get a quick overview.

Turnout was very disappointing as the media is reporting.  I know that my polling place was VERY slow and when I voted in the afternoon, I was number 23 to vote for my party.

I pulled these from the Summary Report on the Allegheny County Primary Election 2011 Official Results web site.  These are the final results.

School Director NORTH HILLS
          Vote For Not More Than  5
           Mark Priore.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .        560    6.26
           Tom Baker  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     1,337   14.95
           Arlene J. Bender .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       948   10.60
           Jeff Meyer .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       1,389   15.53
           Robert L. Barto  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       530    5.93
           Louis G. Krummert, III .  .  .  .  .  .   563    6.30
           Ed Wielgus .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .      1,381   15.44
           Joseph Muha.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       902   10.09
           Lou Nudi.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       1,305   14.59
           WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .         27     .30

School Director NORTH HILLS
          Vote For Not More Than  5
           Mark Priore.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .      1,055    8.54
           Jeff Meyer .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       1,746   14.14
           Louis G. Krummert, III .  .  .  .  .  .     1,250   10.12
           Lou Nudi.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     1,511   12.24
           Tom Baker  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     1,447   11.72
           Robert L. Barto  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     1,073    8.69
           Ed Wielgus .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     1,407   11.39
           Arlene J. Bender .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     1,946   15.76
           Joseph Muha.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       885    7.17
           WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .        28     .23

 Commissioner ROSS WARD 1
          Vote For Not More Than  1
           Ann C. Harrold.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       144   71.29
           WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .        58   28.71

          Commissioner ROSS WARD 3
          Vote For Not More Than  1
           WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .        91  100.00

          Commissioner ROSS WARD 5
          Vote For Not More Than  1
           Margaret Ann Duffy  .  .  .  .  .  .  .        75   28.30
           Nino Vaccaro  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .        18    6.79
           Grace Stanko  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       167   63.02
           WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .         5    1.89

          Commissioner ROSS WARD 7
          Vote For Not More Than  1
           WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .        35  100.00

          Commissioner ROSS WARD 9
          Vote For Not More Than  1
           Grant Montgomery .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       245   99.19
           WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .         2     .81

 Commissioner ROSS WARD 1
          Vote For Not More Than  1
           Daniel L. DeMarco.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       258   98.10
           WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .         5    1.90

          Commissioner ROSS WARD 3
          Vote For Not More Than  1
           Daniel P. Kinross.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       200   61.16
           John Sponcer  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       127   38.84
           WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .         0

          Commissioner ROSS WARD 5
          Vote For Not More Than  1
           William A. McKellar .  .  .  .  .  .  .       263   90.38
           WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .        28    9.62

          Commissioner ROSS WARD 7
          Vote For Not More Than  1
           Dan McCarthy  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .        39   10.10
           Gerald R. O'Brien.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       237   61.40
           Paul Trilli.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       110   28.50
           WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .         0

          Commissioner ROSS WARD 9
          Vote For Not More Than  1
           WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .        17  100.00

Friday, May 13, 2011

A break from all the seriousness with some fun!

Have you ever wondered who is lurking behind the screen at North Hills Exposure? Or are you quite certain that you know who is madly tapping away at the keyboard?  Perhaps there are enough clues out there that you could figure out who is on the other side of the screen?

Now is your chance to confirm you suspicions, make an educated guess, or simply see how good your detective skills are!
North Hills Exposure is starting a contest to see if you can guess the identity of Perry Rochester!  As with all good contests, there is a prize for the person that guesses correctly……a $50 gift card to Mediteranno!!!
You can enter the contest in one of four ways:

1)       Like the North Hills Exposure Facebook page and post your guess as a comment on the wall.

2)       Become a follower of the North Hills Exposure blog and comment on the blog post.   
3)       Follow @PerryRochester or @RossRenegade on Twitter and “Tweet” your guess to   them by starting your tweet with .@PerryRochester or .@RossRenegade.
4)       Email your guess to PerryRochester15229@Zoho.com
or rossrenegade@gmail.com

We would also LOVE to hear the reasoning behind your guess, so please enlighten us as to how you came up with your answer!
There is one guess per person and the person who guesses correctly will win the gift card.  In the event that there is more than one correct guess, the winner will be chosen by using a random number generator from Random.org
So let’s have a bit of fun in all of the seriousness that is leading up to the election. 
This will also give North Hills Exposure the opportunity to address some of its harshest criticism.  There are those that think North Hills Exposure is a political mechanism for a current candidate in the upcoming election.  Others think that it is a smear campaign brought on by someone with malicious intent.  Quite a few have an issue because of the anonymous factor and others simply don’t take it seriously.  When Perry Rochester is revealed, you will see that it is simply a tool to inform Ross Township residents of the happenings in their own community.  It is a place that attempts to collect all the relevant information on what is happening in the area to pass along to other Ross Township residents. As was stated in the first blog post…….it is simply a place to swap stories, pass on news, and discuss politics.
So let's hear those guesses!!!!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Let’s Talk Commissioners’ Compensation!

What if I told you that as a resident and taxpayer of Ross Township, it costs $181,132.80 to pay for the salaries and health insurance for our Township Commissioners. Does this outrage you as much as it outrages us?  Are the taxpayers of Ross Township receiving an adequate return on investment or would we be better served using most of those funds to improve our parks, pave our roads, promote economic development or provide tax relief to our residents? 

Let’s look at the two components of the compensation package, starting with health insurance.

Ross Township’s Commissioners receive a health insurance package for themselves and their families (whether legally separated and gallivanting around town with a girlfriend or not).  This is a “Cadillac” package of medical, dental, and vision.  It is the same package that the employees of Ross Township receive, with one major difference….Ross Township employees are required to contribute to their health insurance premiums while many of the Commissioners do not contribute anything towards theirs.

In 2010, the health insurance for Commissioners (and their families) cost the Ross Township residents $122,266.80 for full coverage.  This year, the health insurance package for Commissioners will cost taxpayers $136,132.80 for their full coverage.   That is an increase of $13,866 over last year’s health insurance costs or an 11% increase.  All at taxpayers’ expense.

Not every Commissioner takes advantage of the Township provided health insurance.  Commissioner Ferraro (8th Ward) did not utilize any of it in 2010 and is using a small component, which I believe to be vision coverage this year at a cost of $12.90 a month.  Some Commissioners (Kinross, Mazur, and O’Brien) contribute 5% of their salaries towards their health insurance premium. 
The following information was provided by Ross Township in accordance with the Right to Know Law:

2011 Health Care Costs
Commissioners                 Monthly Total                   Yearly Total
Demarco, Daniel               $627.71                              $7,532.52
Eyster, Chris                       $1,488.43                           $17,861.16
(2)Ferraro, Peter               $12.90                                $154.80
(1)Kinross, Daniel              $1,656.97                           $19,883.64
(1)Mazur, Lana                   $1,488.43                          $17,861.16
Mikec, David                      $1,891.14                           $22,693.68
Montgomery, Grant         $1,891.14                           $22,693.68
(1)O’Brien, Gerald            $627.71                              $7,532.52
Stanko, Grace                    $1,656.97                           $19,883.64
Trustee's Fee                     $3.00                                   $36.00
Total                                    $11,344.40                         $136,132.80
(1)Repays 5% of their Health Care to Township
(2)Has his own Health Coverage
Commissioner Kinross 5% total per year portion is $917.23
Commissioner O’Brien 5% total per year potion is $343.04
Commissioner Mazur 5% total per year portion is $816.11

It’s interesting to note that most municipalities DO NOT provide health insurance coverage as part of the compensation package provided to their elected officials.  In fact, Brian O’Malley, a former Supervisor in Richland Township, has informed us that Richland Township does not provide health insurance coverage for their elected Supervisors and was surprised to learn of the lucrative package Ross Township provides to its Commissioners.  Health insurance coverage is discretionary while the salary is mandated by the First Class Township Code.  Therefore, Ross Township Commissioners could choose to do away with the health insurance coverage or at least like Commissioner Ferraro, not utilize it. Yet when they were in budget discussions for the past two years, the health insurance issue was never seriously discussed as a potential cut. 

For many of the Commissioners, their Township position is a part time secondary “job”.  Even Commissioners Stanko and Mazur derive their primary source of income from their spouses business (North Hills Printing and Mazur Autobody, respectively).  I’m sure the Commissioners have other opportunities for health insurance through their employers or other business associations. Yet they continue to utilize the tax payer funded health insurance, with a majority of them not even making a minor contribution.  This is probably because there aren’t many employers or places around that offer health insurance with little to no contribution to health insurance premiums.  I’m sure the taxpaying residents of Ross Township are contributing to their health insurance premiums and probably at way more than 5% of their premiums!

In addition, don’t give Commissioner Kinross too much credit because he contributes to some of his health insurance costs.  Commissioner Kinross, age 67, is utilizing the full health insurance coverage option although he is eligible for Medicare?  While there may be a difference in the level of coverage offered between the policies, he could utilize a gap policy that would cost Ross Township significantly less than the full coverage for which they are paying for.  Nevertheless, we do not believe that the taxpayers should be providing taxpayer funded health insurance for part-time elected officials such as the Commissioners.

So now let’s talk about the salary component.

At a recent Board of Commissioners meeting, they finally addressed the elephant in the room….the fact that the Commissioners are receiving a salary of $5,000 a year.  The Commissioners salary has been a sore point for many in the Township for many years.  Several Ross Township residents have been afraid to even approach the subject because it is such a grey area.  You see, according to the First Class Township Code, the state statute that governs Ross Township, the $5,000 salary is for townships that have a population of 35,000 or more. As of the 2010 Census, Ross Township has 31,105 residents.

The First Class Township Codes sets the salary for Township Commissioners as follows:

$5,000 for 35,000 or more residents

$4,375 for more than 25,000 but less than 35,000 residents

$4,125 for more than 15,000 but less than 25,000 residents

$3,250 for more than 10,000 but less than 15,000 residents

$2,500 for more than 5000 but less than 10,000 residents

$1,875 for less than 5000 residents

Based on this, the Commissioners should be receiving a salary of $4375 a year.

However, there is a clause in the First Class Township Code that states “no township shall be required to reduce the salary of a commissioner as a result of a decrease in population”.  My sources tell me that this point was brought up my Commissioner Mikec during the discussion of this topic at a recent Commissioner meeting.

Upon further research, Ross Township has not had 35,000 residents or more for a LONG time!  In 2000, the Census shows that Ross had 32,551 residents.  In 1990, Ross had 33,482 residents.  The Township has not had 35,000 or more residents for at least 20 years!  In fact, the population of Ross Township has been on a decline since the 1980’s.  I believe that Ross’ hey days were in the 50’s and 60’s and perhaps that is when Ross Township reached a population of 35,000.  I have not been able to find any figures past the 1990 Census, but I did find some Financial Reports from Ross that listed a declining population that started in the 1980’s.  There was a 4.67% decline in population between 1980 – 1990 and a 2.8% decline between 1990 – 2000.

In addition, the Financial Reports (you can read through them for yourself, follow this link to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the township, some interesting and enlightening information: http://www.ross.pa.us/finances/CAFR/) state that “Ross Township’s population remained fairly constant between the years of 1970 and 2000 with the present population, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, of 32,551 people.”  

Even though the First Class Township Code states that the Commissioners are not compelled to reduce their salary due to a population decrease, not doing so looks like a money grab and does not comport with any sense of fairness to the taxpayers.  Why haven’t the Commissioner addressed this issue before 2011?  I can’t imagine that no one has brought this up until the past few months.  Perhaps this is a case of “I realize this may be wrong but if no one says anything and no one notices, let’s not bring it up”.

This game has been going on for years and while it may not seem like a big deal to some, it should be a big deal to you because it’s YOUR tax dollars that are being used to pay the salaries of the Township Commissioner’s.  Essentially, you and I have been paying the Commissioners the wrong amount for years! The $625 difference between the pay scales may not seem significant, but when you add it up it is.  $625 extra per year for each of the nine Commissioners is $5,625 per year.  Total that up for the last 10 years and you get $56,250.  Go all the way back to 1990 and it adds up to $112,500.  That kind of money could have been used somewhere else instead of inflating the wallets of the current and past Commissioners.  Think about this when you read the articles about how the Commissioners are considering rolling back their salaries or that they are “grandfathered” into the $5,000 a year. 

Life as a Ross Township Commissioner is good.  A $5,000 salary and taxpayer funded health insurance for a part time voluntary position (one that some Commissioners use to further their own businesses/agendas) in which the tax payers foot the bill for a total compensation package of $181,132.80!

Think about this….are the Commissioners moving Ross Township in the right direction?  What is the return on investment of the $181,132.80 compensation package we the taxpayers are providing to the Commissioners? 

Make no mistake, the authors of this blog are proud residents of Ross Township.  We are anonymous only because of the vindictive and vengeful nature of those that we criticize here.  We must think of our families and jobs first.  We are not trying to portray the Township in a negative light.  On the contrary, we simply want to shine a light where it needs to be shined so that Ross Township can reach its full potential rather than being held back by some of our elected Commissioners who are in it for themselves or for the health insurance and not the people they represent. 

As readers of this blog, you need to know the information we have posted so that you can make informed decisions on election day and so you can speak about these issues to your friends, neighbors and elected officials so they know where you stand.  Despite what the naysayers state about the intent of this blog or the truthfulness of the information contained therein, everything we put in our posts is true and accurate and comes from news reports (which we link to) or information provided by the Township (that we have posted here).

If you think that the Township is moving in the right direction with the empty storefronts on McKnight Road and the declining population that continues to slide (4.4% decline in population from 2000 – 2010), then by all means sit back and let the Commissioners continue to do their thing.

However, if you think that Ross Township is moving in the wrong direction and that the Commissioners aren’t doing a good job overall, then find your voice and speak up!