At Wednesday night’s budget meeting, Newtown residents finally learned that 2013’s preliminary budget calls for a 4.5% tax increase. This increase would raise about $181,000 in additional revenue. Taxpayers also learned that about half this increase, despite resident’s pleas to end the practice was due to supervisors having the residents of Newtown pay their medical insurance premiums and deductibles.
In fact, now in addition to John Nawn (who has taxpayers paying for his entire family) as well as George Wood (medical insurance for two), last night Supervisors Vice Chairman Ross Lambert, as he has other than this past year, notified the Board of Supervisors that he wanted again to have the taxpayers pay this cost.
As a result of this decision, Newtown taxpayers will pay about $77,000 for this benefit. This is about half the tax increase proposed. Newtown is the only local township that has supervisors that have availed themselves of this paid entitlement. No other local township has taxpayers foot the bill for non-employee supervisors’ medical benefits and deductibles.
What is the benefit to the community of their taking this paid benefit? Nothing! In fact, last week Ross slept through the budget workshop. Last night, he didn’t even attend the meeting. George also was absent from both last week’s budget workshop as well as last night’s meeting. The taxpayers pay for their healthcare costs and they don’t even bother to attend the meeting. They leave the other supervisors to vote to accept this cost on behalf of the taxpayers.
For years, Regi Siberski, an active, intelligent, honest and involved resident has notified the board that their actions in taking medical benefits were illegal. Finally, this year, the township’s solicitor, Rich Sokorai, appeared to agree that the initial process by which supervisors availed themselves of this entitlement was improper. But rather than advise the supervisors that this practice should end, he indicated that since this was many years later, and supervisors continued to put the cost of medical benefits in the budget, it was a properly approved benefit.
Regi vehemently disagrees with Rich’s assessment and continues to fight this battle. The Supervisors continue to defend the use of OPM (other people’s money) to give themselves a benefit which Regi believes they have taken illegally. And, although, now there are three supervisors who will have the taxpayers provide this benefit to them, until this past July, Supervisors Chairman Joe Catania also had taxpayers pay the bill for his family’s healthcare premium and deductibles. Only Ed Partridge has not taken this benefit. And yet, he voted to let the other supervisors take this benefit.
In addition to Regi, both Nate Glazer, another resident, and I commented on this issue and asked the supervisors to stop taking this money from the taxpayers to benefit themselves. You, too, can let the supervisors know that you want them to stop this practice. The three supervisors, Lambert, Nawn and Wood, by revoking their decisions to take medical benefits, would ensure that the tax increase proposed in the preliminary budget would be at least cut in half.
The final budget will not be accepted until the Board of Supervisors’ meeting on December 27th. There is still time for these supervisors to do the right thing. I hope the taxpayers of Newtown let them know that they do not want their taxes to rise to benefit three supervisors.