My first budget meeting

Last night was my first budget meeting as a supervisor-elect. Something funny has happened in your life when you think, “That was fun.” Not so much each and every piece of minutiae, but the structure of the budget. What came from what and why was it done that way?

For example, the local municipalities assess an impact fee on Penn State and then distribute it amongst themselves according to a proportional formula. As a state-related university–different from a state university–they are tax exempt. There are serious ramifications for us as a result. So how has that come to be, been executed, and what’s the effect of the impact fee?

Other things of note: We are in very good financial shape as a township. However, the trend of expenditures is exceeding our revenue now and down the road, maybe not this year, we will have to find other revenue sources which are constrained by law, discuss taxes, or reduce services. None of this is in any way dire. But it’s something to know.

Of particular interest to me:
– We talked about the clean natural gas vehicles in the police force and how well they have been performing. I’m interested because the research on fleet conversion to natural gas does not indicate it’s a good strategy for climate change mitigation as demonstrated in this paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In fact, it’s worse because of the combined warming effects from infrastructure leaks:

Given EPA’s current estimates of CH4 leakage from natural gas production and delivery infrastructure, in addition to a modest CH4 contribution from the vehicle itself (for which few empirical data are available), CNG-fueled vehicles are not a viable mitigation strategy for climate change.§ Converting a fleet of gasoline cars to CNG increases radiative forcing for 80 yr before any net climate benefits are achieved; the comparable cross-over point for heavy-duty diesel vehicles is nearly 300 yr.

Stated differently, converting a fleet of cars from gasoline to CNG would result in numerous decades of more rapid climate change because of greater radiative forcing in the early years after the conversion. This is eventually offset by a modest benefit. After 150 yr, a CNG fleet would have produced about 10% less cumulative radiative forcing than a gasoline fleet—a benefit equivalent to a fuel economy improvement of 3 mpg in a 30 mpg fleet. CNG vehicles fare even less favorably in comparison to heavy-duty diesel vehicles.

– The township purchases a lot of road salt and brine. I asked where that brine is sourced because some municipalities use produced fracking waste water to deice roads in the winter. Knowing that it is radioactive and laden with heavy metals, I wanted to make sure we weren’t spraying that on our roads. I asked if we could make sure we know where our brine comes from. Can we test the supply chain? Our Public Works director said we can probably draft a statement of understanding for the people up the supply chain so we can ensure we aren’t putting that on our roads, roadside environments, aquifers, and surface waters. If you want to learn more about the radioactivity of fracking brine, look at the research of Dr. Nathaniel Warner on surface water or at the DEP TENORM report.

– Trees in one development have a particularly high mortality rate. The trees may be removed in partnership with the neighborhood association. Poor plans led to this. The Public Works director reflected on how we got to this place. I hope that with our full-time arborist, we can avert these kinds of things. There are also plans to take down many ash trees suffering from the emerald ash borer. I asked about any plans to deal with hemlock wooly adelgid. Because hemlocks are not an approved street tree, there is no plan right now. There are lots on private land, some in parks, and a few that are on streets (I guess as a matter of course).

Tonight we move onto myriad special funds. You can attend it you want. 🙂 I’ll be the one sitting behind the PETER BUCKLAND plaque.

Until I’m in office and have an official email, you can contact me vis a vis comments here.

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