John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Governance Category

Dennis Fisher Appointed to Replace Jen Dix on Board of Supervisors

In a 3-1 vote on July 25, 2018, the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) appointed Dennis Fisher to fill the Board vacancy that resulted from the resignation of Jen Dix. Kyle Davis, the sole Republican Board member voted “nay.” Mr. Davis made 3 previous motions to appoint Gerry Couch, Jerry Festa, and Jo Vlastaris, but all failed to be seconded.

Mr. Fisher – who was elected Auditor in 2017 – has served the Township for more than a decade as a member of the Planning Commission (2006-2017) and a voting member of the Environmental Advisory Council from 2015 to 2017.

Professionally, Mr. Fisher has had a long career in the mental health field and is currently Program Director of a behavioral health training organization that provides training and orientation for mental health and substance abuse treatment staff in Philadelphia.

During his interview by the Board on July 11, 2018, I asked Dennis how he might improve communications between the BOS and residents. One idea he suggested was to have regular “meet-and-greets” with residents at local coffee shops much like “Coffee With a Cop” meetings.

Fisher also cited social media and email as ways for Supervisors to “get the word out to folks.” He said he is willing to learn how to best use social media to improve communications. To which I say, “Yes young grasshopper, I will teach you my ways but it will take much discipline.”

He will be sworn in at the August 8, 2018, Supervisors meeting and will have to hit the ground running regarding the proposed Arcadia Green development (see public notice).

Posted on 30 Jul 2018, 01:02 - Category: Governance

Meet the 8 Applicants Vying to Fill the Vacancy on the Newtown Board of Supervisors

As reported previously (here), Supervisor Jen Dix resigned her position on the Newtown Board of Supervisors effective June 30, 2018 and the Supervisors have until July 30, 2018, to appoint someone to fill the position. The person appointed will serve as a member of the Board of Supervisors until the reorganization meeting in January 2020.

The deadline for accepting letters of interest and resumes was 4:30 PM on Monday, July 2, 2018. The Town received letters of interest and resumes from eight people interested in being appointed to fill the vacancy. The applicants will be interviewed by the Board at a special public meeting on July 18, 2018, beginning at 5:00 pm.

Meet the Applicants

Presented in the order of their scheduled appearance before the Board:

Kierstyn Zolfo

Interview time slot: 5:00-5:15 pm

Excerpt from letter of interest: My husband and I moved to Newtown Township in 2005. Shortly after moving here I began part time work in an administrative/technical role for a law firm that exclusively handles cases helping disabled people get Social Security benefits. This task has given me a facility with understanding technical and legal text and conveying the crux of the issue presented in a manner designed for quick comprehension. I would imagine there is some translation between this task at my place of employment, and the Board's work reading through proposed development plans, ordinances and resolutions.

I had always hoped to find some way to serve our community that would best utilize my skills and experience.

John D’Aprile

Interview time slot: 5:30-5:45 pm

Excerpt from letter of interest: You all know me, I come to MOST meetings, I am up on all current actions of the Board, and would not miss a step in communicating with the other members. In brief here are my Qualifications:

  • President of my HOA cluster, Ravens View II
  • Member of Newtown Grant Master Board
  • Vice-Chairman Newtown Township Veterans Committee
Joe McAtee

Interview time slot: 6:00-6:15 pm

Excerpt from letter of interest: Because of my affinity for this town, I've recently made it a point to become a consistent attendee of the Board of Supervisor meetings. Since I've been attending these meetings, I am consistently struck at just how important and engaged the board is in the vitality of our community. Knowing what I can bring to the betterment and sustainability of our town, it would be my passion, and my privilege, to give back to the community and serve on the Board of Supervisors.

As a Computer Engineer, who has worked the last 10 years in finance, my profession has trained me to solve problems, analyze data and improve outcomes.

Jo Vlastaris

Interview time slot: 6:30-6:45 pm

Excerpt from letter of interest: I have been a Newtown resident for the past 10 years, and have been a member of the Technology Committee for the past 3 years. I currently chair the Technology Committee.

I am very keen on contributing to initiatives that would continue to make Newtown a great place to live while weighing in residents' concerns. I am fair, considerate, level headed, analytical, thorough, and can reach decisions after carefully collecting data and evaluating possible outcomes.

Ben Connolly

Interview time slot: 7:00-7:15 pm

Excerpt from letter of interest: Are you looking for a Township Supervisor with:

  • Knowledge of the latest technology?
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills?
  • A passion to learn and to increase his skills?

If so, then you need to look no further. You will see from my enclosed resume that I meet all of these qualifications and more.

The current President… has challenged existing forms of political communications. I am seeking a position to enable a response to that challenge. Change is a constant. We the people need to become smarter not just about what we message but how that message is delivered. We have the tools. There is a line in the Declaration of Independence that roughly translates to mean that those who have the ability to act have a responsibility to act.

Jerry Festa

Interview time slot: 7:30-7:45 pm

Excerpt from letter of interest: NA

Dennis Fisher

Interview time slot: 8:00-8:15 pm

Excerpt from letter of interest: I believe I am uniquely qualified to seek and be granted the appointment to the open seat on the Township Board of Supervisors. I have served the Township for more than a decade as a member of the Planning Commission since 2006. I was also a member to the Environmental Advisory Council since 2015 (as well as PC liaison to the EAC from 2006 to 2015). Since 2007 when I ran for election as Supervisor, I have maintained an interest in the township financial status and I have reviewed township budgets annually. I have been active (on an ad hoc basis) with a core group of the Swamp Road Residents Group to monitor Penndot activity on Swamp Road. Additionally, I was elected Township-wide, as Auditor in 2017.

Gerry Couch

Interview time slot: 8:30-8:45 pm

Excerpt from letter of interest

I have recent experience as a Town Supervisor and worked well with Jen when we both served for nearly two years [during which I]

  • [helped improve the] Township’s relationship with Newtown Volunteer Fire Dept with the help of Supervisor Dix.
  • worked on Brixmore redevelopment at Eagle Road with the board to assure a great outcome.
  • worked with residents and developer to attempt to resolve development issues in Newtown Crossing

Posted on 03 Jul 2018, 12:11 - Category: Governance

Dix to Resign, Board Must Fill Vacancy by July 30

At the June 13, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, Supervisor Jen Dix announced that she is resigning from the Board effective June 30, 2018. Read the news story below.

On her Facebook page, Ms. Dix said:

"It’s with a heavy heart that I announce my resignation from the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors effective June 30. My family will be moving to New Hampshire.

"I want to stress that this decision is not at all related to the resignations made last month by Chief Pasqualini [read "Nine Newtown Township Police Officers Receive Commendations; Police Chief Rick Pasqualini to Retire"] and our Township manager Kurt Ferguson [read "Newtown Township Manager Kurt Ferguson Will Take Lower Makefield Township Manager Position in July"]. In fact our family’s move is something we have been contemplating long before I was aware the Chief and Mr. Ferguson would be stepping down.

"It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the residents of Newtown Township. I have done my best to serve the community and have no regrets. I thank my fellow Board members both past and current and the Township administration for their collaboration to make Newtown an even better place to live."

The Supervisors have until July 30, 2018, to appoint a replacement.

Newtown Now Accepting Applicants to Fill the Vacancy

Newtown Township is now accepting resumes for persons interested in being appointed as a member of the Board of Supervisors to fill a vacancy on the Board.

The person appointed will serve as a member of the Board of Supervisors until the reorganization meeting in January 2020.

A letter of interest and resume must be received by 4:30 PM on Monday, July 2, 2018. Interviews will be scheduled at a public meeting during the month of July.

To qualify for appointment, a resident must be an elector (i.e., registered voter) of Newtown Township who has resided in the Township continuously for at least one year prior to their appointment.

The Responsibilities of Newtown Township Supervisors

Letters of interest and resumes can be mailed to 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 18940, emailed to oliviak@newtownpa.gov, or faxed to 215-968-5368 - Attention: Olivia Kivenko.

Posted on 15 Jun 2018, 13:53 - Category: Governance

Newtown Township Employee Salaries & Wages

The Bucks County Courier Times reports that it filed “60 right-to-know requests, seeking the total wages paid to all full- and part-time government workers in 2017” (read “To Be Revealed: What Local Government Employees Earned in 2017”).

Coincidently (?), American Transparency, a non-profit group that publishes OpenThe Books.com, sent right-to-know requests to many, if not all, PA municipalities – including Newtown Township – asking for a copy of the following records: “An electronic copy of any and all employees for year of 2017, (fiscal or calendar year). Each employee record should contain the employer name, employer zip code, year of compensation, first name, middle initial, last name, hire date (mm-dd-yyyy), base salary amount, bonus amount, overtime amount, gross annual wages and position title.”

Newtown complied with the request since it maintains these records and by law “it is not exempted in any way by the Right-to-Know Law… subject to redaction as permitted by the Law,” according to the Township Solicitor.

Other townships, however, have denied the request, contending they do not maintain the exact records requested. “I have denied more than my fair share of requests lately solely based on the fact that I have no report that includes every piece of information they are requesting,” says Heidelberg Township Office Manager. “I may have a report that comes close, but I'm not providing it because it is not what they are asking for. Is that a hardline to take? Maybe. If they wish to amend their request, that is fine. I would then provide the report that satisfies their request. But please don't be fearful of denying if you don't have it to give. Maybe if we all did that, they would stop asking.”

Well, that’s not a very transparent attitude, I must say!

So what wages and salaries do Newtown Township employees earn? You can easily find that information for 2018 in the approved budget published on the township’s website (here). I’ve summarized that data in the following pie charts.

As recently reported, Mr. Kurt Ferguson, Newtown Township Manager, will be leaving to become Lower Makefield Township Manager (LMT) on July 16, 2018 (read “Newtown Township Manager Kurt Ferguson Will Take Lower Makefield Township Manager Position in July”).

According to the 2018 Budget, Mr. Ferguson’s salary for 2018 is $138,940. He also receives an additional $10,000 as Finance Director (see Resolution 2018-R-7).

Numbers Are Not the Whole Story

Numbers alone, however, do not tell the whole story. For example, because Mr. Ferguson fulfills the role of Finance Manager at very low compensation level of $10,000 per year, the Township does not have to hire someone else at more than $80,000 per year to fill that role. This has saved an estimated $500,000 over the 6 years of Mr Ferguson's tenure. Keep in mind that Mr. Fergison works many additional hours every week without additional pay.

The following table from a Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) report shows the full-time hourly rates in 2016 for management and police employees in townships with populations over 8,000 (Newtown has a population of over 19,000).

These numbers are based on data reported by 72 townships. To compare apples to apples, you have to convert hourly rates to yearly salaries using the equation 37.5 hours per week X 52 weeks X hourly rate.

BTW, Newtown Township Supervisors receive an annual income of $4,125 per! For me that works out to be about $41.00 per hour to attend Board of Supervisors meetings. It does NOT include the many hours I spend attending other meetings such as meetings of Parks & Recreation, Technology Committee, JMZO, Planning Commission, etc. It also does not include the many hours I spend preparing for these meetings! This wage is set by law and it has been the same since at least 2015. I say it's time for an increase!

UPDATE: The Bucks County Courier Times, on June 8, 2018, published the salary data it has collected; read "Some Local Governments Reluctant to Release Employee Wages, Some Don't Keep Complete Records!".

Posted on 07 Jun 2018, 01:33 - Category: Governance

April 9-13, 2018 is "Local Government Week"

APRIL 9-13 IS LOCAL GOVERNMENT WEEK— an entire week dedicated to commending the hard work that local officials - including Supervisors, Township Management personnel, and Township employees - put into our township. Local Government Week honors the dedication of Pennsylvania’s local officials and encourages citizens to learn how local government functions and affects each resident and business in the community.

During this week, the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services has made a tradition of hosting a Local Government Day celebration, featuring the presentation of the Governor's Awards for Local Government Excellence to recognize local officials for their successes in undertaking innovative initiatives to improve the quality of life in their communities.

There are an array of services that local governments provide to residents they may not be aware of. See the infographic below prepared by the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS):

 

 

Posted on 10 Apr 2018, 01:09 - Category: Governance

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