Jul 17, 2017

Lower Macungie's Draconian Policy

Farmland preservation is the yuppie myth of our time.  While liberals love their organic farmer's market, they know nothing of the realities involved.  Don't misunderstand,  I also love rides in the country and photographs of pretty pastures,  but I know where our bread and butter really comes from.

Those farms are of a different era.  While the yuppies, my pejorative term for uninformed liberal idealists, lament coal mines,  they love those farms of yesteryear.  They only still exist not because there is a shortage of open land, but because of an almost endless supply.  The only shortage involved is that of farmers,  those who are still willing to work like horses to eke out a living.  The yuppies even now want to train farmers as props for their delusion.

Farmland preservation funds are now being mostly used by gentleman farmers, with taxpayers essentially paying for privately owned country estates.  

Enter Lower Macgunie Township, which has decreed that future  home owners on previous farmland developments must pay to maintain the roads in their new neighborhoods.  The roads must still be built to township specification, but be privately maintained.  Of course these new homeowners must still pay township taxes, even though they will not be receiving the same service as residents elsewhere in the township. 


Ron Beitler said...

No new public roads is a policy. And not one that's been codified in any way. But, it's also not new. We have today almost a dozen subdivisions with private roads. It was always the preferred option for over 55's. I'm guessing we have around 50 miles of private roads built out over the last 2 decades.

The new news here is the disclosure ordinance that I am proposing which would require future homeowners to acknowledge the risk of purchasing a home with private roads (the long term maintenance of infrastructure) before they make the market decision to do so. Is this meant to deter new greenfield projects? Yes. Absolutely.

Large single use sprawling residential subdivisions are not financial winners for any township. The driver is not preference, it's not a theory or even a yuppie myth. It's #math. We lose 30 cents on each dollar with new residential greenfield subdivisions. That's proven time and again. New revenue doesn't generate enough money to pay for new liabilities in certain types of development.

The deficiency is widening with new stormwater regulations coming down on us from above in the form of ms4. (The states compliance with EPA mandates) The math is actually getting worse/clearer.

So no, we don't have to take dedication of new roads. So why on earth would we?

Lastly, the argument "they still pay the property tax" will hopefully go away in 2019. If state voters pass the 100% homestead constitutional amendment we will eliminate the property tax entirely for qualifying primary residences. (not including investment properties).

Ron Beitler

michael molovinsky said...

ron@9:59, you're running a local government, not a business. your equation in cost/return is not relevant in my opinion. the proper role of such government is to provide service, such as roads. as far as doing away with property taxes, pennsylvanian politicians have been talking about providing tax relief for decades.

virtually all the "greenfield" in the county is feed corn for livestock, and turkeys in particular.

Ron Beitler said...

What the farms are used for is moot in a math calculation. I don't care much about what's grown for the purposes of a financial discussion. I care about the demand for public liabilities and underlying costs and benefit. It's less running like a business since we're not concerned with maximizing a profit. We're concerned with keeping taxes sustainably low. You can only address that by analyzing long term money in and money out. It's the same mechanisms as business but not the same motivations.

Related, with the tax relief I support SB76 (school property tax elimination) though I agree with your assessment. It may be closer now then ever before but still VERY unlikely to pass. What I'm talking about is HB1285 which has now passed...twice now in fact. It's a constitutional amendment to allow a 100% homestead reduction. Lower Mac already uses a 50% median homestead. (the max allowed) As a constitutional amendment it now goes to voters this November.

And should it pass municipalities who do pay attention to underlying finances are well positioned to completely eliminate property taxes. I plan on it. We're already half way there. (we instituted homestead to the max allowed 3 years ago - only this upcoming vote is in the way of 100% elimination)

We'll disagree on the farmland stuff. But I think it's important to make clear what drives me. Less about the "feel good" and more about the math. The feel good parts of farmland preservation is just icing on the cake.

michael molovinsky said...

ron@1:14, ironically, the farmland preservation subsidizes the local turkey empire, which provides abundant cheap land rentals for feed corn. in turn those profits are turned into commercial projects.

but here in the valley, we are used to winners and losers. on that note, i believe that you're proposing that all local infrastructure cost be born by commercial properties, for the benefit of homeowners.

TRENT HALL said...

Kansas & Wisconsin basically eliminated school property taxes in accordance with their Conservative Governors/legislatures and now the states are essentially bankrupt and the school systems in ruins. The Trickle Down & Lafftner Curve BS economic theories of such actions have never panned out and always failed.....Reagan's policies on the national level gave us enormous federal deficits that weren't reversed until Clinton's appointments to the Federal Reverse and other financial regulatory agencies were able to bring us back to a surplus, which Bush 43 then, under House Leader Delay's pork barreling, took us back to huge deficits (VP Cheney said Reagan proved deficits didn't matter...only a subject if Democrats in power for Republicans). Obama reversed the trend, but, Trump policies if enacted promise huge deficits to pay for "The Wall" and build up the defense budget and launch a massive infrastructure program, while cutting taxes.

It just doesn't work. Cut school property taxes and yes the rich won't suffer...they will send their kids to private schools.....just the lower & middle class will have to endure even worse schools for their kids because of the reduced funding available for education.

Of course, polling reveals over half the GOP voters believe college is also a sham and bad for the country....only Liberty University is good...we need more Creationists teaching our kids...good preparation for the real world.

ironpigpen said...

Barack Hussein Obama. "Mmm mmm mmm!" to quote that now almost famous public school teacher. So how come Trent Hall never gets called out for being partisan?


michael molovinsky said...

rolf, mr. hall is certainly a pontificator. for instance, mr. beitler's hoped for reduction of municipal tax has nothing to do with school taxes, which are totally separate. trent seems to think that we all need history lessons with each verbose post. however, i do appreciate having a liberal point of view represented in the comment section.

athough i claim to be non-partisan, i do not expect my readers to be so. i do object to repetitive comments and phrases, such as "barack Hussein obama", we got your point a hundred comments ago.

Ron Beitler said...

MM Yes, that is a part of what drives this. Definitely. Our township is filled with warehouses that employ few people and at below family sustaining wages, produce or make nothing and generate massive service and infrastructure liabilities. Yes, they ought to pay a proportionate amount. Right now residents subsidize warehouses. Cost of community services - Taxes in vs. liabilities out. Warehouses come nowhere close to pulling their weight. They are in all measurable ways financial losers for the municipal hosts. While my goal is to completely eliminate residential municipal property taxes, yes I believe commercial uses should continue to pay the county's lowest suburban property tax. Which it will continue to be. For businesses like a Smooth on, Mack Trucks, Victaulic or any other company that employs people at living wages with great benefits Lower Mac will continue to be a sought after location.

And on the school end even warehouses are bandaids at best because the problem isn't revenue but rather spending. Structural reform is needed. Everything else is just re-arranging the deck chairs of the titanic. They are a rob Peter (the municipality) to pay Paul (patching holes in district budgets) proposition.