Lower Merion’s Board of Commissioners held its first public hearing on the proposed 2013 budget Monday night, eliciting comment from no township residents except the commissioners themselves.
Once it became clear no residents would address the proposed budget—which offsets a $2.8 million deficit with an equivalent portion of a $6.9 million commercial tax-payment settlement—Commissioner Jenny Brown sought to discuss the township’s practice of deferred-compensation plans for certain employees.
The topic has been a frequent point of contention among board members, who include 10 Democrats and four Republicans. Several Democrats, chief among them Board President Liz Rogan, have voiced support of the township's compensation policies as helping to preserve an administration that provides good services. Republicans, none more so than Brown, have been most vocally critical that the majority is spending imprudently and without proper transparency.
Rogan told Brown that it was improper for her to speak during the public hearing rather than in the new-business portion later on. Brown suggested she would go to the public-comment podium to speak if necessary. Rogan responded that she should do so if she wanted to comment.
The two commissioners exchanged direct and indirect hostilities throughout the meeting as others weighed in. Several expressed willingness to discuss the merits of deferred compensation and longevity payments, regardless of whether they felt inclined to make any changes. Rogan approved Brown's motion to hold board votes on those practices at the Dec. 5 finance meeting.
The second and final scheduled public hearing on the proposed budget will also be Dec. 5—at 7 p.m.—with adoption scheduled for Dec. 19.
The 2013 budget includes $57.9 million in expenses against $55.1 million, a $2.8 million gap that the administration is proposing to close by applying part of a $6.9 million commercial tax-payment settlement. The municipal tax rate, therefore, would remain unchanged in 2013.
What do you think of the proposed budget? With whom do you side in the debate over management compensation, and why? Tell us in the comments section below.