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BOARD OF SUPERVISORS RESPONSE TO SEWER SALE ARTICLE IN THE MERCURY
LIMERICK TOWNSHIP SEWER SALE
We are writing
to clarify issues noted within The Mercury article on Sunday, September 9, 2018
concerning the sale of the Limerick Township sewer system to Aqua Pennsylvania.
In particular, the article fails to
fully detail long-term benefits of the sale which will enable the Township to maintain
low real estate tax rates for many years, while still addressing the rising
cost of core services which include police, fire, emergency medical, roads, and
public works. These core municipal
services come at a cost to the community, but are essential in maintaining the
health, safety, and welfare of a growing community such as Limerick.
The sale of the
sewer system did not happen overnight and was the result of a study to
determine long-term services required of every township department. Most significant was the future cost of the
police and volunteer fire departments, which are at the forefront of public
safety services provided to the community. Included were projections which set forth a
potential $20-million capital improvement plan required for the sewer system
over the next 15+ years to address an aging collection and treatment system. In
addition, increasing state environmental regulations under PA Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP) were projected to further burden operational
costs associated with the sewer system.
The study was
not limited to these departments and with Limerick being a diverse and growing
community, requests for additional recreational fields, parks, trails, and open
space have also been asked of the Township for many years, as well. The Board is cognizant of the burden that is
placed on the taxpayers, and has worked diligently for well over a decade to
maintain below average real estate tax rates while answering the increasing
demand for services. The passage of PA
Act 12 by the State Legislature in 2016 provided an opportunity to enhance this
strategy and step away from the growing burden of operating the sewer utility
system, and focus on core township services.
The basic intent
of Act 12 is to encourage the sale of standalone municipal utility systems to
larger operators such as Aqua, who can provide a higher level of expertise at a
greater economy of scale. Utility
operators, such as Aqua, also come under the control of the State Public
Utility Commission (PUC) who has oversight of rates. With growing environmental issues of municipal
sewer systems, PA DEP also benefits with consolidation of the thousands of fragmented
municipal sewer systems under larger operators who can ensure higher level of
consideration of all issues, the Limerick Board approved the sale by way of a public
bid. Aqua was the highest bidder and the
Board agreed to complete the transaction and utilize the sale proceeds to cover
the long-term needs of the Township and protect real estate tax rates. It is important to note, if the sewer sale did
not take place, the combined Limerick real estate taxes and sewer rates were
expected to be higher in years 2020 and beyond what Aqua is projecting for just
sewer rates when the current three-year rate freeze expires. The public must be reminded that any future rate
increases desired by Aqua must be approved by the PUC and that rate payers have
a voice in that process.
The success of
the sewer sale is ultimately dependent on how the funds are utilized and protected
for future generations of Limerick residents. Toward this endeavor, the Board stands
committed to proper use and investment of the sale proceeds in which interest
returns are maximized and used to offset ongoing costs of services and thereby,
reducing the burden on Township real estate tax rates. With the increasing real estate tax burden
imposed by the School District and County, the Limerick Board of Supervisors is
confident that this investment strategy will provide stability of Township real
estate taxes, and enable an offset to any sewer increase that is projected
under the new ownership of Aqua.
Township Board of Supervisors
D. Elaine DeWan
Patrick M. Morroney
Thomas J. Neafcy, Jr.
Kenneth Sperring, Jr.