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Posted on: September 12, 2018

Board Response to Sewer Sale Article in Newspaper

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BOARD OF SUPERVISORS RESPONSE TO SEWER SALE ARTICLE IN THE MERCURY NEWSPAPER


 

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 environmental control.



After careful 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.

Sincerely,

Limerick Township Board of Supervisors

D. Elaine DeWan

Patrick M. Morroney

Thomas J. Neafcy, Jr.

Kara Shuler

Kenneth Sperring, Jr.

 

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