8 November Radio Referendum: Montgomery County $48,000,000 – Is the Benefit Worth the Cost? Let the Taxpayer who pays decide.
The Taxpayers BFF Jenny Brown and Bruce Castor make the point that for an additional tax burden of this size is, appropriately for taxpayers to decide; a few insiders should not decide for the many.
I will be interested to see if Democrat Josh Shapiro ‘fast follows’ this very sensible idea.
The Forgotten Taxpayers Friends
Radio Referendum Brown-Castor Call for Public Approval of $48 Million Project July 26, 2011
BLUE BELL – Montgomery County Commissioner candidates Jenny Brown and Bruce Castor today call for a public referendum on the nearly $50 million proposed upgrade of the county police radio system currently under consideration.
“The police and the taxpayers both deserve the best, but the current administration’s agenda of wasteful spending and borrowing has pushed the county’s debt to record levels,” said Brown, who is known as the fiscal hawk on the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners.
“It’s outrageous to exclude taxpayers from voicing their opinions on the single most expensive project in county history,” said County Commissioner Bruce Castor, who has been the lone voice on the board against the reckless borrowing that has put the county deep in debt.
“If the commissioners want to balloon the debt further, they should first seek approval of the people,” said Brown.
“We can put our radio system into compliance with new federal guidelines at no cost to the county, then revisit the issue of upgrading the entire system when county finances improve,” said Castor. He was referring to the fact the county must “re-band” its communication system due to a mandate from the Federal Communications Commission regarding public safety networks.
The current majority of county commissioners is considering borrowing $48 million to pay for an upgrade of the county radio system to coincide with the federal mandate, which does not require a system upgrade.
“These are difficult times with difficult budgets for all municipalities, and an expense of this size requires more time to plan for the impact,” said Brown. “We need to listen to the police departments to determine exactly what they need instead of simply borrowing more money for a project the county and its taxpayers cannot afford.”
The current majority’s $48 million borrowing plan includes $17 million to buy new radio equipment for municipalities then sell or lease back that equipment to those municipalities. Castor has questioned the legality of such a scheme as well as the legitimacy of the proposal’s $48 million price tag.
“That number bears no rational relationship to reality when reviewing the experience of other counties with similar needs,” Castor explained. “We should be telling people the actual costs after receiving competitive quotes, not parroting numbers from a single company that wants the work,” said the former District Attorney.
“Competition will drive the costs down, and there is no sense in borrowing more than we need just to spend it on something above and beyond what was intended,” concluded Castor.
A vote by County Commissioners on the borrowing proposal could come as early as September. The Commissioners Chairman has repeatedly said he would not call for a vote until he knows the three-member board would unanimously approve the increased indebtedness.
Jenny Brown is a tax attorney and founding partner at the law firm of Brown & Silbergeld in Bridgeport. She lives in Lower Merion with her husband and two children.
Bruce Castor is a Montgomery County Commissioner, former two-term county District Attorney and prosecutor with 23 years of experience. He is now a partner at Elliott Greenleaf in Blue Bell and lives in Lower Salford with his wife and two children.