Petersburg Borough Comprehensive Plan
To the Editor:
The comprehensive plan is an attempt by the Petersburg Borough to look into the future and set forth principles and parameters of actions on the part of the Borough to best serve the citizens. The effort is to be lauded.
I feel the plan should incorporate two overriding mandates: 1. The plan should reflect the desires of the majority of the citizens of the Petersburg Borough while respecting the history and culture of all borough residents. 2. The plan must be founded on fiscal realities.
As the comprehensive plan evolves and steps are taken to implement it, there should be an ironclad mechanism to include the public to insure the majority of citizens agree that Borough land use actions fit the (then as well as now) current situation and societal desires.
Example: If the comprehensive plan says that waterfront property should be secured to insure adequate moorage for Petersburg residents within the next 10 years but at year 5 there is an increase in the surplus number of stalls available then the plan must be adjusted to reflect the then current situation. The acquisition of additional property must be halted and not proceed just because the plan said so.
As a prior manager of several government programs, I know that fiscal accountability is perhaps the primary monitoring tool for government. Of primary concern is whether the goals of a program being met within the budget allocated. If so, great. If not, why not?
I think the plan should be expanded beyond the traditional land use provisions to include a requirement for an overall balanced Borough budget. There should be no need for special allocations except in clearly defined emergencies. To bring in a low-ball budget and then supplement it throughout the year with special allocations is deceptive. There should be an agreed upon definition of what constitutes an emergency. If it is not an emergency, it can wait until next year and pass a zero base budget test.
The proposed comprehensive plan should include a plan for fiscal responsibility on the part of the Borough. I propose the plan should be implemented on a zero base budget concept. The idea that each project and line item must be justified and approved appeals to my sense of being responsible with the public’s money.
I believe that there should be an ironclad guarantee that property taxes cannot increase more than 1% per year. That is, the taxes actually paid each year, and not greatly increased by means of altering mil rates or property values. The government keeps telling us that there is little or no inflation and they should be held to their words. If there is no inflation, government does not need more money.
I believe the plan should have a strong ‘sunset’ provision. Every 7 years there should be a thorough citizen review of ordinances, departments, government personnel, public services, and policies as they relate to the comprehensive plan to insure the Borough’s plan is implemented in a fiscally responsible manner and that the execution is being done in a manner that is acceptable and desirable by the community as a whole.