Much has been written and said about the problems with water and sewer facilities in our area and across Pennsylvania. Older facilities often lack the capacity to keep up with development or the technology to meet higher environmental standards. It will cost a lot of money to fix the problems. Yet, in many cases, there is no choice for local officials, because upgrades are mandated.
To help defray the costs of compliance, state lawmakers approved a $400 million bond issue, which you will decide to approve or disapprove as part of the November 4th election. While a sizable sum, the money proposed in the ballot question is just a downpayment on the costs of construction for water and sewer plants and lines.
In the past, such ballot questions passed easily. Dedicating money to water and sewer improvements and expansion has not been an issue tainted by partisan politics or philosophical differences. The purpose of the spending is equally essential now.
However, this ballot question is no sure thing. Given the troubles in the economy, and the uncertainty facing many families, people are naturally looking for government to cut spending and slow down or stop borrowing. There are very good reasons behind that expectation. But that must be weighed against the stakes in this decision. Not all spending is unnecessary; not all borrowing is wisely postponed.
Contrary to what might be assumed, defeating the question does not save money, nor does it diminish the number of projects that must move forward.
For a combination of reasons – more stringent laws, regulatory determinations, court decisions, economic needs – many system operators do not have the choice of delaying work or cutting back on the size of the project. Without state money available, the whole cost is put on the ratepayers.
There are groups urging what amounts to a protest vote, encouraging people to use this question to register unhappiness over unpopular budget and borrowing decisions made in recent years. The problem with that approach is a “no” vote here does not undo past decisions. It merely means that the water and sewer bills for ratepayers will be higher.
This is an important vote for the future. So please take the time to learn about the stakes involved in this crucial choice, for our communities and for our quality of life.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson