Op/Ed: Vote to keep Kennett Twp. fiscal reform

Up until the last election for supervisor in 2013, when Richard Leff joined Scudder Stevens to form a new reform administration, Kennett Township had unfortunately gained a terrible reputation regarding its financial management.

Previous administrations routinely co-mingled funds collected for different purposes - open space, sewers, etc., in the general fund, contrary to state law and generally accepted accounting practices. Because of this, the apparent general fund ‘surplus’ had grown to some $10M, a staggering amount for such a small township.

Worst yet, the township did almost no financial planning for long-term infrastructure requirements like road maintenance, sewer construction and police protection. Therefore, it was impossible to tell whether our township had a true financial surplus, or might actually be seriously underfunded.

These problems were further compounded by the fact that previous administrations routinely refused to discuss financial matters openly, and stonewalled public demands for an impartial audit of the township’s finances. Their infamous low point was certainly the public unmasking of the unreachable ‘Ed Johnson’, the auditor who never was, but that was just yet another example of their total disregard of the public trust.

After so many years of mismanagement and controversy, it’s no surprise that, even after a change in administration, many residents are still confused about the township’s financial state. Does the township still have a huge surplus? Is that money being properly managed? Shouldn’t the township be giving at least some of that money back to the taxpayers?

The truth is that since becoming the board of supervisors' majority less than two years ago, Stevens and Leff have completely turned around the township’s financial management. The township’s books are now completely open and routinely audited, and the township’s operating account is even posted online.

Moreover, the huge general fund ‘surplus’ has finally been properly reallocated into various special purpose reserve funds to cover the anticipated longer-term costs of township infrastructure development and maintenance, including the acquisition of open space. Due to this careful planning, the remaining general fund balance is now reduced to a modest, responsible hedge against unexpected contingencies that will protect both township operations and taxpayers for many years to come.

This Nov 3, there is an election for another Kennett Township Supervisor. Only one candidate, Whitney Hoffman, has staunchly supported the financial reforms of Stevens and Leff, and also has had extensive experience managing the finances of several other public organizations. The other candidate is a long-term ally of past administrations, and never voiced any complaints about their years of serious financial mismanagement. For me the choice is clear: I’ll be voting for Whitney Hoffman and I hope you will be as well – the financial future of our township depends on it.

Michael Guttman

Kennett Township

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