Does Upper Milford Value the Arts?

Upper Milford votes tonight on small things that will make an even smaller impact on their $175,000 deficit.

As the day nears that votes on small things that will make an even smaller impact on their $175,000 deficit, it becomes more and more apparent that they have no value for the arts or the community service that something that takes place in the Municipal Center provides. Rob Sentner, an elected official replied last Thursday to Jay Lapp, a supporter of LLM, that we should raise the suggested door donation to cover the rent increase. Meanwhile there have been dozens of emails sent in from the area and from folks in Philadelphia and New York appealing to the deaf ears on which they seem to be falling. Members of the Upper Milford community at large should be made aware that in a penny wise and pound foolish way of thinking, the Board of Supervisors stands to lose a really great thing that is happening.

Good Day Upper Milford Board of Supervisors,
Before you vote on Thursday I would like to bring up some items for your consideration. I know that you have received quite a few emails from people in support of from both near and far, and there are several points I would like to call out.
The first thing is that this is more than a matter of raising our rent. When we first had discussions of doing this we were required to produce proof of our nonprofit status as well as insurance. We were under the impression that we were getting a special nonprofit rate. Everything that we have seen and heard lately leads us to believe that our rate is the same as everyone elses’ and I, personally, feel a bit misled about this. I would further point out that the township could take a nice bite out of the deficit if they increased the rental rates for non-residents. Most municipalities not only have separate for-profit and nonprofit rates, but also resident and non-resident rates. Often the non-resident rates are double the resident rates. If Upper Milford charged the groups coming frequently from New York and New Jersey $250 or even $300 I am sure the previous figure of $6900 (that was quoted as what the increase would provide to Upper Milford) would go up dramatically. I am suggesting to do this while keeping the rate for LLM at the current rate. Why do we deserve preferential treatment? Because we are providing a community service in which our doors are open to every single member of the community to come and participate. We are enriching the artistic landscape of the township. Many have said that we have put Upper Milford on the map. We bring in people from other communities to patronize our local businesses from gas stations and restaurants to mom and pop stores and bed and breakfasts. We are an asset to the community that provides many thousands of dollars worth of free advertising to the township annually. It is not just that you are considering raising our rent, it saddens me that you failed to appreciate what we do for the community and the township that you would even consider grouping us with the Zumba classes and private parties.
The organization that we modeled ourselves after, Music at the Mission, in New Jersey has paid the same $150/month (equaling $75/event) for the past 10 years because the church that houses them values what they provide to the community.
I heard a comment made by Rob Sentner at the meeting last Thursday that I find shocking, especially coming from an elected official. He suggested that LLM only had to raise our admittance fee .75 a person to make up the difference. So your suggestion, Mr. Sentner, is that we show the same disregard for the community as you are showing for the arts in the community by passing down the increase? Last I checked the economy is not getting any better. We have so many people in our community that have lost their jobs and have not been able to get new ones. I hear stories from musicians that come to our open mics that their unemployment has run out and they can’t get hired because of their age but are so glad to be able to come out to an affordable evening where they can play a few songs and catch up with friends, new and old, that they have made at LLM or that come to meet at LLM. We are trying to find ways to be able to not ask for a door donation at all, no less raise it.
Ami Lanning and I are both residents of Upper Milford and we are two of the founding members of LLM. I can’t express how betrayed I feel by our own elected Board of Supervisors that this would even come under consideration. We were not able to attend the meeting this past Thursday because we were at a conference in upstate New York where we were further promoting LLM, Zionsville and Upper Milford as a destination (we attended this conference on our own personal funds).  Another participant there who I had not previously met approached me and told me that she had come from her home in Maryland to see one of our shows earlier this year. She stayed two nights in a local hotel, she patronized four different area eateries, shopped in local stores and gassed up before leaving town. This is one person’s story out of hundreds that have attended our events over the last two years.
It is not a matter of the $550 of additional funds you would be looking for from us annually, it is a matter of you not recognizing that we are contributing so much more to the community than any rental amount could buy.
Lastly, I know that you are aware that we were already offered an alternate location to call home. I would ask that you think about the negative effects on Upper Milford should we choose to relocate.

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Jim Krippe November 17, 2011 at 03:51 PM
Rob I commend you on some of your statements and the only supervisor offering to forgo his $2500.00/yr pay, but your attempt to balance the budget lacks bite. Just think if the other 2 supervisors would forgo their pay this problem would be resolved. (Especially the one drawing a $53,000.00 + salary from the Twp) Your wanting to give the street workers a raise this year is a good gesture and if anyone deserves the money for the excellent work they do it's the street department, but if you follow the news teachers, firefighters, policemen and even the retired have had to give up pay increases for the past several years. It even meant the layoff of some of the previous mentioned professionals. Lean times require lean measures. If you check since 2009 you voted for a $5000.00 raise for the Twp manager, the secretary's pay increased from $35,896.58 to $50,000.00. You voted to create a new position of Public Works Director which increased the budget from $16,300.00 to $53,100.00. The increases total $56,137.72 over the 3 years span not including the $5000.00 one time for the Twp Manager. The increases used about 1/2 of the total property tax revenue per year. Therefore I think with a little hard thought the supervisors can satisfy the needs of some organizations, the library and balancing the budget. It may require temporary limits for staff members and reevaluating the Public Works Position. I usally attend Twp meetings , but a family commitment prevents it tonight.
Robert Sentner November 17, 2011 at 06:05 PM
Jim thanks for the kind words, and trust me I have sat on the other side of the fence, I have been the concerned citizen coming to supervisor meetings wondering why they do some of the things that they do. But I must admit after becoming a Supervisor I have seen how much your township personal do, and yes we could Monday morning quarterback this to death, but there is NO local government that runs as transperant and lean as yours and mine. What some of the residents don't understand is that state and federal requirements make local government very inefficent. Tons of ways to do things cheaper if it was operated like a business. We might not always agree with the comments that the core group of regulars offer, but I always listen and agree alot of the times. some corrections and added facts, The township manager went years without a raise and is worth every penny we pay him for the knowledge he has, I was not a Supervisor when the public works position was created, the township Secretary is 43,000. some intersting reading http://www.lehighvalleyhomeseller.com/millage_rates/LehighMllag012010.pdf
Jim Krippe November 17, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Rob the figures I presented were from the budget draft of 10/20/2011 which did show wages as far back as 2007. If the figures shown on the draft are incorrect then someone should have proof read it before it was distributed at the meeting. I do not wish to debate the knowledge of the Twp Manager everyone has their opinion. The large wage increase for the public works position was noted in the 2010 budget and you were a supervisor at that time. Finally I am quit aware of the tax millage of the different municipalities and what is supplied for the millage. One needs to live within the earnings and try to save for a rainy day. It this case the tax payers give you a salary and you should work with that and not waste it as with the shimerville road property. The house was there for years and vehicle accidents were minimal if any. The supervisors should try to set fees to match that of the use. Such as if someone or organization wants to use Twp property to gain financially for their own cause they should pay more (unless it is a non-profit organization) and if it is for amusement for Twp residents or anyone for that matter the fee should be less. Fees should also be set occording to what it cost the Twp to operate the area for the time of use and to cover the insuance cost. As for the library the cost should be set as per the request of the majority of tax payers wishes and a referendum would best show the majorities wants. Nice chatting with you have a nice day.
Robert Sentner November 17, 2011 at 08:23 PM
Jim I became a township supervisor in January of 2010, and the 2010 budget would have been adopted in Dec of 2009 so no I was not invovlved in the original hiring of the public works coordinator but I do think it is a needed position. and the figures in the copy of the budget you got were correct. and as you can see the township manager's wages were the same for 2007,2008, and 2009 I would have to check but I think even prior than 2006 they were the same.
Ronald Weaver November 19, 2011 at 01:40 PM
With very little effort a good cause can raise the extra money. The township is more than fair to the group and tax payers. The issue of how much people make in the township is a seperate issue. We should start running all governmental bodies like a business and spend according to what is received. I believe the township officials work hard to balance things out in the most reasonable way. Not always perfect but sometimes it comes down to the eyes of the beholders, every one has different views on things, common sense and understanding apart from self interests should prevail.


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