Richland Township supervisor alleges ‘bad mark' on 2018 audit


RICHLAND TWP., Pa. - Richland Township will see a review in June of how the coronavirus pandemic is cutting into its finances as part of a countywide analysis of lost tax revenue.

Econsult Solutions Inc. will review data provided by Richland and other Bucks County townships and present its analysis next month. Richland's supervisors approved the township's participation in the analysis at their meeting Monday. Data is due to ESI this week.

"We will give them a sense of what the risk factors will be," Steve Wray of ESI said Monday prior to the supervisors meeting. The Philadelphia-based consulting company will focus on real estate, realty transfer, earned-income and business taxes. Wray said that ESI will look at how fast income sources such as the income tax will recover, based upon the "employment mix" in different communities.

Township Manager Paul Stepanoff said that the Bucks County Consortium of Townships retained ESI and is paying for the study. ESI has private and public clients throughout the U.S., including Amtrak, Allentown, Tower Investments Inc., Temple University, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Philadelphia International Airport, according to its website.

"Richland Township will get a look at what our revenue will be for 2020," Stepanoff said. He said that the township suffered a steep drop in earned-income tax collections in April.

The supervisors were unanimous is supporting the reopening of the county's businesses as soon as possible.

"We need to get the collar loosened from our community," Supervisor Timothy Ritter said. He said that many small businesses will not survive another 30 days of the shutdown imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

Supervisors Chairman Tim Arnold and Supervisor Kathie Doyle also spoke in favor of easing restrictions.

In other business, the board will be watching out for dead trees at the Arbours at Morgan Creek development. So far, 31 trees planted at the development as part of the required landscaping have died, and neighbors are complaining. Stepanoff said that 26 emails were sent Monday about that issue.

The board did not act on the issue, but the township will be monitoring the survival of the trees left and of any new ones planted. Richland is holding a maintenance bond of about $300,000 on the development.

The board turned down a request from resident Steve Cardell to seek a left-turn arrow on Route 309 north at the Franklin Lane Intersection.

Doyle said that there have not been enough accidents at the intersection to justify spending $15,000 on a traffic study, and Ritter noted that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation would have to approve any change.

"I don't see a compelling reason to do this," Ritter said. The vote against new traffic-control at the intersection was 3-0.

The board did grant preliminary approval of the MRP Industrial plan to put up a 209,000-square-foot warehouse at the vacant southeastern corner of East Pumping Station Road and Heller Road. The project will include 212 parking spaces and three driveways off Heller Road.

The board members met in person and sat at least 6 feet apart. The public was not permitted at the meeting, which was broadcast on the internet. In addition to the supervisors, Stepanoff and office administrator Tracy Virnelson were present. Public comment was accepted via email.

The format for next month's meeting has not been determined, Arnold said.

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