As the second largest municipality by population, and a desired location for community and economic development, Lower Paxton Township is a leader among local governments in the Harrisburg region. As Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, I would like to describe what I believe to be the state of our local government as it exists today, as well as detail the major accomplishments of the Board of Supervisors.
Lower Paxton Township came into being as a separate and distinct municipality in 1767. It is now a dynamic community with a population of more than 47,000 residents within a 28 square mile area. This large population ranks 17th among the more than 2,500 municipalities in Pennsylvania. On behalf of the citizens of our community, the Board of Supervisors provides services in accordance with annual operating and capital budgets exceeding $60 million. These budgets fund police protection, highway construction and maintenance, stormwater facilities, park and recreation facilities, recreational programs, codes enforcement, planning and zoning, fire protection, sanitary sewer facilities and services, and other related activities.
The state of the Township relates first to its financial condition. Today, federal, state, and local governments are faced with increasing costs to provide services. The Board of Supervisors of Lower Paxton Township has, however, a proud history of fiscal restraint and conservative financial management. This has produced advantages not typically enjoyed by governing bodies. Such advantages include a balanced operating budget, providing for necessary municipal services, with sufficient funds in reserve for unforeseen contingencies and major capital projects.
Through its financial management practices the Board of Supervisors has been able to maintain a very low rate of taxation. Lower Paxton Township levies less than ten percent of the total local government taxes paid by residents on an annual basis. The bulk of local tax levies are paid to the Central Dauphin School District and Dauphin County.
The state of our municipality must also be viewed using parameters that are not purely financial in nature. Concern for both the man-made and natural environments is important to the citizens of our community. In Lower Paxton Township, this environmental awareness translates into comprehensive land use and land development plans and regulations; system-wide rehabilitation of sanitary sewers and stormwater facilities; the recycling of the municipal trash; the operation of a leaf waste compost program; and the protection of trees and forest land.
The 2003 Comprehensive Plan represents a guide for growth and development in Lower Paxton Township. This plan was developed through an extensive citizen participation process. The Comprehensive Plan has been implemented, in part, through amendments to the zoning ordinance and subdivision and land development regulations to ensure an adequate balance between the needs of our community and the interests of builders and developers.
The Board of Supervisors, in conjunction with the Township Authority, has continued Township-wide efforts to remove infiltration and inflow from our sanitary sewer system. Such efforts are required by mandates from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP), as well as the terms of intermunicipal agreements with neighboring municipalities. To address infiltration and inflow problem, the Township possesses a comprehensive sewer system rehabilitation program, for both public sanitary sewers and building sewers owned by property owners. The Township has been and will continue to annually spend $10 million per year on its infiltration and inflow program.
The Board of Supervisors has established a curbside recycling program and a leaf waste compost program. These Township recycling programs possess a 90% rate of citizen participation and have reduced our municipal waste stream to disposal facilities. Our recycling and composting success has earned the Township additional revenues through performance grants from the PA DEP.
The protection of trees and forest land is a responsibility of the Shade Tree Commission through ordinances regulating street trees and timber harvesting. Such ordinances greatly enhance the Township’s ability to protect our community’s natural resources. The Commission has been instrumental in obtaining grants for the planting of trees at various locations in the Township. The Commission has also been instrumental in the designation of Lower Paxton Township as a “Tree City USA” by the National Arbor Day Foundation.
In addition to a concern for the Township’s man-made and physical environments, the Board of Supervisors has a great concern for the quality of life within our community. Such concern is most evident in the Friendship Center. This indoor facility addresses educational, health, recreational, and social needs; provides resources not otherwise available in the community or affordable to all income levels; accommodates families and citizens of all ages; and is affordable to operate. The Center houses and serves two precious community assets, our children and our seniors, bring together the generations in a way that permits recreation, socialization, and positive growth.
In addition to the Friendship Center, the Township has a well-established system of public parks. The Township maintains nearly 320 acres of parkland and has plans for the development of additional acreage in the years to come. The Township’s parks are utilized by an assortment of sports organizations, with over 15,000 participants each year utilizing municipal facilities.
The efficiency of the Township’s transportation system certainly plays a major role in the quality of life within our community. To provide for a transportation system that must accommodate ever-increasing volumes of traffic, the Board of Supervisors has taken several steps. First, the Board has requested that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation include a prioritized list of Township projects in the state’s Transportation Improvement Program. The Board also has prioritized roadway improvements, based upon accident history and level of service, for inclusion in the Township's Comprehensive Plan. In addition, the Board, in conjunction with the Township’s Public Safety Committee, has taken a leadership role in the implementation of traffic calming measures in an effort to proactively manage vehicle speed on municipal streets. Finally, the Board has taken steps, with developers proposing large commercial and residential projects, to encourage financial contributions toward and/or improvements to the Township’s transportation system.
To protect our community and maintain our quality of life, the Board of Supervisors has adopted a Fire Equipment Capital Plan, as recommended by the Public Safety Committee. The Plan covers nine pieces of primary fire fighting apparatus possessed by the Township’s three volunteer fire companies. The Plan is contingent upon the Township providing funds in the amount of $300,000 per year. Through implementation of the Fire Equipment Capital Plan, the Township has purchased 12 new units since 1998 at a total cost of over $6 million.
The administration of townships and other forms of municipal government has reached the point where it is difficult for a governing body to handle all day-to-day functions without help. As such, the Board of Supervisors delegates some of its responsibilities to appointed officials serving on municipally sanctioned bodies. The appointed bodies existing within the Township’s administrative structure include the Authority, Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation Board, Zoning Hearing Board, Shade Tree Commission, Public Safety Committee, and the Friendship Center Operating Board. In addition to appointed officials, the Board of Supervisors employs a Manager, Solicitor, Engineer, and qualified department heads to address day-to-day issues faced by the municipal government.
Lower Paxton Township is a full service municipal government; one that prides itself in an efficient and cost effective approach to government operations. In providing necessary services, the Board of Supervisors relies heavily upon input from Township citizens to address the needs of our community. It is the sincere desire of all Board members that its constituents share this pride in our municipal government and our community.
Lowman S. Henry, Chairman