Submitted June 20, 2021
By now the City of Williamsport should have received part or all of close to $25,000,000 from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. This amount is almost equal to the City’s annual budget for 2021, a budget that has already been mostly funded by local property taxes.
Since the local government cannot or will not refund all of us who paid our 2021 local taxes the question becomes what to do with this “windfall.”
Some suggestions for the Williamsport Rescue Plan:
1. The libertarian in me insists that local government should take on debt only what it absolutely has to and, when it does, should repay it as early as possible. Government debt, even at the local level, shackles future generations by making our kids and grandkids pay for our needs today. When I served on Council we repaid at least two long term debts off early without any pre-payment penalties. We didn’t need an auditor to tell us what we owed. We simply called the lending institutions, asked what we owed, and then paid it. There was no discussion of refinancing or extending the loans. The money came from the initial payments of the gas money we received from Senator Yaw’s (excellent) formula for distributing fracking income. Unshackle our kids… pay off the debt.
2. Take an inventory of the City-owned street lighting system. My understanding is that the City still owns this asset. Then take a section of the City and repair/upgrade the street lights. I would suggest, (from my late night Uber driving experience) that we look at the section of the City bounded by Hepburn St. on the east, High St. on the north, Cemetery St. on the west and Third St. on the south. My hunch is that statistically you are looking at a high crime area. Improved lighting would make that entire area safer. Start with the intersection of Campbell and Fourth along with the 600 block of Grier St. if you need to see examples of failed street lights.
3. Fund a sidewalk repair/replacement grant (not loan) program for home owner occupied properties outside of any Community Development Block Grant qualified areas, (those are areas of the City that have other funding sources), and “refund” the taxes those home owners have already paid by helping to improve the infrastructure through this grant program.
4. If there is any money left over replace one or two firetrucks. As the victim of a recent house fire I cannot adequately express how thankful I am for the services provided by the Fire Department. Let’s upgrade a truck or two while we have the money.
This simple plan is focused, does not require the knowledge of rocket surgery or brain science to implement and should generate no opposition except from those who look at this $25,000,000 as a personal self-enrichment money grab. Do not waste this once in a lifetime opportunity.
The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed in this letter to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of NorthcentralPa.com.