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Sunday, June 16, 2024

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Beck Says Regionalize Police, Schools or Lose Middle Class

By Jack Fichter

VILLAS — Outgoing Lower Township Councilman Michael Beck has called for regionalization of the county’s schools and police departments to reduce property taxes and keep local residents from having to sell their houses because they can no longer afford to live here.
At a Feb. 22 council meeting, he questioned why the county has 15 school districts while Philadelphia has one.
“We are losing our middle class and people need to wake up to that,” said Beck.
He noted the 22 highest paid Lower Township employes worked in the police department, with the exception of the township manager. Beck said the lowest paid of the 21 police department employes on his list received $74,000 per year.
Those salaries are based on a 2003 contract because council has not ratified a new contract with police. When that takes place, police will receive retroactive pay with 3 to 4 percent annual increases, said Beck.
He said by the end of next year, 30 officers would earn over $80,000 per year, and “a whole bunch over $90,000.”
“I don’t think there is a need, based upon what I am looking at, to have 11 police departments throughout the county with 11 chiefs,” said Beck.
He suggested three police departments in the county, a northern department, a coastal police department, and a southern department.
Residents of the county and council should demand regionalization, he said,  but he admitted that could take five to 10 years.
Beck said residents have three choices: “Wring our hands and say we can’t do this,” try it, or come up with a better idea.
Each employe in Lower Township receives a benefits package worth $15,000, he said.
“We are becoming a dual society, those in government with benefits, those outside without them,” said Beck.
He asked council what salary an individual would have to earn to be able to afford spending $15,000 a year on an insurance package.
“We are asking people out here, friends of mine who don’t have benefits, to pony up to pay for the rest of the people that do have benefits,” said Beck.
“We lost people in this township last year and I can tell you how it is happening,” he said. “A lot of these mom and pop Millman (homes), the people can’t afford to live here any more.”
He said those owners were selling out to the “dot-com” crowd.
“Take a look at over by the Fishing Club, you can see these mansions being built over there,” said Beck. “Those people don’t live there and they are not going to get their haircut on Bayshore Road.
“They are going to get their hair cut in New York and Philadelphia,” he continued. “We’re pushing people out of here.”
Beck said without regionalization, the township would become a “rich man’s town.”
Contact Fichter at (609) 886-8600, ext. 30, or Jfichter@cmcherald.com

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