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Shenanigans in Hanover Boro?

November 28, 2012 | 9 Comments

A number of times this year, I have taken Hanover school leadership to task for what I saw as poor communication and shoddy decision-making. For what my opinion’s worth, I think they deserved it and hope they took it seriously. So I have to say that I really enjoyed seeing that the district and teachers came to an early agreement on a new contract which took into account the financial realities facing everyone these days.

I can understand why the teachers didn’t unanimously accept the deal. Cutting future raises and accepting furlough days can’t really appeal to everyone, but I’m glad enough saw that shared sacrifice will have to rule the day at this time. With cuts in programs floated previously, it’s nice to see that the teachers will give up some of what they previously negotiated to help this current budget crunch.

If we could only see the same kind of selflessness in Hanover Borough right now.

I don’t specifically mean the prospect of a 1.51 mill tax increase. The 38 percent hike – especially when expressed in percentages – does not make me jump for joy, but I understand that we have had a long streak of stable taxes so a hike had to come eventually. Maybe small increases at a few points along the way might have eased the coming pain, but I’m not going to gnash my teeth over what we can’t change.

That doesn’t mean the move leaves no room for complaining. I can completely understand tax hikes and trust the people I know on borough council to make the right decisions, but how can they make the right decisions when the borough manager and council president withhold information from council?

Now I’m working with information from one council member (my friend Heidi Hormel) so if anyone has anything to contradict this, I’d love to air it in an open forum. Otherwise, I have to take the word of someone I trust implicitly.

Borough manager Barb Krebs apparently wouldn’t reveal the proposed 2013 salaries of administrative staff (whom she apparently referred to as “her people” when council discussed this in closed session, possibly in violation of the Sunshine Act because nothing seemed to meet the criteria for an executive session) to council for review before the vote on a tax increase tonight. Council president John Gerken appears to be her ally in this plan.

Yep, apparently borough council is just supposed to trust the person who last year gave away large raises to people she has worked with for years that administrators are only receiving increases in line with the people they supervise. So an administrator in the office would only get the same percentage as someone in the office workers’ union. Apparently some council members involved in budget and finance have seen these numbers. No reason to not trust them, but why shield the full council from, you know, the facts about the budget they are going to pass?

How much is that percentage in real dollars and could limiting administrators to a lower percentage save significant money while also rewarding them for their work? If teachers in Hanover can give up a few percentage points, why can’t the borough manager and her staff? Be a real leader and turn down a salary increase altogether for yourself. Recommend that the people who got big jumps last year go without a raise. Or is there some kind of surprise in there, some large raise for one or a few employees that you want to sneak under the radar?

If the raises really are so modest, why can’t council see them to determine whether this is really the right decision for the town? And don’t give me the “it’s embarrassing to have your salary publicly released” line. This is a request from a publicly-elected council member trying to make educated decisions on how much to raise taxes, not some public witch hunt from a nosy citizen trying to stir up trouble. I don’t care if I see the numbers. I do care that people elected by folks like me can’t see them until the person setting those figures thinks it’s appropriate.

Apparently the plan is to withhold this information until Dec. 26, the meeting when council has to approve the budget. Tonight’s vote is simply to advertise the tax increase. The budget will be available publicly starting next week, but I doubt it has these details.Not a whole lot will probably change in the next month so what’s the harm …. other than being exposed for spending money that the borough could easily use elsewhere to minimize a tax increase.

Hopefully all council members will get the salaries before the eleventh hour, but I’m not holding my breath. After all, the transition of people to new positions with significant raises and no publicly released job descriptions came at the last minute last year so this seems to be a new tradition under the Krebs administration. She also resisted any public discussion last year by having council members briefed individually on the big raises, purposely not bringing up the issue at an open meeting.

Last year she told us that the internal “promotion” of people who got significant raises had to happen because “council would have lost if we would have hired from the outside.” Well, now the taxpayers may be losing because some people so desperately wanted to fill the manager’s chair from the inside.

Hopefully that streak of late-year shenanigans ends and some measure of responsibility returns to the top positions in town in 2013.

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9 people are talking about “Shenanigans in Hanover Boro?

  1. Hanover Borough should have learned from Ms. Krebs’ time as the mall manager and not hired her to begin with! I’d have to say it openly…I told you so, people of Hanover. Open the records.

  2. Pingback: Record Tracker | Hanover budget process: Secrets among insiders?

  3. Mr Freelance writer, it is very apparent you do not care for Barb Krebs but I will say if you believe everything Heidi tells you perhaps you sre dumber than me. Also your best bet to beat the tax increase would be to MOVE elsewhere you can enjoy less tax and less municipal services. By the way does Heidi appreciate you throwing her under the bus?

    • Where to start?

      -If you’re going to insult my intelligence, please spell all the words correctly.
      -Why would I want to move when I clearly say I have no big problem with the tax increase? Please read everything before flying off the handle. The post was about what I see as inappropriate decisions by the borough manager and council president, not the tax increase.
      -How did I throw Heidi under the bus? She posted something on Facebook. I talked to her about it. I told her I would blog about it. The end. Don’t assume. We all know what that does.
      -If I believe everything Heidi tells me, I’m dumber than you. So since I don’t believe everything she tells me, that must mean I’m smarter than you, right? Heidi and I have known each other a long time. We could go to a restaurant with one thing on the menu and argue over what to get. But I take her seriously and know her track record as a council member so don’t dismiss these accusations easily. Believe it or not, I talk to other people about these things. They just serve as “background” sources, to fall into my reporter mode (which I most certainly am not anymore, but old habits die hard). This isn’t me fighting Heidi’s fight. This is me seeing something shady in the boro and calling shenanigans on it.
      -I very clearly state that if I have information wrong, people can correct me. I’m a big boy. So what did I get wrong or do you just have a problem with the messenger(s)?

  4. You sir are correct about spelling and perhaps either my fingers are to big or work faster than the brain and I could not find the white-out to use on my Galaxy III. I also apologize for hitting a nerve, which is quite evident. You write so negative about Hanover Borough and Barb and admit you receive information from Heidi and if I may quote “background sources,” and that’s what your freelance writing is based on. In lieu of writing did you go to the meeting(s) to bring them to task? I don’t remember reading your name in the newspaper for asking questions at a meeting. If they broke the Sunshine Laws turn them in. Would the meetings be a better place to ask questions rather than try to write information from conversations that were one on one and could and will be denied later. Just some very quick thoughts and certainly not questioning your intelligence.

    • I haven’t been to a borough meeting in a while. First off, I am busy most nights council meets from regular Wednesday commitments. I attend school board once in a while, but not always, again because of a Monday responsibility. The second reason is that I have been to a lot of meetings and know that they don’t always tell the full story. You may think that just because it goes into the minutes of a meeting it is gospel, but I learn much more from sitting down one-on-one with someone and discussing things. You’re free to doubt the things people tell me, but I find those conversations with school board members, council members, committee members, administrators and staff much more enlightening than the song and dance that can take place at many public meetings.

      You didn’t touch a nerve, by the way. You just got a lot of stuff wrong.

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