ALLPORT – At the fall convention for the Clearfield County Association of Township Officials Friday, the association said goodbye to long-time president Bill Lawhead and welcomed new president Andy Rebar, Decatur Township supervisor.
Lawhead has been a Lawrence Township Supervisor for 17 years and CCATO president for 12.
The new slate of officers, which will keep a few familiar faces, includes: Rebar, president; Donald Sheeder, first vice president; Penny McCracken as nominations committee chair and Wayne Josephson, finance committee chair. Steve Condo will retain his seat as second vice president.
The assembled members heard from several speakers during the convention, including updates from Rep. Matt Gabler, R-75 of DuBois, and some information from Clearfield County Recreation and Tourism Authority Director Josiah Jones.
Gabler first gave an update on some bills that have passed into law and will benefit local townships. The first two were worked on in conjunction with the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors. House Bills 422 and 423 deal with how township governments deal with vacancies. One bill was for first class townships, the second was for second class townships.
Senate Bill 399 clarifies how supervisor employees are managed. He noted that while someone can only hold one elected position, they can also be employed by the township, and this bill clarifies the relationship.
Gabler said there are some bills being worked on regarding preventing fraud with tax collector bank accounts, intergovernmental cooperation by resolution, entering into service contracts when no one has responded to two consecutive bid requests, and pay rate for auditors.
The budget was the next topic and Gabler said a general appropriations budget was passed with the governor’s signature on June 30, but a budget package consists of multiple bills, which is where the problem has been.
He explained that the House passed a package in April “intended to live within our means,” including no tax increase, but wasn’t passed by the Senate in a good time for review.
The Senate then proposed a plan $400 million higher and included tax increases, including with telephone, electric and home heating.
Other proposals have been looked at and the governor has announced he was going to take initiative with a plan that would borrow against liquor store revenues and raise taxes.
“We need to bring the debt down in the state,” Gabler said, adding that they need to be responsible for future generations, and there are ways to raise revenues without raising taxes, including reforming the way the state manages capital assets.
Gabler also talked about a proposed constitutional amendment for the commonwealth. He said it will change the homestead exclusion act, which currently allows tax forgiveness up to 50 percent of property value, and this bill would allow it up to 100 percent. The referendum will be on the ballot this fall.
Jones talked about Clearfield County’s local scenic byway. There are currently 22 of these routes in the state and the one in Clearfield County is 72 miles long and possibly the longest in the state.
It includes 11 state routes and two scenic loops, one to Bilgers Rocks and one to the Elk Visitor Center. It encompasses 19 municipalities, including Cherry Tree Borough in Indiana County.
It also includes various local attractions including Bilgers Rocks, Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub, Parker Dam and S.B. Elliot state parks, Curwensville Lake, Star Hill and Bee Kind wineries and The Strawberry Tree.
Jones said the previous two directors, Sandy Fink Barrett and Holly Komonczi, worked for five years to bring the byway into existence and it was designated in 2012.
Byways help the local economy by promoting tourism, supporting local planning efforts, protecting and enhancing routes and resources and providing education on the history and culture of the commonwealth.
There is no cost to the municipalities, but the benefits include economic ones from tourism, higher ratings for grant monies and so on.
The next meeting of CCATO will be May 4 at the Brady Township Community Building.