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Honey Brook Township Tax Referendum (2009)

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The Honey Brook Township Tax Referendum was a ballot measure that did not appear on the November 3 ballot in Chester County for voters in the township of Honey Brook. If it had been placed on the ballot, the question to voters would have been whether or not to eliminate part of a 1.5% local income tax levy.

Residents in Honey Brook Township have been paying a 1.5% earned income tax for the last three years. One-third of the money raised through the local income tax levy goes to a farmland program. The remaining two-thirds is split between the Honey Brook township government and the Twin Valley School District.

The Honey Brook Action Committee Association (HBACA) opposes continuation of the part of the tax that goes to farmland preservation. They began circulating a petition in March 2009 to qualify the tax-elimination measure for the ballot. In July 2009, they said they had collected more than the 90 signatures needed for a referendum. The committee has until August 2009 to submit the signatures to the Chester County Department of Voter Services in order to get the question on the November ballot. According to the committee, the Township's current plan is already trying to cluster development in certain areas, so raising and spending extra money on open space preservation is redundant.

James L. Forsythe, voter services director, said he hasn't received the petition but that his office is aware of the group's efforts[1]


It was determined that the Honey Brook Action Committee did not meet the statutory requirements to place their referendum on the fall ballot.
 

Honey Brook Township, located in southeastern Pennsylvania, had a population as of the 2000 census of 6,278. Chester County, where Honey Brook Township is located, ranked 21st among the more than 3,100 counties in the United States by adjusted gross income for 2007[2]

Land preservation goals

A "Land Preservation Plan" prepared in 2007 for the Honey Brook Township Board of Supervisors states in its introduction:

"Everything that guides the Honey Brook Township Board of Supervisors, including their mission statement and vision, is geared toward preserving the open spaces and rural character of the Township. This also includes the desires of the majority of residents in Honey Brook. To that end, this land preservation plan is not only consistent with this mission and vision, but – along with the Comprehensive Plan – is the actual conduit through which the greatest desires and dreams for the future of the Township are put into action."[3]

Support

Sam Fisher, president of the Honey Brook Action Committee Association, said he believes now is the wrong time to be taking more money out of taxpayers' pockets.

(It should be noted that only 2 of the 6 HBACA Board members live in Honey Brook Twp. Their goals are unclear on why they interfere in a municipality in which they do not live. Their founder & former president, Joe Fenstermacher, is a candidate for Twp. Supervisor in the fall election. Sam Fisher is not a resident of Honey Brook Twp.)

"People are hurting right now," says Fisher, referring to the general economic decline of 2009.

Fisher and his group believe the township can accomplish agricultural preservation through strong zoning laws.

Opposition

Chairman of the Township Agriculture Preservation Board John McHugh stated that removing the tax would deal a serious blow to the program. Farmers still could voluntarily give up their development rights in exchange for tax credits, according to McHugh, but the township provides money they can invest in improving their farms.

McHugh said: "From a long-term perspective, now is the ideal time to preserve farmland. Land is cheaper now."

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References