Assorted thoughts on assorted subjects:
Fee hikes: Here’s something we’ve long wondered about utility price increases: Often, the rationale for such bill hikes is that the utility must pay for infrastructure improvements. That, in part, is the reason given for recent rate hike requests by Columbia Gas and York Water Co.
“Cost to be covered in this rate filing include replacement costs for over 30 miles of aging pipeline,” said York Water CEO Jeff Hines. The money would also be used to pay for filter plant replacements and improvements to two dams.
OK, it costs money to replace those pipes — and like with any business, those costs are passed on to customers.
But what happens when the infrastructure project is completed and paid off via the increased rates? Do the rates go back down proportionally?
That rarely, if ever, seems to happen. Rather, the higher fees seem to become part of the utility’s revenue base. And when another infrastructure project is needed, the utility asks the state Public Utility Commission for yet another rate hike.
Increasing costs tend to be a fact of life, but shouldn’t fee increases attributed specifically to infrastructure improvements be finite and enforced by the PUC as such?
Property tax reform: It’s encouraging to see two state lawmakers from York County playing leading roles in efforts to reform property taxes in Pennsylvania.
State Reps. Keith Gillespie, R-Hellam Township, and Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, presented their ideas for property tax reforms during a state House Finance Committee information meeting Monday.
Gillespie plans to introduce a package of legislation that would ultimately eliminate all school residential property taxes. His plan would increase the state’s personal income tax from the rate of 3.07 percent to 4.5 percent and add food and clothing to items taxed under the state sales and use tax.
It would also increase the rate on those items from 6 percent to 7 percent, with those funds being transferred into a newly created Residential Property Tax Elimination Fund.
Rep. Grove’s legislation would allow most school districts to implement an additional earned income tax, mercantile tax or business privilege tax. Additional revenue would have to be used for a dollar-to-dollar elimination or reduction in school district property taxes.
He said a school district would have the flexibility to choose the tax rates that are right for it.
Both ideas have some merit, and we’ll hold off on endorsing one approach or another, but it’s just good to see our lawmakers take the lead on this issue, which is important to many local folks.
Everyday heroes: Cheers to the everyday heroes — passersby — who helped save five children from a burning building last week.
Isael Vega was walking by a house on Prospect Street in York when he saw children on a roof. He climbed up a wrought iron porch pillar and handed them down to Juan Torres on the ground.
Chuck Nispel and Roy Hedrick, who were working nearby, also came to the rescue, using a ladder to help children escape the flames.
This is a great example of people “getting involved” and preventing what might have been a horrific tragedy.
York Daily Record