Saturday, March 26, 2011

State of Forks Remarks to the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and BCAF

The following is a summary of the remarks delivered at the BACF Luncheon.  These comments were delivered by several Forks Township Supervisors.

On behalf of the Supervisors and Staff of Forks, I am proud to announce that the State of our Township is vibrant and robust.

Some fun factoids about our township

According to the American Community Survey we have a population of 13,841 up from 8,419 in 2000. Families made up 73 percent of the households in Forks Township.

  • Nine percent of the people living in Forks Township in 2005-2009 were foreign born. Ninety-one percent was native, including 37 percent who were born in Pennsylvania.
  • 94 percent of people 25 years and over had at least graduated from high school and 39 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher. Six percent were dropouts; they were not enrolled in school and had not graduated from high school.
  • Eighty-one percent of Forks township workers drove to work alone in 2005-2009, 10 percent carpooled, 1 percent took public transportation, and 2 percent used other means. The remaining 6 percent worked at home. Among those who commuted to work, it took them on average 39.3 minutes to get to work.
  • The median income of households in Forks township was $86,875
  • The median age is 39.4 years. Twenty-eight percent of the population was under 18 years and 12 percent was 65 years and older.
  • Forks Township had a total of 5,400 housing units, 2 percent of which were vacant. Of the total housing units, 93 percent was in single-unit structures, 5 percent was in multi-unit structures, and 2 percent was mobile homes. Fifty-nine percent of the housing units were built since 1990.
  • The median monthly housing costs for mortgaged owners was $2,075, non-mortgage owners $576, and renters $1,000.

Financial Condition

We have raised taxes only twice in the last 16 years. Our current tax rate is 5.6 mils. This tax represents 8% of the total tax burden of a Forks resident. 18% of the total taxes go to Northampton County whereas 74% go to the Easton School District.

In this challenging economy we can take great pride in our financial management of the township. We have operating expenses of $7.93M with revenue of $7.93M. We are expecting a surplus of $971,765 for 2011.

Staffing note: 54 Full Time plus 18 part-time. 24 Police (23 sworn officers), 14 Admin. 14 Public Works 10 Road and 4 Parks, 2 Recreation.

Where is this money spent? Public Safety is approximately at 40% with Administration and Facilities at 27%. The least burden on the taxpayer is the Legislative budget at .9%.

Aside from taxes, where do we look for future revenue to support services to a growing population as residential development matures? The future economic engine for the township must be commercial development. Last year, 7 commercial developments valued at 13 million generated $202,800.00 in permit fees. These operations will generate on going additional EIT taxes and add to the real estate tax base. BCAF’s economic development committee chaired by Sharon Davis is exploring initiatives to showcase Forks as a great place to do business.

Public Debt

Current Debt is at 10.8 million. In 2009 our debt consisted of several loans for the municipal complex buildings, Community Center, fire trucks and public works equipment. In 2010, we decided to consolidate and refinance all debt including funds to finance the new public works garage. We secured a new consolidated loan for 11.3 million at the bottom of the curve in municipal rates last year, saving the township $766,000 in future interest over our former loans. We expect to retire the loan over 16 years in 2027. (Loan rate yield ranges from .40% o 3.8%)

Capital Projects

We are working on several major capital projects in 2011:

· Completion of the new Public Works Building

· Completion of the Sullivan Trial and Meco Road stop light

· Final decision on the amphitheater

Parks and Recreation

We are excited about latest additional to the township leadership team. We have hired our first Parks and Recreation Director – Rachel Sulzbach as Director of Parks and Recreation.  Additionally, we are pleased to announce the hiring of Matthew Carfahno as our new Community Center Manager. We anticipate 2011 recreation revenue of $326,00.00.

In 2011, we are working on new Parks and Recreation projects.

  • Parks and Recreation 5 year plan
  • Development of a Master Park Plan for the 43 acre track off Richmond Road
  • We are please we have a thriving youth sports programs that serves over 1700 male and female athletes in 9 sports.

Commercial Development

We are several major development projects well underway in our township

  • Weiss Market
  • Expansion of Famous Smoke Shop retail business and the addition of a new restaurant
  • We are awaiting groundbreaking of Henningson Cold Storage, which will be great addition to Fort James Industrial Park as was Weyerhauser last year.

Residential Development

Housing permits have slowed over the last few years as the recession hurt homes throughout the Lehigh Valley. In 2010, we had 17 approved developments under partial construction containing 1261 residential units yet to be constructed. During that same year, we issued 75 housing permits and we still have 1261 housing units to be built as the economy recovers in 2011 and beyond. Right now, only 59% of the housing developments are completed.

Public Safety

Forks Township Volunteer Fire Department responded to 388 calls with 304 incident hours throughout the township and in Stockertown. Of the 388, 32% of the calls we related to vehicle accidents, 17% for activated alarms, with 8% of the calls we for structure fires.  In total, the Forks Fire Department had 8,211 total volunteer hours. Firemen now have excellent training opportunities at our newly completed fire tower on Glover Road.

Forks Township Police Department with 23 full time officers responded to 7369 calls. Our police department has an extensive community outreach program, such as the youth police academy, child safety seat inspection, and the very popular bicycle safety program.

Public Works

14 staff members: 10 assigned to roads and 4 to parks.

A special thanks to the Forks Township Public Works crews for their excellent snow removal and ice mediation this winter season, which was one of worst in years. This past fall our new leaf vacuum went in to service. We are now in a much better position to manage this organic waste for recycling.

This staff is responsible for 59 miles of roadway and 11 miles of recreation paths along with all the parkland.

MCall Article

Update: According to the Express-Times, the Easton Area School district is proposing for the teachers to return to last year pay schedule (think pay cut) and agree to a freeze pay for two years.   Where is the proposal for the administration to return last year pay raises and agree to a two year pay freeze?  This is about shared sacrifice!


As I have stated in the past, I believe the public sector unions and the local municipalities must find a way to create viable financial models to avoid overtaxing our citizens.

In the case of the Easton Area School District, the school board and teachers union seem willing to have another public standoff in order to solve the approximately $14.0M budget deficit. According to school district figures, even if the teachers agree to a one year pay freeze, the savings would only be total $7.4M per year or about half of the budget gap. Additionally, the one year pay freeze proposal does not address the long-term financial viability of the Easton School district.

If the school district is correct and the average teacher pay raise is really 12.57%, then the school district has no financial pathway to solve its future budget gaps.

So here is the bottom line. Both the teachers union and school board need to re-open the union contract and find a viable financial model. Additionally, the school board needs to freeze all administrative pay raises and find additional cost reductions programs. This must a shared sacrifice between the administration and the teachers. I think we can all agree our kid’s education and well being are at stake.

If both sides continue these counter productive conversations, our school district could be broke, our kids will receive a horrible education, and the broader Easton community will suffer. It is time to have real adult conversations.

Get Involved!

2010 Census Data

In the past, I have posted data from the American Community Survey containing interesting facts about our township.

Finally, the official census data is available.  Here is the results for Forks Township.

  • Population 2000: 8,419
  • Population 2010: 14,721
  • Actual Change: 6,302
  • % change 2000 to 2010: 74.9%

We were the 7th fastest growing township from 2000 to 2010. Yikes! Just a quick view of our neighboring townships:

City of Easton

  • Population 2000: 26,263
  • Population 2010: 26,800
  • Actual Change: 537
  • % change 2000 to 2010: 2.0%
  • Stockertown Borough

  • Population 2000: 687
  • Population 2010: 927
  • Actual Change: 240
  • % change 2000 to 2010: 34.9%
  • Palmer Township

  • Population 2000: 16,809
  • Population 2010: 20,691
  • Actual Change: 3,882
  • % change 2000 to 2010: 23.1%
  • Prepared by The Pennsylvania State Data Center