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  • Peter Herzer

Opinion: Priscilla deLeon's Fuzzy Math

This opinion piece was submitted by a resident of the community.

reader-opinion-graphic

In this editorial we question the claim by long-time council person Priscilla deLeon and, by extrapolation, her running mates, that paying 95.72% of Lower Saucon Township (LST) expenses from non-landfill tax sources means that the township can afford to pay all its bills without landfill revenue.


DeLeon presented revenue numbers at a recent township council meeting (9/20/23) to show, in a what she hoped would be a resounding way, that landfill revenue is unnecessary for LST to pay its bills/operating expenses. She also sought to disprove the majority council claim that the landfill furnishes 30% of LST’s budget.


Among the slides deLeon had in her report was one in which revenue was presented for the last five years. This included total revenue, landfill revenue, total revenue without landfill revenue, total expenses and, finally, the percentage of each year’s annual budget funded by LST residents. Note that the slide announces in bold font “we can pay our bills without landfill money!”

slide-from-presentation

On another slide (not shown), deLeon authoritatively states, regarding her numbers, that:


the information from [the] August [meeting] is misleading because residents may think that we’d have a 30% shortfall and would not be able to cover our budget. There is NOT a 30% shortfall…


DeLeon continues on to average the percentages for the five-year period (in the green row in the graphic above) and adds, at the bottom of this same slide:


…this averages 95.72% of [the] LST budget funded by LST residents and non-landfill business revenue. This includes 2 years of paying off debt and last year’s excessive, unplanned spending.


As for “excessive, unplanned spending,” sometimes money must be spent to resolve issues or seek solutions, in this case, exploring alternatives to Hellertown Borough’s attempted extortion of LST to fund the Hellertown Area Library. This type of smear is typical and ever so familiar these days. It is not dissimilar to someone throwing an ambush first punch and then whining indignantly about victimhood when he gets punched back.


A More Reasoned Look at the Numbers

As convincing as the numbers might look at first glance, there are serious problems.


In the first table, it is apparent that not every year was covered by non-landfill revenue. In 2018, 2019, and 2022, the total expenses exceeded the total revenue from LST residents and non-landfill businesses. DeLeon and her running mates would have you believe, however, that these numbers prove that LST does not need landfill revenue.


What deLeon fails to mention is that at the end of the five-year period covered in the table, there is a shortfall of $1.4 million dollars. Moreover, she does not consider that if LST were to continue without landfill revenue, the current cost and expense levels would increase year-over-year, significantly compounding the shortfall.

actual-deficit-5-years
About that 30% Shortfall

In the second table, we see the percentage of the landfill revenue to the total township expenses. This table shows the percentage of the total expense which is covered by landfill revenue.

30-%-shortfall

The assessment that 30% of the township revenue comes from the landfill is, hence, neither false nor misleading as claimed by deLeon, but a valid rounded percentage defining the role that landfill revenue plays in LST’s economic health. Playing the opposition’s game, the average of the percentages that the landfill covers over five years is 34.4%, and consequently should be given as 35%, not 30%. If anything, the majority council has understated the percentage (and consequently the positive role) that the landfill revenue represents.


DeLeon and her cohorts have chosen to give partial information to create a fictitious “truth” that can be used to persuade voters.


So What Do All These Numbers Really Mean?

Despite the interpretation by deLeon that LST is financially independent from landfill revenue, her failure to mention the $1.4 million dollar deficit at the end of five years bespeaks a very different situation. Having a five-year average coverage of 95.72% of LST expenses from resident and non-landfill business is NOT proof of solvency or financial independence.


Put this in terms of your own household solvency. Would you have an unshakable sense of security if your salary covered 95.72% of your bills? At that rate, how long do you think you’d be able to continue to afford to live in your own home or even afford your own home? Or save for your child’s education? Or build a financial nest egg against a family emergency? Or, in the long run, afford the fundamentals such as food, energy, medications, etc.?


Put yet another way, how would you feel if your employer paid you 95.72% of the salary he promised? Would that 4.28% shortfall add up to a significant loss if he did this year after year?


The reality among many American homes is that inflation is so bad (21%) that earnings can no longer cover basic expenses. Many Americans in this situation are forced to work multiple jobs, deplete their savings, and/or live on credit cards, essentially rob Peter to pay Paul, just to meet their bills and stave off financial collapse.


DeLeon et al would have the same for LST. They would make up any budget deficits by raiding township savings, acting as if all is normal right up to the instant the money runs out and the ship sinks. Running a business or a government from financial reserves is not successfully running a business or a government. It is living on borrowed time.


To create the illusion of financial independence, deLeon fails to give a real description of LST’s financial situation. LST is a wealthy community which runs a surplus because landfill revenue frees up or generates monies which can be invested and responsibly managed for the well-being of all residents. Some of these funds are used to create a financial reserve which can function as a buffer in hard times, some permit reinvestment in the township so that residents have excellent services and facilities, and some are used to keep taxes low.


Once all aspects of LST finances come into focus, it is evident that LST majority council management considers responsible economic management critical. This includes building economic safety reserves instead of spending everything and then money the township doesn’t have. Hence that “30%” that deLeon and her cohorts claim doesn’t exist suddenly has validity and real weight. That “non-existent” 30% is the single most important factor in generating the funds necessary to protect LST and its residents.


If deLeon and her cohorts come to power, this arithmetic will somehow suddenly not work anymore. They will pillage township reserves, and taxes will increase again and again. They will use LST monies to fund the progressive pet projects and will ignore real issues in LST, including residents’ needs.


If they are elected, the obstacles between them and your hard-earned money will disappear and the quality of life in LST will change dramatically for the worse.


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Publication of this opinion piece should not be construed as an endorsement by Saucon Voice of the views expressed. We encourage all readers to consider multiple sources and perspectives when forming their own opinions. Anyone is welcomed to submit content for publication. Visit our Contact page to submit something.

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