Cumberland Conservation Collaborative
Meeting Notes – November 19, 2013 – Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau, Carlisle
Jerry Wilkes welcomed the group; self-introductions were made. Attendees are listed at the end of these minutes.
The program consisted of presentations by the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Preserve Silver Spring (PSS). The common theme was funding conservation and preservation efforts in Cumberland County in an austere County budget environment.
The Trust for Public Land
Tom Gilbert, Senior Conservation Director for the Trust for Public Land spoke first, covering in detail TFL’s approach to supporting local ballot measures to commit funds to protect open space, preserve farmland, and provide parks and recreation. Their primary value to a local initiative is research and technical assistance to design and pass finance ballot measures. Graphics supporting Mr. Gilbert’s presentation were forwarded to CCC members by email on Nov. 20.
Due to increasing budget constraints, it is increasingly difficult to get local politicians to support land preservation. Year-to-year budget challenges make county general funds an unpredictable source for consistent funding.
However, 79% of preservation referendums in PA have passed since 1996. Nine of ten countywide bond measures in PA were passed since 1989.
Passage rates are best in even-year elections when voter turnout is highest. (Even-year elections in PA include gubernatorial, presidential, and federal offices.)
TPL recommends a five-step process for a successful ballot measure:
Public opinion survey
The research phase determines what sort of measure would appeal to the voters; polling predicts whether it is likely to be successful. Polling also gives elected officials comfort to put the measure on the ballot to let the voters decide.
A $10 million ballot issue was recently passed in Adams County for”… for the protection of drinking water sources, water quality of streams, wildlife habitat, farmland, open space and recreation lands for future generations…” by a 75% margin. The initial polling prediction was 58%.
Some questions from the audience:
Q: What does this service cost?
A: Research for a county the size of Cumberland would be about $15,000, half of which could be covered by an existing DCNR grant. The polling would be an additional $7,500. Costs up to the actual campaign can use 501c(3) funding. The campaign would (and this needs legal research and clarification) fall under other funding rules.
Q: What ballot options are available?
A: Bonds, annual county budget increases, and property tax increases. Property tax increases can be used for land acquisition but not capital improvement (e.g. waterways cleanup). Annual budget increases can get convoluted over time with difficulties of the year-to-year budgeting process. Bond issues do not apply against the county debt cap and can be used for capital improvements as well as land or development rights acquisition.
Q: What is the timing for a 2014 General Election ballot measure?
A: Decisions would ideally be made in January.
Mr. Gilbert stated that he would be available for additional consultation if desired by the CCC.
Preserve Silver Spring
Bob Seader, Treasurer of Preserve Silver Spring, provided an open and frank presentation of PSS’s successful campaign to pass a township referendum, which will raise the local EIT by 0.1% to fund the purchase of development rights as authorized under PA 153 of 1996. Slides from the presentation were emailed to CCC members on Nov 20.
PSS had previously presented to the CCC during the actual campaign. Mr. Seader was able to comment on the outcome as well as well funder external opposition. While expected (due to similar late scare tactics in the last minutes of an unsuccessful South Middleton referendum), PSS was able to successfully counter with factual information.
Around the room (highlights):
Paul Garrett (Mechanicsburg Area Environmental Club): Requested help getting the word out regarding a series of presentations on stormwater management aimed at homeowners and renters in Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) municipalities. A flyer for these classes is attached to the email distributing these minutes. More information can be found at StormwaterPA.org.
Stephanie Williams (CC Planning Department): The County Planning Department is now located at 310 Allen Rd. (across from Sheetz).
John Clark (PA Cleanways): Stated they are looking for new tire clean up projects.
The next CCC meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, January 28 at 6 pm in the CCVB.
Au Thomas Clean Air Board
Clarke John CCWA/PA Cleanways
Croley Christen The Sentinel
Farr Shireen CVVB
Garrett Paul Mechanicsburg E.C.
Jansen Agda CV Rails to Trails Council
Koppenhofer Andrea Preserve Silver Spring
Morrelli Donna Alliance for the Ches. Bay
Mummert Ben Central PA Conservancy
Nielson Bruce Carl Bks MWR Outdoor Rec
Peterson Jon Appal. Trail S. Mtn. Part.
Richards Susan Capital RC&D
Riegel-Kanth Alicia Citizen
Schmidlein Bob CV Rails to Trails Council
Schneider Bill CSF
Seader Bob Preserve Silver Spring
Thomas Larry CC Government
Tuckey Jane CVATC
Wagner Tanya CSF
Weigl Herb LeTort Regional Authority
Wilkes Jerry CCC
Williams Stephanie Cumberland County Govt.
Yelk Anna Central PA Conservancy
Zeph Paul Audubon PA