Election 2017

What you need to know about the yes or no questions on Tuesday’s ballot

Brush up on your opinions about city employee compensation and statewide property tax exemptions.

An Election Day line to vote at Calvary Episcopal Church in Shadyside.

An Election Day line to vote at Calvary Episcopal Church in Shadyside.

JASMINE GOLDBAND / THE INCLINE
MJ Slaby

Update, Nov. 8: Both the state and Pittsburgh ballot questions passed, the Post-Gazette reported. The questions in Bethel Park and Monoreville were also approved, per unofficial results.

Original article:

When you head to the polls Tuesday, you’ll be posed with at least one yes or no question.

If you live in Pittsburgh, you’ll have two — one citywide and another that’s statewide. All of Allegheny County will answer the latter, but voters in Bethel Park and Monroeville also have four questions each, specific to their municipalities.

Here’s what you need to know before you head to the polls.

City employees as coaches

Pittsburgh city employees currently cannot coach a sports team for Pittsburgh Public Schools and get paid for it. But the ballot question before city voters asks if that should change. Here’s what you’ll see on the ballot:

Shall Section 707 Multiple Employment Prohibited, of the Pittsburgh Home Rule Charter be amended to permit a compensated City employee to hold a compensated position as a part-time athletic coach in a public school system or a compensated part-time educational position at a public institution of higher learning, as more fully described in Pittsburgh Ordinance 36?

City employees can have one paid job with the city. They can’t have a second paid job with other public entities, including schools or public universities. According to the city’s Home Rule Charter, exceptions include:

  • Member of the Pennsylvania National Guard or federal reserve
  • The city controller and deputy controller can have the same roles for Pittsburgh Public Schools.
  • A city treasurer can also be a treasurer for PPS.
  • Member or employee of a sinking fund commission or pension board
  • PPS employee from May to September

If approved, more exceptions would be added to the list — like the ones on Tuesday’s ballot.

Since this is part of the Home Rule Charter, changing it required a ballot question. Legislation authorizing the ballot question was first introduced to city council in May and signed by Mayor Bill Peduto in July. The legislation specifies: “For each exception, the Department of Personnel shall develop a strict multiple employment policy and enforcement procedure to ensure employee integrity and compliance.”

Council Member Corey O’Connor, who sponsored the legislation with Natalia Rudiak and Bruce Kraus, stressed that when it comes to coaches, school employees are always given first preference. But if there’s an opening after that, this change would allow a city employee to apply, he said. City workers could also apply to teach a class at a public university or community college.

Rudiak said she heard from constituents that there was a need for coaches in the public schools, so the legislation started as a way to make city employees eligible for those part-time jobs. City employees can already teach or coach at private schools, Rudiak pointed out.

City employees also showed interest in being able to teach in higher education, she said.

The rule prohibiting multiple employers was likely designed to prevent city employees from collecting full-time paychecks and other benefits from two entities funded with public dollars, O’Connor said. But coaches don’t make much money, he said.

“You’re not getting paid thousands of dollars here,” O’Connor said.

No more property tax?

A proposed constitutional amendment is also on the ballot across the state. Every Pennsylvanian will see this ballot question on Election Day:

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction, rather than limit the exclusion to one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property, which is the existing law?

So what does this mean? Nothing right away.

If approved, it would give the Pa. General Assembly the ability to pass a law that it couldn’t pass before, according to a statement from the Pa. Attorney General’s Office.

Lawmakers could enact legislation that says local taxing authorities — municipality, county or school districts — could increase the exclusions on property tax for “homesteads” aka residential property.

Currently, that exclusion is capped at 50 percent of the median assessed value of all homesteads in a local taxing jurisdiction, and this change would move the cap to 100 percent.

That means it would be possible to eliminate all property tax.

Rep. David Maloney (R-Berks) sponsored the bill creating the question and told Philly.com that he gets weekly and sometimes daily complaints about property taxes, especially from constituents who are on fixed incomes.

But here’s the catch. If property tax was eliminated, there is no plan for where its replacement would come from. That could mean new taxes or that other taxes would increase at either the local or state level, PennLive reported.

Questions for Bethel Park and Monroeville

Voters in each municipality have four questions, in addition to the statewide question. Here’s an overview, per the Ballot Initiatives section of the Allegheny County elections website:

Bethel Park

Council’s organizational meeting

Shall Section 303. Term of Office, of the Bethel Park Home Rule Charter be amended to provide that the term of Council members shall commence on the first Monday of January following the year in which elected, at an organizational meeting, the time of which is to be determined and advertised by Council. If the first Monday of January is a legal holiday, the organization meeting shall take place the following business day?

What you need to know: Currently, council’s organizational meeting is at 8 p.m. on the first Monday in January. But, if a majority vote yes, council can change the time of that meeting, and if the first Monday is a holiday, the meeting can be moved to the following business day.

Bethel Park comprehensive plan

Shall Section 802. Comprehensive Plan, of the Bethel Park Home Rule Charter be amended to provide that the Municipality of Bethel Park Comprehensive Plan shall be reviewed and updated at intervals of no longer than ten (10) years?

What you need to know: If a majority vote yes, Bethel Park’s comprehensive plan would be reviewed and updated every 10 years instead of every five years.

Municipal budget proposal

Shall Section 1002. Submission of Budget, of the Bethel Park Home Rule Charter be amended to provide that on or before September 30th, the Municipal Manager shall submit to Council a proposed budget for the ensuing year with an accompanying message?

What you need to know: If approved, the municipal manager’s deadline to submit a proposed budget and message to council would be pushed back from Sept. 1 to Sept. 30.

Bethel Park capital program

Shall Section 1003. Capital Program, of the Bethel Park Home Rule Charter be amended to provide that at least one (1) month prior to the date for submission of the proposed budget, the Municipal Manager shall submit to Council a five (5) year capital program?

What you need to know: If approved, the municipal manager would submit the capital program one month before the budget proposal instead of two months before.

Monroeville

Requirements for the manager

Shall Article VII. Municipal Manager, of the Monroeville Home Rule Charter be amended to require that the Manager be appointed pursuant to the provisions of the Pennsylvania Borough Code, increase the mandatory educational and work experience requirements of the Manager and Acting Manager and change the title of administrative units to departments, as more fully described in Monroeville Ordinance 2667?

What you need to know: If approved, the municipal manager will be appointed using sections 1142 and 1143 of the Pennsylvania Borough Code. The manager would also need at least five years of experience and a bachelor’s degree in public or business administration. The acting manager would need three years of experience and a bachelor’s degree. Also, “administrative unit” heads would become department heads.

Monroeville’s attorney

Shall Article VIII. Municipal Attorney, of the Monroeville Home Rule Charter be amended to provide that the Municipal Attorney may also be retained as an Independent Contractor and be considered an Official of the Municipality of Monroeville?

What you need to know: If approved, the municipality could decide if its attorney is an employee, as the role is now, or an independent contractor.

Job duties

Shall Article IX. Administrative Units, of the Monroeville Home Rule Charter be amended by replacing Section 901(e) with the following: “The planning, development and monitoring of employee human resources duties pursuant to, but not limited to, an employee handbook, collective bargaining agreements, along with commonwealth and federal laws” and adding Section 901(h): “Information technology infrastructure and support, including telecommunications”?

What you need to know: If approved, it would change that list of duties for administrative heads, from a list that including a focus on “programs, funding and resources” for social problems and needs of the municipality.

Changes for police

Shall Article X. Police, of the Monroeville Home Rule Charter be amended by changing its title to Police Force, requiring that the appointment, promotion and reduction of the Police Force comply with applicable law, create the titles of Chief and Deputy Chief of Police, increase their employment qualifications and entitle them to civil service protection, abolish Special School Police and include additional qualifications for Special and Auxiliary Police, as more fully described in Monroeville Ordinance 2667?

What you need to know: If approved, the chief of police and deputy chief would be required to have bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, public administration or related field and five years experience in law enforcement at the supervisor level. Special police would be restricted to sudden, unexpected events that need immediate action. Auxiliary police would be nominated by the chief and appointed by the mayor. Only the mayor could ask auxiliary policy to serve in an emergency.