Former GOP congressional staffer Thomas Kutz has announced his candidacy for township commissioner in Lower Allen Township in the 2019 election.
Kutz’s announcement puts some added attention on the 2019 election cycle, which will include competitive races for county and municipal offices, albeit no national races.
Kutz was formerly a staff member for the House Ways and Means Committee, where he helped craft Republicans’ 2017 tax overhaul, according to his campaign. He then worked as a staffer for Congressman Scott Perry, and then on the 2018 campaign of U.S. Senate hopeful John Kingston of Massachusetts.
Kutz’s campaign has highlighted his bona-fides as a tax-cutter. His website states that “While the Lower Allen Township Board of Commissioners were raising taxes in 2017, Thomas Kutz was working in Congress on tax reform legislation.”
Lower Allen did, in fact, decide to increase taxes at that time. The total property tax rate for 2018 was 3.03 mills, or $3.03 per every $1,000 of property value, up from 2.45 mills in 2017. Lower Allen did not change its property tax rate in 2019, according to state records.
However, unlike the federal government, municipalities have a hard ceiling on their deficit spending capacity, and Lower Allen is facing expenditure increases that have to be offset with revenue.
The township’s police budget has increased nearly $1 million in the last two years, from around $3.6 million in 2017 to $4.5 million under the 2019 budget. The township now spends $472,000 per year on law enforcement pension costs alone, according to its budget documents.
Three of Lower Allen’s five township commissioners’ seats, which have four-year terms, are up in 2019. Those commissioners are Jack Simpson, Carolyn Holtzman and H. Edward Black, who came out on top of a four-way GOP primary in 2015. Black and Holtzman also cross-filed as Democrats, according to county election results.
The 2019 primary is May 21, and the general election is scheduled for Nov. 5.