Only four people attended Doug Reichley’s Town Hall meeting on Wednesday. But because of its informal nature, residents were able to chat over coffee and cookies with the man who could be the next Lehigh County judge instead of just listen to him talk.
Reichley discussed topics like school and property taxes, pension costs, and the privatization of liquor stores, but during his discussion, the conversation veered off in two interesting directions: Special Education and the current Marcellus Shale gas drilling.
After mentioning the idea of cutting funds -- like Special Education -- to raise property taxes, the residents focused on the Special Ed topic.
Peter Derr of Upper Milford Township brought up the case of the Gaskin family in which parents were able to choose whether their child was placed in a classroom with other special needs children or in a regular classroom.
Macungie resident Hap Skinker asked if there are any Special Ed standards that the state has set.
Reichley replied that there are certain levels the Special Ed plans must meet. If parents are dissatisfied, they can go through a due process hearing in which both they and the school district voice what they believe a child needs and a judge tries to reach an agreement.
After moving on to the topic of pensions, Derr turned the topic back to Special Education by saying that there should be a specific school for special needs children.
Reichley explained that society doesn’t believe in “shutting them away somewhere,” but believes we should give children with special needs the public education they’re entitled to. He also explained that there was an idea for a charter school in the past, but it was too expensive.
The conversation then shifted to Marcellus Shale, a natural geological formation, and gas drilling.
Reichley mentioned the ideas he’s heard for where the money from the extraction fees should go: the governor wants to put it toward the counties where the drilling occurs and toward paying for environmental clean-up. Others want to put it back into a general fund.
Reichley disagrees with the governor. He believes that if the counties in which the drilling occurs receive the money, they could lower their residential property taxes. But that wouldn’t be fair to other counties, he said.
Because the gas drilling is so important, Reichley mentioned its benefits – like the 23,000 jobs it has created, the money it has brought businesses in the drilling areas, and the fact that it could potentially meet our energy needs for the century.