Council approves $11.9M draft budget with 9% tax hike
PHOENIXVILLE >> Borough taxes will increase for the second year in a row if a proposed 2017 budget is passed next month.
In a 5-3 decision, borough council approved an $11.9 million draft budget Tuesday night that raises property taxes by approximately 9 per-
cent. Council Vice President Dana Dugan, along with council members Jon Ichter II and Michael Kuznar dissented. Council is expected to finalize the budget at its Dec. 13 meeting.
With $11.5 million in revenue, the general fund net total is $357,000 in the red. The proposed budget raises the millage rate from 5.35 mills to 5.84 mills, meaning a resident with a home
assessed at $100,000 would pay an additional $51 a year, according to the borough. A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 of assessed property value.
Of the $1.8 million in borough staff budget requests, only $227,000 in requests were approved, Borough Manager Jean Krack said Tuesday.
Among the approved requests included a human resources/public works assistant, which carries an estimated $71,000 salary; a firefighter, an estimated $81,000 salary; and a commercial
inspector, an estimated $71,000 salary.
Councilman Edwin Soto said he supported the tax increase because it paid for the “essentials” for running the borough like the additional firefighter, which went from a volunteer to full-time position. The increase also offered a way to increase revenue for the borough with the commercial inspector.
Soto said it was time to correct the mistakes of previous councils, who, instead of raising taxes, covered increasing costs by using money in the borough fund balance.
“They continuously took money from the fund balance, dipping into borough’s piggy bank” he said. “This year, obviously individuals don’t want to see a tax increase but don’t want to continue dipping out of fund balance.”
“We look like bad guys,” he continued, “but this is correcting years of fiscal mismanagement.” Soto promised to go “line by line” in the budget over the next month looking for items to cut.
“Things cost more over the years,” he said. “Staff works hard and deserve increases in pay. It’s not unreasonable
to ask. Services cost more, vendors cost more.”
Ichter said he couldn’t support a budget that included an increased burden on residents.
“I don’t believe our residents are in a position to bear the burden of somewhere between an 8-10 percent increase on taxes,” Ichter said. “It doesn’t seem fair to them and it doesn’t seem reasonable at this point with the state of the economy as the evolution of this recovery continues.”
Kuznar said he didn’t feel the borough needed a commercial inspector adding he felt another employee could be moved from part-time to
full-time to cover the job. In addition, he disagreed with Soto’s point that a commercial inspector would bring in revenue to the borough.
“It brings in revenue through fining people,” he said. “I don’t think it’s good to look at that as a revenue source.”
Dugan was unable to be reached for comment by press time.
Resident David Saneck agreed with Ichter.
“The economic recovery has not raised all boats,” he said, adding he wanted government to live within its means.
For the entire borough draft budget presentation, visit http://bit.ly/2fmyOaY.