Coun­cil ap­proves $11.9M draft bud­get with 9% tax hike

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Eric Devlin ede­vlin@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Eric_Devlin on Twit­ter

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.

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