Bud­get pre­dicts tax hike

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

POTTSTOWN >> In its first bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion of the sea­son, the ad­min­is­tra­tion dropped a $48.9 mil­lion draft bud­get pro­posal in front of bor­ough coun­cil that, if adopted un­changed, would hike prop­erty taxes by just un­der 12 per­cent — 11.97 per­cent for the stick­lers out there.

This comes on top of the 12 per­cent tax hike adopted in De­cem­ber for the cur­rent year.

The pri­mary cul­prits for this un­pleas­ant state of af­fairs, ac­cord­ing to Bor­ough Man­ager Justin Keller are:

• The $779,000 hike in pen­sion obli­ga­tions to both po­lice and non-uni­form plans;

• The $1 mil­lion in­crease for post-re­tire­ment health care;

• The $360,000 the bor­ough has to pay back to the own­ers of the mori­bund Pottstown Cen­ter shop­ping cen­ter at 799 State St. af­ter the court de­ci­sion on an assess­ment chal­lenge;

• Con­trac­tual pay in­creases to the bor­ough po­lice and em­ploy­ees;

• Not to men­tion the an­nual ab­sence of $263,000 in tax rev­enue from Pottstown Hos­pi­tal be­ing off the tax rolls.

Keller and Fi­nance Di­rec­tor

Jan­ice Lee, un­der a head­ing they ap­pro­pri­ately ti­tled “Rev­enue Head­winds,” pointed out that since 2016, in­clud­ing what’s pro­posed for 2019, spend­ing has ac­tu­ally dropped.

But even though taxes have been raised, thanks to an un­end­ing stream of prop­erty value assess­ment losses, rev­enue has dropped faster.

Although the gen­eral fund holds the largest deficit, al­most $700,000, there are also deficits in the parks and recre­ation fund ($114,246) and in the fire fund ($216,798).

Mil­lage for the Parks and Recre­ation De­part­ment, which cares for 15 parks to­tal­ing ap­prox­i­mately 100 acres at a cost of just un­der $1 mil­lion, has not been in­creased seven years.

Mil­lage sup­port­ing the fire fund — which cov­ers the $275,000 pay­ment made to each of the bor­ough’s four fire com­pa­nies an­nu­ally, as well as the $246,739 fire chief/fire mar­shal’s of­fice and func­tions — has only been raised once since 2011.

In the mean­time, fire calls since 2014 through 2017 are up 6 per­cent.

Taken to­gether, the to­tal bud­get deficit at this early stage stands at $1,029,674 ac­cord­ing to the pre­sen­ta­tion.

To close it, the cur­rent rec­om­men­da­tion calls for rais­ing the to­tal tax mil­lage from the cur­rent rate of 11.58 to a 2019 rate of 12.966.

For a home as­sessed at $85,000, that trans­lates into an an­nual tax hike of $117.79

Keller said although this pre­lim­i­nary news seems dire, “it’s not all doom-and­gloom.”

Over­all, Pottstown prop­erty val­ues are up 11 per­cent; prop­er­ties for sale are spend­ing less time on the mar­ket and the march of assess­ment chal­lenges seems to be lev­el­ing off, with the re­sults of chal­leng­ing be­ing not much less than the cur­rent assess­ment, mak­ing the chal­lenge less at­trac­tive.

Th­ese fig­ures are likely to change as coun­cil moves closer to bud­get adop­tion in De­cem­ber and as fac­tors af­fect­ing the bud­get are made more pre­cise.

This ar­ti­cle first ap­peared as a post in The Dig­i­tal Note­book blog.


This graph from Oct. 3’s pre­sen­ta­tion shows in­creased spend­ing in Pottstown’s gen­eral fund.

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