Coun­cil ap­proves tax hike

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt [email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

The av­er­age bor­ough home­owner will pay $119.53 more in prop­erty taxes and wa­ter fees in 2019 as the re­sult of unan­i­mous votes by bor­ough of­fi­cials.

One year af­ter rais­ing con­sid­er­able dust by hik­ing taxes by 12 per­cent, Pottstown Bor­ough Coun­cil raised con­sid­er­ably less dust by hik­ing taxes an­other 9.5 per­cent Dec. 10.

The 2019 bud­get sets a new tax mill­age at 12.675 mills.

For a prop­erty as­sessed at $85,000, it means an an­nual bor­ough tax bill of $1,076.95, an in­crease of $92.65 over the 2018 tax bill of $984.30.

In Oc­to­ber the Pottstown Bor­ough Author­ity voted to raise wa­ter rates by 5 per­cent a year for the next three years, adding $26.88 in wa­ter charges for the av­er­age user in the bor­ough. So in ad­di­tion to the $92.65 hike in prop­erty taxes the hike paid by the av­er­age wa­ter user in 2019 adds up to a grand to­tal of $119.53.

There were no com­ments, or com­plaints, from the pub­lic about the tax hike.

As for bor­ough coun­cil, only Coun­cil­man Joseph Kirk­land of­fered any com­ment. He said that although he in­tended to vote for the bud­get, that coun­cil would soon have to make “some dif­fi­cult choices,” to keep spend­ing down, in­di­cat­ing that could in­clude staffing cuts.

Last De­cem­ber, when the $54.4 mil­lion 2018 bud­get was passed by a 4-3 vote, and the tax hike that loomed was above 18 per­cent, it was Kirk­land who com­plained loud­est that se­ri­ous cost-cut­ting mea­sures needed to be made.

It was also Kirk­land who made the mo­tion for a bud­get that re­duced the 18 per­cent tax hike to 12 per­cent.

Be­cause 2017 was a lo­cal elec­tion year, the bor­ough code al­lowed the bud­get to be re-opened and changed in 2018 and Kirk-

land was ap­pointed to head up an ad hoc com­mis­sion to look for ways to cut costs and lower the tax hike.

But when the Fe­bru­ary dead­line came around, the com­mis­sion had no cuts, or sav­ings to of­fer and the tax hike and bud­get re­mained in­tact.

Nev­er­the­less, the ad hoc com­mis­sion re­mained in place through out the year, so it could im­ple­ment some of its ideas in time for the 2019 bud­get.

But it pro­duced no sav­ings that were ever pre­sented to coun­cil.

If it pro­duced any­thing and it was in­cor­po­rated into the 2019 bud­get plan, it re­mained un­pub­li­cized. Kirk­land re­ported last week the ad hoc com­mit­tee did not even meet this month — the month the bud­get is adopted.

The bud­get adopted last night calls for spend­ing $49,986,179, which is $4.4 mil­lion less than the $54.4 mil­lion 2018 bud­get.

Bor­ough Man­ager Justin Keller said last week that de­spite spend­ing be­ing down in sev­eral cat­e­gories over the 2017 bud­get, the pri­mary driv­ers be­hind the tax hike for 2019 are a $1 mil­lion obli­ga­tion to the bor­ough’s two pen­sion plans, and tax re­funds to large prop­er­ties which had suc­cess­fully chal­lenged their prop­erty as­sess­ments.

As for fu­ture bud­gets, ECon­sult, the firm hired un­der the state’s Early In­ter­ven­tion Pro­gram to keep taxes sus­tain­able will not de­liver its re­port or sug­ges­tions in time to change the tax hike adopted.

EVAN BRANDT — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

This slide from an Oc­to­ber bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion shows the bor­ough’s er­ratic his­tory of hold­ing the line on taxes and big tax hikes.

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