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