Tax hike whit­tled down to 9.5%

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt [email protected]­tu­ry­ @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

POTTSTOWN >> The 12 per­cent tax hike loom­ing in the 2019 bud­get is loom­ing a lit­tle less.

Pottstown Bor­ough Man­ager Justin Keller told coun­cil Wed­nes­day night that staff has whit­tled it down to 9.46 per­cent.

He pointed out that the $48.9 mil­lion 2019 bud­get calls for less ac­tual spend­ing than the 2018 bud­get, and that, as of Oct. 31, spend­ing in 2018 is down in a num­ber of cat­e­gories over 2017. He ticked them off:

• Ad­min­is­tra­tion spend­ing is down 29.2 per­cent over 2017

• Le­gal costs are down 16 per­cent over 2017

• En­gi­neer­ing costs are down

50 per­cent over 2017

• Gen­eral gov­ern­ment spend­ing is down 50 per­cent over 2017

• Po­lice over­time is down 20 per­cent over 2017

• Po­lice court over­time is down 57 per­cent over 2017

So why are taxes still go­ing up?

Keller laid the blame on two ma­jor fac­tors.

The first was the $1 mil­lion in­crease in pen­sion obli­ga­tions for 2019.

“That one kind of hit us by sur­prise,” Keller said. The 16 per­cent in­crease “is a big num­ber,” he said.

The other was big tax re­funds to large com­mer­cial prop­er­ties which had chal­lenged their prop­erty as­sess­ments and won.

The big­gest of those was

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.

The good news, if there can be said to be any good news in a 9.5 per­cent tax hike, is that Pottstown’s as­sess­ment roller coaster seem to have lev­eled out and chal­lenges are di­min­ish­ing.

Keller said as the bud­get

stands now, the mill­age rate will be 12.675 mills, up from the cur­rent rate of 11.58 mills.

Coun­cil will vote Mon­day on ad­ver­tis­ing the bud­get and new tax rate, af­ter which the tax rate can go down, but not up. Fi­nal adop­tion of the bud­get is likely to be at the end of De­cem­ber.

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

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