With so much going on around town, catch up on what you may have missed.
It’s Friday, September 18. Borough Council works its magic and reduces your tax increase to low double digits. See how we got there and what’s next for the budget process. Plus, West Chester PD investigates hundreds of calls at West Chester University, why you shouldn’t leave your car running and Dia Doce celebrates its birthday with a cupcake creation that should only be eaten once every seven years. Come down from that sugar high and let’s get started.
Drum roll please… Editor’s note – This section has been updated to correct the budget approval schedule. Your anticipated tax increase is now 13 percent! Tada! After no real cuts and no new revenue streams, Borough of West Chester management was magically able to find just over a million dollars to add to next year’s budget. In doing this they have slashed the proposed tax increase from 32 percent to the low, low rate of 13 percent in the course of a week. How did this happen you may wonder? Well, like most good magicians they are not revealing all their tricks but here’s what I was able to piece together over two nights filled with lots and lots of numbers.
Assumptions that have changed since last week that coincidentally affect the 2021 West Chester budget:
- 3 police officers are retiring this year. New officers it is now assumed will be hired at a starting, rather than senior, salary level – savings $273K
- After talking to experts, medical premiums have been revised down from an anticipated 10 percent increase to zero increase – savings $100K
- Since the Borough will need to replace or upgrade all its parking meters next year, the budget was revised to lower the parking meter repair budget to zero – savings $74K
- It is now assumed, non-uniform Borough staff will not be getting raises next year – savings $74K
- We are feeling more confident parking revenues will in fact rebound in 2021 – add $450K to the budget.
- $669,875 will be coming from the proposed 13 percent tax increase.
There you go folks, $41,089,128 in; $41,089,128 out. However, this is not the last you will hear of the 2021 Borough of West Chester’s budget. This is the Borough Manager’s budget that was presented Wednesday night to Borough Council. This must be done 90 days before the end of the year. Borough Council now has 45 days to review it and make additional changes. Once they’re done, they vote to accept it as a preliminary budget – that’s the budget that will be advertised. Council then must hold a public hearing on the budget, and give the public the right to comment, which is specifically mandated by the Home Rule charter. Council has until the last day of the year to make changes, but must approve a final budget by year end. (Special thank you to Borough resident and Home Rule co-author Eric Lorgus for breaking down this slightly complicated schedule for me.)
“We only raise taxes when there is a crisis. I would like to ask that Council be more responsible with taxes.”Kyle Hudson, West Chester resident
Closing notes. One of the (many) issues raised by citizens this week was the need for better long term planning by the Borough. The last time Borough Council raised taxes was 11 years ago or in the middle of the last financial crisis. Several residents have asked that the Borough be more planful with tax increases instead of waiting until crisis level and dumping a 30 (now 13) percent increase on residents.
In response to the criticism Borough Council has offered some concessions. First they shared the Borough Finance Department has purchased new software that, while not available for this budget cycle, will allow for better long-range planning. And two, they have agreed to revisit the sale of the Sewer plant.
Wait, before we move on can I get a quick update on the parking meter situation? Oh yes, I almost forgot. Turns out this is not as urgent as we believed last week. We’ve learned we can get 2G coverage through at least mid-2021. So we now have more time to review options (apparently Borough parking meters will not run on 3G wireless). And speaking of options, we also learned since last week the meters don’t necessarily need to be replaced, they can just be upgraded. Functionality can be restored by upgrading the SIM card and solar component at a cost of $150,000 to upgrade the fleet. This is compared to $300,000 to replace the current meters and $600,000 to move to kiosks. More details on this and the kiosk pilot with West Chester University will be available at October’s Council meeting.
“Student activity is back and we are enforcing it with zero tolerance.”West Chester Chief of Police James Moreland
Not everything at West Chester University is going virtual. After a quiet spring, calls to the West Chester Police Department have been slowly climbing over the summer, then West Chester University started virtual classes and boom, we are back. In the first 2.5 weeks since (virtual) classes started, West Chester Police Department has reportedly issued over 100 citations to university students in off-campus housing. The police department and Borough Council have been in contact with university officials and landlords, sorority and fraternity houses have been put on notice and education campaigns are underway. The measures will get their next big test on October 24 when West Chester University is set to celebrate a very (un)homecoming.
The warnings. Don’t leave the engine running. It might be tempting to leave your vehicle running while you run into the house to grab that mask you forgot, but that little convenience could leave you without a car. West Chester Police Department in reporting an untick in stolen vehicles. In August, four vehicles were stolen and seven in the last two months.
Don’t get your prescription painkillers from a man named “Tone.” This week West Chester drug dealer Kevin “Tone” Swing was sentenced to six and half years in prison for selling deadly fentanyl disguised as oxycodone. In total he is thought to have sold more than 900 of the misprinted drugs.
It’s all about the benjamins. Last month defendant Bryce Buchanan Emery was taken into custody following a months long investigation in connection with the alleged Nov. 17, 2019, sexual assault of a 21-year-old woman. Bryce is charged with: rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, strangulation, aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. He was taken into custody and bail set at $150,000 which he posted so he was released until his preliminary hearing which was scheduled for this week. Lovely.
Accolades. Congratulations to Dia Dolce on a sweet seven years in the Borough. Why not help them celebrate with a cookie-dough party-pancake cupcake? If that’s not a once every seven-year treat, I don’t know what is?
“Votes for Women”Women’s Suffrage Mural Project
Hello. To a large shoutout to women’s suffrage. This week Borough Council approved a request from the Chester County Fund for Women and Girls to install a public mural on the west-facing wall of 119 East Market Street. The mural designed by Kenra Beitzel commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
To another “doggie” fountain. This week Borough Council approved Marshall Square Park’s application to install a pet fountain at the park. The fountain will be paid for and installed by the Friends of Marshall Square Park in honor of Dorothy “Dot” Laume.
“He never walked away from the Borough, even when the Borough was less desirable.”Bernie Flynn, West Chester Borough Council on the passing of Jack McFadden.
Goodbye. To West Chester restaurateur Jack McFadden. The well-loved entrepreneur who helped start West Chester’s revitalization in the 1990s passed away unexpectedly this week at the age of 72. Mr. McFadden is credited with bringing us such iconic establishments as The Restaurant and The Bar (now Kildare’s) and the Turks Head Inn and renovating 16 E. Gay Street which we all now know (and love) as the Classic Diner. Outside of West Chester he brought us Marshalton Inn, 4 Dogs Tavern and The Gables. R.I.P.
Pay it forward. Have you seen the teepee hidden in Everhart park? It’s just across the gazebo from the playground equipment and such a fun little find for the kids. It was crafted quietly over multiple weeks by a father-son team in the Borough. Thank you both, for another safe, kid-friendly distraction!
Also, don’t forget September is Suicide Prevention month. It’s been a tough year for a lot of people. Check on your neighbors and don’t forget to be kind to people (even when they say or do something stupid).
The freakin’ weekend. What are you up to this weekend? We are going on our first family camping trip. In tents. And wouldn’t you know temps are expected to drop to the low 40s on Saturday night? Even still, I’m kind of excited.
Have a COVID-goal to become a more tolerant and understanding human being? Well, West Chester University wants to help. Today is the last day to register for their Courageous Conversations About Race. The powerful Zoom discussion will cover a variety of topics that have fractured society including implicit bias, race relations and white fragility. Event is September 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s free and open to the public but you need to register first.
Also, tonight you can check out West Chester’s roof top views with the wizard. West Chester Park & Rec is holding a socially-distanced viewing of the Wizard of Oz tonight on the roof of the Chestnut Street garage. Admission is free with an onsite donation to a local charitable organization. BYOLC (Lawn chair).
Finally, the art will go on. This weekend Chester County Studio Tour wants to bring you to the artists. This year’s event features a tour of more than 135 artists at 55 studios across the county. Don’t have time to see them all? Their website offers a fun Find 5 feature where they’ll plot the five closest studios to you and even offer a lunch suggestion. Studios are open Saturday and Sunday. Event is free and open to the public. COVID-19 precautions (masks and distancing) enforced.
Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.