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It’s Friday, Sept. 29, 2023: West Chester Borough is looking ahead and seeing a lot of new expenses without a lot of new revenue streams. The imbalance is inspiring a new approach to budgeting (cough) yearly tax increases (cough). Live outside the Borough? Updates for you too. Also, how to get in on the new Chili Cook-off “Chili Drop” and the fire is finally out on Lascala’s plans to come to West Chester. What’s next for 44 West? I’m going to have to see to believe this time.
Fall is in the air. Footballs are on the field. Beers (or three) will be in the hand. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
The Borough’s New Budget Philosophy
If you follow these things closely, you will likely remember the 2021 West Chester Borough budget presentation. It was during this annual finance review with Council that then Borough Manager Mike Perrone announced an anticipated $1.7 million budget shortfall and the need for a 32 percent tax increase to cover expenses.
While that operating deficit was eventually, through a series of cuts, scraped back to a six percent increase there was a brief panic over the situation.
“I’ll never forget that night – ever. That was rough,” said Councilman Nick Allen who was participating in his first budget season at the time.
“I was just floored. I could not believe we were in that position,” echoed Councilwoman Lisa Dorsey who was also sitting in her first budget meeting on Council.
That increase, and the subsequent four percent increase in 2022, came after the Borough went eight years without raising taxes.
“That’s eight years of not changing the tax rate and that’s just not sustainable,” said now Borough manager Sean Mettrick. Instead, he is proposing the Borough move to expected annual increases.
“We should work together to avoid big adjustments and concentrate on making smaller sustainable adjustments that are predictable and don’t have the public worrying about taxes going up,” he said to Council. “You know there is a certain increase that has to happen.”
Council seemed excited by this proposal. “I think residents will appreciate the consistency and ability to plan,” said Nick.
Appreciate consistent tax increases? Maybe, maybe not, but either way it seems the increases are coming. American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds have been spent, revenues are forecast as down next year, and increases are expected in the General Fund and fire budgets – as things stand today property taxes would need to increase 9.4 percent to cover the revenue gap.
While that number will hopefully come down, the hard truth is a tax increase is coming (and likely coming). The current method is just not viable, Councilman Bernie Flynn told me after the meeting. So expect small, yearly increases now and into the future.
Sewer Rate Increase Also in the Works
It’s a message I guess we just need to start getting used to – the cost of living here is going up – and that includes the cost of ridding wastewater from the Borough. According to the budget presentation, as things stand today the Sewer Fund is looking at a $420,000 or roughly 8 percent shortfall next year. This is due in large part to the need to reach an agreement with a new sludge removal company. However, until bids are received it is not known exactly what that cost will be. The call for proposals for that honor opens in early October.
(“Why such a large increase?” you ask. “Did we not have a sludge hauler before? Or did this service just suddenly get drastically more expensive?” I don’t know the answers to these questions but hopefully, we’ll get some more information before the October meeting.)
While no specifics were given at last week’s meeting, the message was pretty clear – we can be sure to expect some sort of increase come next year.
Dates to Know
- October 17 – West Chester Borough revised preliminary budget presentation
- November 15 – Public Hearing on the proposed WCB budget
- November 15 – Possible adoption of the WCB budget after the hearing
- December 20 – Final opportunity to adopt WCB budget
Around the Area
East Bradford will discuss the 2024 budget on October 5 at 5 p.m. – the same date as the regular Board of Supervisors meeting.
Westtown is also still working on finalizing its 2024 budget but according to Director of Finance Cindi King, “The Township is on target financially and that the General Fund is positioned to end the year with a healthy surplus.” That must be nice.
Do not pick a fight with a West Chester police officer. Not necessarily something you think you would have to write down, but here we are. West Chester police are reporting two incidents this month involving traffic stops and combative suspects. In the first incident occurring on Sept. 11, Michael Katrakazis of Drexel Hill was found driving the wrong way down Barnard Street at 2:30 a.m. A drunk Michael became combative with officers as they tried to detain him. They eventually succeeded but not before one of the officers was injured. Then around midnight on September 19, Gregory Davis of Philadelphia was found unconscious at the wheel of his vehicle at the corner of Church and Gay Streets. Upon being put in handcuffs Gregory proceeded to fight with officers. His actions led to an “aggravated assault” charge being added to his otherwise pretty innocuous violation of “obstructing highways and other public passages.”
Always practice defensive driving. West Goshen police are investigating a fatal motorcycle accident that took place in East Goshen Township last week. At around 7 a.m. on Sept. 19, a motorcyclist traveling down West Chester Pike was struck and killed by an SUV pulling out from Waterview Road. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Sgt. Ted Lewis at 610-692-9600.
Review your fire safety basics. October is Fire Safety Month and while we are not quite there yet it seems this is as fitting a time as any for a refresher. Twice this week West Chester firefighters were called out in response to house fires. The first occurred on N. Walnut St. in a Hickman Home apartment microwave. The second occurred in a home on the 1000 block of Squires Drive in East Bradford. While the cause of this fire has not yet been identified, flames were found between the home’s first and second floors. Fortunately, firefighters quickly extinguished the fire and no injuries were reported.
Saturday is WCU Homecoming. Expect crowds, lots of extra cars, and all kinds of house parties. One year I nearly twisted my ankle on a champagne cork on the sidewalk. (Ritzier than in my day.) If you are going to the game, it’s $10 cash to park or take that free shuttle WCU is running from north to south campus. Just note, masks are still required on the buses and if you want to bring an RV to Saturday’s game, make sure you call ahead.
Not all publicity is good publicity. West Chester police are seeking help identifying four young men wanted in connection with a series of thefts at Seven-Eleven on S. High Street. Three of the four were wearing their WCU gear at the time of their screen capture. If you have any information or recognize the faces, give WCPD a call at 610-696-2700.
Sobriety is a day-by-day venture. Bam Margera, who was back in court this week, reportedly hit 30 days sober and will be heading back to Florida.
Congratulations to Dr. David Christopher. If you haven’t seen the news yet, Dr. Christopher was unanimously voted the new superintendent of the West Chester Area School District. He will be taking over in December for Dr. Kalia Reynolds, who has been serving as substitute superintendent for Dr. Bob Sokolowski. Dr. S. stepped down in January citing health concerns. Dr. Christopher, who was described at Tuesday’s meeting as having “a kind presence and a good sentence of humor,” boasts a long career in public education. He has held a variety of positions from teacher to principal and most recently served as Superintendent of Cumberland Valley School District.
In case you are not familiar with Cumberland Valley, it is located in the central portion of the state just between Harrisburg and Carlisle. According to Niche.com, it is the second-best district in the state for athletes and the 41st-best district overall.
Below is a look at how it compares to West Chester:
|# of Sudents||9,787||12,095|
|# of Schools||11 – 8 elementary, 1 middle, 1 9th grade academy, 1 high school||17 – 11 elementary, 3 middle, 3 high schools|
|Median household income||$94,389||$112,021|
|% of families with income below the poverty level||8.8%||4%|
|% students meeting state proficiency rating in math/reading||54% math; 71% reading||56% math; 74% reading|
Speaking of district accomplishments, congratulations to the 13 students who earned an Advanced Placement (AP) Capstone Diploma last year. The AP Capstone Diploma is administered by the College Board and is essentially the next level in advanced placement class taking – combining the successful completion of a minimum of four AP classes with a multi-year research and seminar component. Around the world, roughly 15,800 students earned an AP Capstone Diploma. Last year in West Chester these 14 students did:
- East: Ethan Altshul, Alex Chen, Keely McClay, and Magnolia VanDyke
- Henderson: Jacob Witmer
- Rustin: Brianna Ambrosine, Abigail DeMaioribus, Likhit Ganduri, Goldie Kayser, Maggie Ricciuti, Arushi Sanbui, Samantha Spitzer, and Tyler Troutman
In more school accolades –
- Henderson Senior Kaitlyn Evans defended her National League Tennis Singles title last week defeating Downingtown East’s Dhriti Munagala in three sets. Kaitlyn will now have a chance to show her skills in the District 1 3A singles tournament.
- Rustin seniors Maddie Miller and Harry Davis sped by the competition this month at the Ches-Mont American Division Cross Country Meet. Maddie has stepped up as the girls team’s new go-to runner dropping 20 seconds from her previous year’s time and taking first at the Division meet. Harry took gold in the boys’ division coming in comfortably ahead of the rest of the field.
- Just about midway through the season, Rustin’s Football team remains undefeated. With wins already over Henderson and East, the boys added to their early season dominance with a 49-9 route of Chichester last Friday night. So far this season the Golden Knights are 4-0 and averaging 42 points per game. They take on Coatesville tonight at Coatesville.
Also, this week a couple of food shout-outs:
- Two local donut purveyors have made it into the ranks of the best around – or at least the best of the Philadelphia western suburbs. Main Line Today selected Northbrook Marketplace, a cute little market shop off of Wawaset Road, and, no surprise here, Highland Orchards as two of their favorite locations to get apple cider donuts.
- The Couch Tomato Cafe is among 19 pizzerias vying for USA Today’s Readers’ Choice for best gluten-free pizza. According to the site’s real-time leaderboard Couch Tomato is currently running third. Think they should be #1? Vote for them here.
And finally, a standing ovation to Aubrie “Brownie” Brown. The World War II veteran and Henderson class of ‘40 graduate turned 100 last week.
This week a warm welcome to the Borough’s first-ever Story Walk. The Borough of West Chester in partnership with the West Chester Public Library, with funding from the Chester County Health Department, recently installed 19 markers along an approximately .25 mile path through Hoopes Parks.
The story walk starts on the west side of the park just past the baseball diamond and heads north around the diamond. The path, which begins along an existing walkway, eventually veers off through the grass snaking through the park’s trees and wildlife. When I was there on Thursday morning the pages for the book had not yet been placed but a team from the library was expected out that afternoon to complete the process.
Once set, each marker will depict a spread from the popular children’s book Senorita Mariposa by Ben Gundersheimer, a bilingual story that describes the monarch butterfly’s journey from Canada to Mexico. A ribbon-cutting event for the new feature is being planned for Oct. 4 at 4 p.m.
Also, exciting news WCU students, mom and dad are coming to homecoming! Yay. This weekend marks the launch of West Chester University’s first-ever combined Family and Homecoming weekends. According to a message from the university, “Hosting these two events together gives our campus an opportunity to share resources, celebrate our community, and create lasting memories.”
Also, gives the events thousands of new chaperones.
The football game is at 2 p.m. against Bloomsburg but there are a lot of things planned before and after. You can find a complete schedule of weekend events here. Thinking WCU sounds like a pretty cool place for your son or daughter to attend? Here’s how it measures up against the rest of the schools in the country.
Yes, it’s official. Goodbye, this week to LaScala’s Fire. While they have seemingly opened several new locations since it was first reported the Italian-American eatery was leasing space on the bottom floor of 44 West, West Chester will not be one of them. A new sign placed by property owners in the Church St.-facing plate glass window reads, “Restaurant space with liquor license available.”
Rumors are again swirling around who will take their place, but I think this time I’m taking an, “I’ll believe it when I see it approach.”
Goodbye, bumpy roads. Normally, it’s spring paving we are talking about but this year, street paving is continuing into the fall. West Chester Public Works recently shared the paving schedule of its paving partner Glasgow. Paving is tentatively slated to begin on October 18 and will continue through the end of the month. Note, the paving schedule is subject to change and no street parking will be allowed during paving. So plan accordingly.
- Oct. 18 – College Ave. from S. Wayne St. to W. Rosedale Ave
- Oct. 18 – S. Wayne St. from S. New St. to W. Rosedale Ave.
- Oct. 18 – S. Brandywine St. from W. Nields St. to the cul-de-sac
- Oct. 19 – W. Nields St. from S. New St. to the Borough line
- Oct. 20 – Sharpless St. from S. High St. to S. New Street
- Oct. 23 – Patton Ave. from E. Chestnut St. to E. Gay Street
- Oct. 23 – Evans St. from E. Biddle St. to N. Franklin Ave.
- Oct. 24 – E. Washington St. from N. Penn St. to E. Chestnut St.
- Oct. 24 – Clover Alley from E. Marshall St. to E. Biddle St.
- Oct. 24 – Prospect Alley from N. Walnut St. to N. High St.
- Oct. 25 – W. Ashbridge St. from N. New St. to the Borough line
Also, closing this week, submissions to the Corner Art Collective’s Mischief, Monsters and Myths group show. The now full show will feature 14 local artists on the spine-chilling theme. The show is scheduled to open on Oct. 21 just in time for Halloween. If you are not familiar with the Corner Art Collective they are a new artist-run gallery that opened earlier this summer on S. Matlack Street where that little corner store used to sit. They held their first group show earlier this month to what looked like a great success.
Finally, you know what’s not closing? Timothy’s – at least not anytime soon.
Pay it forward.
This October the West Chester Chili Cook-off is looking to make it rain. (Just hopefully, not with actual water from the sky.) They are introducing a new 50/50 raffle feature to this year’s chili-tasting extravaganza. To get in, you will need to go to the event website and buy yourself a foam chili pepper. Your pepper (or peppers) will be inscribed with a unique number. You keep that number safe. At 3 p.m. on Oct. 8, the Fame Fire Company will lift a bag filled with all of the peppers into the air over Jack’s Plaza at Church and Gay Streets. The bag will then be opened over a specially designed target. The first pepper to hit the bullseye will win half the funds taken in.
“No more than 2,500 little foam chili peppers will be sold,” Chili Cook-off volunteer Cathy Palmquist told me. The chilis are being sold at $10 each. So if all Chilis are sold that’s a $12,500 payout to the winner and a $12,500 bonus to local charities. Win. Win.
Do you want to spend your time helping the kids and also happen to be an exceptional swimming instructor? Well, then do I have an opportunity for you. Rustin is looking for someone to head its swimming and diving program beginning this winter. Interested candidates should reach out to Athletic Director Devon Landgraff to apply.
“The Weekend Marquee” by Uptown
Morgan Miles | Fri. Oct. 6 @ 7:30
On the 22nd season of ‘The Voice’ finalist Morgan Miles received a four chair turn after just four seconds. Now you can see her perform your live. Get your tickets now!
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We are going to take in our first local high school football game. I love the vibes at a high school football game and Henderson’s doing this really cool thing where they let the elementary band students join in a game night performance. Our fifth grader’s going to get a chance to play his saxophone. On the field. At the football game. As you can imagine, he’s quite excited.
If you are around this weekend, watch the crowds – remember it’s homecoming and family weekend. So expect the turnout to be large. In addition on Saturday, there is a 5K for hunger being held at East Goshen Park and the United Church of Christ is holding its fall festival. Also, did you know it’s the 20th anniversary of Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte? You can, of course, head to 5 Points Road for the original or you can try an interpretation. Turks Head has a popular Pumpkin Pie version, Gryphon’s pumpkin latte has vastly superior foam art, and Cathy’s Coffee is doing a different pumpkin special each week.
Finally, this week a very special thank you to ChescoTours, this week’s Community Sponsor. Started in 2021 by West Chester historian Paul Sookiasian, ChescoTours provides a fascinating, and sometimes bone-chilling, look into the Borough’s wild 250-year history. Follow ChescoTours on Instagram for interesting backstories and the latest tour events!
Did you know it’s said almost every house in West Chester is haunted? ChescoTours offers haunted history walks throughout October, where you’ll hear about the town’s fascinating past and the spirits which may still call it home. As featured in the current issue of The WC Press. Great for nights out with family and friends, or a work outing with co-workers! Tour schedule and reservations online at www.ChescoTours.com.
View a list of all our amazing Community Sponsors here. Want to get your business out in front of this wonderful community? I don’t blame you. Community Sponsorships are full but there is still some limited ad space available. Send me an email if you are interested – but hurry, spaces are filling up fast!
Like knowing what’s happening in and around town? Same! I figure if regular readers contribute just $10 a year – we can keep the updates coming and the ads limited! Help keep readers first with a small donation below.
Mark your calendars:
- Sept. 29 – Festival of Fright, Thornbury Farm, 3 – 10 p.m. Tickets required. Includes a showing of the original Ghostbusters.
- Sept. 29 – Opening reception: Surrounded by the Spirits: Paul Stoller and the Songhay Journey Towards Wellbeing, Old Library – 775 S. Church Street, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Experience the culture of West Africa, and gain profound insights into holistic healing practices that place us in harmony with the social, natural and spiritual worlds. Can’t make it tonight? This exciting exhibit open through Dec. 1.
- Sept. 30 – Race Against Hunger 5K, East Goshen Park, Veteran’s Pavilion, 8:45 a.m. Race proceeds support the West Chester Food Cupboard.
- Sept. 30- West Chester Grower’s Market, 201 N. Church St. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Local seasonal produce and craft goodies. Open sun or rain! Just don’t forget to bring your bags!
- Sept. 30 – Fall Festival, United Church of Christ, 1201 N. Chester Rd, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Rain or shine. Enjoy children’s games, food, crafts, apple butter and a golf ball drop raffle. All are welcome!
- Sept. 30 – Plagues and Pestilence: A Walking Tour, Chester County History Center. Tours are being held at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Learn the astonishing, little-known history about the diseases that transformed the lives (and deaths) of the people of West Chester. Tickets are $15. Tour lasts 1.5 hours.
- Sept. 30 – Garden Party Fundraiser, Roots Cafe, 5 – 8 p.m. Enjoy live music while you build your own bouquet and snack on tasty Roots Cafe treats. All proceeds go to support the West Chester Food Cupboard. No reservations required – this is a pay-as-you go event.
- Sept. 30 – Jay Pharoah, West Chester University, Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 8 p.m. Best known for his spot-on impressions, Pharoah spent six seasons as a cast member on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Tickets $25-35/adult; $20-30/student/senior
- Oct. 1 – Fall Foliage Express, West Chester Railroad, 230 E Market St, 12 and 2 p.m. Enjoy a brisk fall afternoon along the picturesque Chester Creek Valley. 90 minute journey. Tickets: $22/adult; $18/kids
- Oct. 4 – Story Walk Ribbon Cutting, Hoopes Park, 4 p.m. Join West Chester Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste, WC Parks & Rec and the West Chester Public Libray as they cut the ribbon and tell the story of West Chester Borough’s first-ever story walk.
- Oct. 5 – 4th Annual Dr. Clifford E. DeBaptiste/Douglas Lecture, Philips Autograph LIbrary, 3 – 4:30 p.m. This year’s distinguished guest speaker is Dr. Brenda Allen, President of Lincoln University. This event is free and open to the public.
- Oct. 5 – Redistricting Update with Fair Districts PA, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Fair Districts PA‘s Tony Crocamo will explain PA’s current redistricting process, demonstrate how it has undermined democracy, and offer a solution to the problem. This is a Virtual presentation brought to you by the West Chester Public Library. Registration is required.
- Oct. 7 – Plagues and Pestilence: A Walking Tour, Chester County History Center. Tours are being held at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
- Oct. 7 – West Goshen Fall Township Yard Sale, various locations, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. If you live in West Goshen and would like to participate you need to register by Sept. 29.
- Oct. 7 – Jess Zimmerman Band, WCU Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 8 p.m. The Jess Zimmerman Band (JZBand) has won numerous Central Pennsylvania Music Awards including Entertainer of the Year. Tickets: $20/general admission; $10/WCU student
- Oct. 8 – West Chester Chili-Cook-off, Gay Street, West Chester, 12 – 3:30 p.m. The West Chester Chilifest is returning for its 21st year. Sample dozens of the best area chilis at this funn community event. All proceeds go to support the Rotary Club of West Chester.
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week!