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 discussed the 2024 budget on October 5 at 5 p.m. just before 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.
Originally published, Sept. 29, 2023
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