Kennett Square Borough’s proposed budget includes tax increase
● By Steven Hoffman
By Steven Hoffman
Kennett Square Borough Council continues to fine-tune the proposed budget for 2015. A second public review of the spending plan took place on Tuesday, Nov. 25, as borough officials discussed a budget that will increase the tax rate by one mill to 6.35 mills.
Council member Geoff Bosley, who serves on the borough’s finance committee, said that a tax hike of one mill would increase the average resident’s tax bill by about $100.
Interim borough manager Joseph Scalise outlined some of the highlights of the budget, which includes general fund spending of $4.5 million and an overall budget total of more $15 million when the water fund, sewer fund, parking fund, general capital improvement fund, and other funds are factored in.
Scalise said that the budget includes a 2.75 percent increase for uniformed employees and 2.5 percent for non-uniformed employees. Staffing levels remain the same next year.
A number of capital improvement projects are included in the 2015 plan.
“Most of these projects are heavily funded by grants,” Scalise explained.
Approximately $275,000 will be spent for maintenance repairs to the borough’s streets. Of that, $245,000 is coming from the liquid fuels fund, while another $30,000 comes from the general fund.
Approximately $1,226,000 is allocated for the streetscape project on West Cypress Street. The borough has received a $956,000 grant to pay for the project, with the remainder coming from the water fund ($100,000) and general fund ($170,000).
A $1.1 million closed loop traffic signals project to upgrade the traffic lights in town, which was completely reimbursed, is in its final stages and doesn’t impact next year’s budget.
The borough is seeking a grant to fund 75 percent of a $650,000 relocation of the South Street pump station. That would equate to $487,000 from the grant, while the borough would fund the remaining $162,500 with a short-term note.
In addition to the one mill tax increase, fees for water, sewer and solid waste services are going up by three percent. The fee for long-term parking in the garage in expected to increase by $60 annually, while long-term street parking permits are going up by $10 annually.
Although it doesn’t specifically impact the 2015 budget, the spending plan also includes a $3.2 million expansion of the existing parking garage. The borough is seeking grant funding for the project so it a more long-term endeavor. If a grant is secured, the borough would fund the remaining portion of the parking garage costs through a long-term bond.
Council member Dan Maffei explained that, while they haven’t formally voted to move forward with an expansion of the parking garage, borough officials have done some preliminary work to explore the possibility. For example, the site that would need to be acquired to allow for the expansion is currently still under a lease.
“We’ve taken no action on this,” Maffei said, “but it’s something that we’re looking at.”
The 2015 budget includes a number of capital purchases for the police department—a police SUV, a patrol vehicle, and the necessary equipment for the vehicles—and for the public works department—a small dump truck, and a pickup truck.
A larger expense is the purchase of a $1.2 million ladder truck for the Kennett Fire Company. The expense is expected to be shared equally by the borough and neighboring Kennett Township. There was a lengthy discussion about committing $600,000 to the purchase of a new truck right now. The truck is 18 years old, and is at least approaching the end of its useful lifespan, and doesn’t have the capability of holding all the equipment that a fire company would want to have.
Council president Leon Spencer and mayor Matt Fetick both talked about their trust in the fire company’s officials to determine whether it is indeed time to replace the ladder truck.
Spencer credited the fire company for having a long-range business plan that takes into account the need to plan for large purchases. Fetick, meanwhile, said that the fire company officials’ knowledge and experiences have to be trusted.
“I’m not going to second-guess their decisions on equipment,” Fetick said. “I have to trust the leadership that is in place.”
The budget also includes funding to continue the water meter replacement program, to undertake preventive maintenance on water towers, to pay for the second year of a school resource officer, and to conduct a search for a new borough manager. There is a $5,000 commitment to match a grant that the Kennett Area Park and Recreation Board received for new bleachers in the park.
Borough council is expected to adopt the 2015 budget on Monday, Dec. 1.
Maffei said that he is still listening to any input that might come from residents, but at this point he is comfortable with the budget as it is.
“Overall, it’s a pretty good budget,” said Bosley. He noted that work on the budget started six months ago, and by this time it has been thoroughly analyzed time and again.
Bosley said that the millage rate increase can be attributed primarily to two expenditures—the contribution to purchase the new ladder truck and the costs of doing street repairs. Scalise has developed a list of streets in the borough that are in need of improvements.
“We have some work that needs to be done on the streets,” Bosley said. “It’s something that we’ve talked about doing for a long time. You hate to raise taxes—we’re all taxpayers, too—but it’s necessary sometimes. We get a lot of services for our tax dollars.”