Kennett Square Borough officials don't expect a tax increase for 2017
By Steven Hoffman
At Monday night's council meeting, Kennett Square Borough officials unveiled a preliminary budget for 2017, and it does not appear as if a tax increase will be necessary to balance the spending plan.
Borough manager Joe Scalise began the budget presentation with a look back at some of the projects that took place during 2016, as well as a look ahead at some of the projects that are planned for next year.
Scalise explained that during 2016, the borough put on hold an expenditure of $300,000 for land in the southwest side of town that would have been used for a park. The borough also saw significant savings on the purchase of new computer software.
Looking ahead to 2017, the borough will be moving forward with the regional streetlight program that replaces older streetlights with new, energy efficient LED lights. The savings that the borough sees from the upgrades should offset the costs. A new pump station is also needed for Cypress Street, which is budgeted at $115,000. A Linden Street booster station upgrade is expected to cost $440,000. The most expensive project that could potentially be considered during 2017 is a $3.2 million expansion of the parking garage. But as it stands now, there will be no new debt taken on in 2017. The borough has applied for a grant from the state that would pay for a significant portion of the costs of the expansion, but until the borough attains the grant officials won't be considering moving forward with the project.
Scalise said that the projected general fund budget for 2017 totals $4,155,200. There is no tax increase in the proposed budget, so the millage rate would remain at 6.35 mills. Additionally, there are no increases in the water, sewer, or solid waste fees. Parking fees are also staying the same next year.
Scalise said that the proposed budget includes three-percent salary increases for uniformed and non-uniformed employees.
Council president Dan Maffei thanked Kennett Square's administrative team for the sound financial management of the borough's operations.
Scalise said that a public hearing to consider the 2017 budget will be held on Monday, Nov. 28.
The borough's finances were a consistent theme of the Nov. 7 meeting.
Council member Geoff Bosley, who serves on the borough's Finance Committee, said that the borough's budget for the current year is trending to finish with a surplus.
Kennett Square's financial situation will be improved a bit after borough council approved a resolution authorizing RBC Capital Markets and Eckert Seamans to assist in refinancing existing debt. The borough is refinancing to get a more favorable interest rate. The winning bidder for the refinancing was Riverview Bank, and the immediate net savings to the borough will be $237,483, or 4.85 percent of the refunded bonds. This does not extend the length of any of the loans that the borough has.
“We're just taking advantage of lower rates,” Bosley explained. “We're not taking on a single penny of new debt.”
The borough reached an agreement with the union representing the Kennett Square Borough Police Department for the years 2017, 2018, and 2019. Council unanimously approved the three-year collective bargaining agreement, which includes three-percent increases in pay for police officers.
“We have an outstanding police department. We appreciate what they do. We think this is a fair deal for everyone,” said Bosley.
Borough council formally accepted the Kennett Region Economic Development Study that was completed during the last two years. The borough collaborated with Kennett Township and Historic Kennett Square on the study. Now that the study has been approved, Kennett area officials can start the work on implementing some of the recommendations that were included in the 234-page document.
Council approved the Special Event application for Midnight in the Square, which will take place on New Year's Eve.
Borough council also approved HARB applications for 219 South Broad Street, 116 South Union Strett, and 234 North Garfield Street.