Kennett Square Borough Council unveils a proposed budget for 2018
● By Steven Hoffman
Kennett Square Borough Council unveiled the proposed budget for 2018 at the council meeting on Nov. 6. The general fund budget will amount to $4,646,801. No tax increase is anticipated, and the millage rate would remain at 6.35 mills if the proposed spending plan is adopted as is. Borough council is expected to approve the budget in early December.
Borough manager Joseph Scalise explained that in addition to no tax increase, there will be no increase in the water or sewer fees, and a decrease in solid waste fees. There is a proposed increase in metered parking fees, from 75 cents per hour to one dollar per hour, that is under consideration for 2018.
Scalise said that the spending plan includes an increased contribution to the Kennett Library to meet the borough's fair share of the library's operations. There will be a 3-percent increase in uniformed and non-uniformed wages.
Scalise outlined some of the borough's activities in 2017, and how they impacted the borough's budget. One major positive is the fact that the borough has earned a $500,000 grant from the county to help pay for the expansion of the parking garage.
Scalise explained that the borough was able to fund its portion of the economic development director position, and hired a new finance director and a new police chief during 2017. The borough introduced a plan for a tiered trash system that will be implemented in 2018 that will help homeowners save money on their trash fees. The borough also replaced 120 water meters during the year—an ongoing effort.
Also this year, the borough submitted two joint grant applications with Kennett Township for Birch Street streetscape improvments and for active transportation improvements. The borough also started using the Passport Parking App this year. Scalise explained that the borough has seen parking revenues increase by 15 percent.
The borough installed new computer software, a project that has been in the works for a few years. Kennett Square also did an upgrade on the Cypress Street Pump Station, adding new pumps and equipment to eliminate the clogging and maintenance issues that had become too frequent.
While doing all this, Kennett Square retired $840,129 in debt.
Scalise also talked about some of the initiatives that are planned for 2018. There will be traffic calming additions for North Union's streetscape, including the installation of a center island and pavement markings. A $200,000 Birch Street water main is planned as a way to support economic development along Birch Street.
A $1.5 million parking garage expansion is in the works. The borough received a $500,000 grant to help fund the expansion. The borough will also be utilizing $250,000 from the parking fund. The remaining costs will require the borough to take on debt, but it is also retiring debt from previous bond issues. This phase of the expansion will add 100 parking spaces on two floors to the parking garage to meet the immediate need. Scalise said that the expansion will be sufficient to get all the cars off the Weinstein lot. The borough sold the lot to the Kennett Library earlier this year so that a new library can be constructed on the lot.
The borough will be allocating $50,000 to install new water meters as part of the ongoing effort to modernize all the meters in the borough. Another major project is an upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant. The borough could allocate up to $1.3 million to finalize the design, bid, and begin construction of a new facility designed to meet total nitrogen limits prior to the November 2019 deadline. The funds for this will come from the sewer fund. Additionally, $200,000 could be spent on replacing two blowers, replacing the grit removal system, and lining the clarifier walls on the wastewater treatment plant. This, too, would be funded through the sewer fund, and would not impact the general fund budget.
Scalise explained that the budget will be discussed again at the Nov. 20 meeting, and borough council will vote to adopt the budget in December.
In other business at the meeting, borough council approved an interim sewage treatment agreement with Aqua Pennsylvania that will serve as what Scalise called a “bridge agreement” that will be in place for six months while a long-term agreement can be finalized.
The borough has had a long-standing sewage treatment agreement with New Garden Township, and the township is far along in the process of selling its sewage treatment plant to Aqua Pennsylvania. As a result of the interim agreement, most of the terms between the township and the borough will still be in place for the period that the interim agreement is in place.
Scalise explained that there simply wasn't enough time for the borough to work out a new, long-term agreement with Aqua Pennsylvania before the purchase of New Garden Township's sewer treatment plant is complete.
New Garden Township can discharge up to 100,000 gallons per day under the existing agreement with the borough and the township, although Scalise noted that the actual amount of discharge is sporadic. Sometimes, the township approaches that limit, and there are other times when the township doesn't need to discharge at all.
Council member Jamie Mallon noted that the borough has incurred legal fees of about $8,000 to address this matter, and he suggested that the borough should attempt to recoup those funds spent on the legal fees from New Garden Township since it is that municipality's sale of the wastewater treatment plant that has directly led to the expenses. Scalise said that they would talk to the township about the legal fees.
In a related matter, council member Geoff Bosley, who serves on the borough's Finance and Budget Committee, said that the committee has had some discussions about some of the details of the long-term agreement. He said that the committee members were in agreement that the rate that will be set for Aqua Pennsylvania's discharging into the sewage treatment plant should not be any less than what a borough resident would be charged for doing so.
Borough council unanimously voted to appoint Bosley to serve as a member of the Civil Service Commission. Bosley's term on council ends on Dec. 31, so he is eligible to serve in the new role.
Borough council approved special event applications for holiday carriage rides on Sunday, Dec. 3, Dec. 10, and Dec. 17. A special event application for the popular annual Midnight in the Square on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 was also approved.