Kennett Square Borough unveils preliminary budget for 2019
● By Steven Hoffman
Kennett Square Borough officials unveiled the preliminary budget for 2019 on Monday night.
While the spending plan is still a work-in-progress, with more than a month left before a final budget is adopted, it appears that a tax increase could be necessary—although it's not a certainty at this point.
“There are challenges to this budget,” said council member Wayne Braffman, who serves on the borough's Finance Committee. He explained that there is currently a $200,000 gap between expenditures and revenues based on the first draft of the budget. The Finance Committee has been holding extra meetings to look at various options to close the deficit.
The borough hasn't raised taxes in four years, Braffman said, and they will make every effort to limit the tax increase if one is necessary this year.
Borough manager Joseph Scalise said that the borough's staff is looking at ways to balance the budget. These ways could include increasing taxes; decreasing services; decreasing the contributions to partner organizations; identifying new revenues; and utilizing some of the borough's reserves. Scalise pointed out that a combination of all or some of the options could be developed as a way to address the deficit.
“The Finance Committee is looking at an everything-is-on-the-table approach,” Braffman said, explaining that the borough's staff is looking for the proper mix of solutions. “A tax increase is on the table. A reduction in contributions to our partner organizations is on the table. Everything is on the table. One way or another, there will be pain. That's a fact of life with this.”
Council president LaToya Myers pushed back against the idea of a tax increase, saying that expenditures in each department would have to be scrutinized carefully before she would consider voting in favor of the tax increase.
Myers and council member Ethan Cramer both stated that they were opposed to any cuts to the police department as a way to balance the spending plan.
The preliminary general fund budget totals $4,711,475, Scalise said. The water fund is $1,298,787, while the sewer fund is projected to be $4,263,098. The parking fund amounts to $2,655,371 for 2019.
There are no increases projected for the water, sewer, or solid waste fees for 2019.
The budget presentation included a recap of activities in 2018, as well as a look ahead at some of the projects that are being planned for 2019.
For the upcoming year, the borough is planning to utilize $1.9 million from the parking fund to pay for the expansion of the parking garage. A $750,000 grant from the state and a $500,000 grant from the county will help offset some of the costs for the expansion, and debt will be issued for construction financing and some of the capital costs. The borough will also be allocating $130,000 from the parking fund to help pay for the parking garage repairs.
The borough plans to use $50,000 from the water fund to continue installing new water meters throughout town. Scalise pointed out that the borough rarely spends the full amount of this line item because it's a slow process to be able to replace the water meters.
Additionally, the borough plans to use $335,000 from the liquid fuels fund as part of a two-year paving program of the borough's streets.
Another major project for 2019 could be upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant. The borough wants to invest $2.3 million from the sewer fund for the construction of a new facility that is designed to meet total nitrogen limits prior to the November 2019 deadline to do so.
Looking back at some of the activities in 2018, this year the borough retired another $1.1 million in debt. Kennett Square also saw significant savings as a result of a new electric generation contract and investments in green energy. The borough received a $915,000 grant for active transportation improvements between Anson B. Nixon Park and Pennock Park, and the Union Street traffic-calming project was designed and submitted to PennDOT for the necessary approvals. Kennett Square also completed the regional street light program to upgrade lights to LED lighting. The borough also completed a new sewer agreement with Kennett Township clarifying the longstanding relationship and increasing revenue to the Borough.
While there are budgetary hurdles to overcome, Scalise noted that borough officials have already been hard at work on the spending plan, and the preliminary budget was unveiled earlier than normal so there is time to continue to work on it.
Kennett Square Borough Council will meet again on Monday, Nov. 19. A special meeting specifically for the budget is tentatively scheduled for Monday, Nov. 26.