Kennett Square Borough raises taxes to pay for increased public safety costs
By Steven Hoffman
Kennett Square Borough has finalized a $4.9 million general fund budget for 2019.
At the meeting on Dec. 3, Kennett Square Borough Council adopted the spending plan. It includes a tax increase to pay for increased public safety costs. In a corresponding move, borough council established the millage tax rate at 6.75 mills for 2019. That is an increase of .4 mills over the current year's rate of 6.35 mills. For the average home in the borough, a millage rate increase of .4 mills equates to an increase of about $50 in the tax bill.
Borough manager Joseph Scalise outlined the 2019 spending plan, explaining that it was largely unchanged since the previous public presentation that took place on Nov. 26.
Even before the proposed budget was unveiled in early November, borough officials had said that a tax increase might be necessary for 2019 after several years without one. There are rising costs in a number of areas, including the costs for fire and ambulance services.
One of the directives that borough council had given to the staff was that it did not want a cut in services in order to balance the budget, and several council members emphasized the need to prioritize public safety. Council member Ethan Cramer said that the borough had under-funded fire and ambulance services for a number of years, and the 2019 budget includes additional funding for those services as Kennett Square Borough and its neighboring municipalities work on developing a plan for the entire region.
There are no increases in the water, sewer, or solid waste fees for 2019. In fact, there is a potential credit totaling $120,000 borough-wide on the water bills. That would amount to a credit of about $60 on the water bill for customers, although the final amount has not yet been determined.
The borough managed to reduce its costs for worker's compensation, property liability, health insurance, and auditing by actively seeking out the best rates for those services through requests for proposals.
The 2019 budget includes contributions to the Kennett Area Senior Center, the Transportation Management Association of Chester County (TMACC), and a “fair share” amount to the Kennett Library.
The budget includes funding for the Union Street traffic calming project and the engineering costs for a new CRP application, but a number of other projects and initiatives—including the replacement of a police car, the replacement of several pieces of public works equipment, and traffic calming for West Sickle Street—have been deferred to a later time.
The borough is retiring about $1.1 million in debt in 2019, and by this time next year the borough's total debt should stand at about $8.6 million.