Kennett Township board approves $5.86 million prelim budget for 2020
● By Richard Gaw
The Kennett Township Board of Supervisors gave preliminary approval to the township’s 2020 budget at their Dec. 4 meeting, one that will work with a $5.86 million general fund budget and leave a surplus balance of just under $150,000.
The board will reconvene on Dec. 30 for final approval of the budget.
On the revenue side, the township expects to receive $5.86 million, which will include $4.78 million in earned income taxes, real estate taxes and millage rates; and $1.08 million in fees, fines, grants and interest. On the expense ledger, the township is budgeting $5.71 million for 2020, which will include $2.87 for salaries and benefits; $1.35 for maintenance and operations.
This will leave the township budget with a $149,396 surplus, which the board agreed to hold.
The proposed budget supports several key priorities for the township next year, which will include:
· Adding additional funding for the township’s Land Stewardship Program;
· Directing $80,000 to the township’s Sustainable Development Office to continue to explore its indoor agriculture initiative;
· Contributing $15,000 to the development of a sketch plan for an underpass for the Magnolia Trail, a component of the Kennett Greenway;
· Allocating $300,000 as a cash match to restore and preserve the historic Chandler Mill Bridge – which the township owns – and install a trail from the bridge to Kennett Square Borough;
· Allocating $1.25 million toward the township’s police department;
· Making a continued contribution to the Regional Emergency Services Commission – which oversees Fire and EMS services – in the amount of $470,000;
· Adding an employee to the Planning and Zoning Department to assist with t the comprehensive planning of township development, at a cost of $120,000;
· Contributing $11,200 to create a walkway at the intersection of Cedarcroft Road and Route 82; and
· Allocating $90,000 to engineering to the township’s municipal separate storm sewer systems and possible development of more utilities.
Township Manager Eden Ratliff said that the budget also included about $600,000 in cuts and eliminates some expenditures and deferment of other expenditures, including the funding of a new police vehicle and a request for a part-time police officer.
The board also approved a $125,000 allocation over the next six years to the Kennett Library’s capital campaign, through a .15 mill tax increase that will go into effect next year, which will support the initiative proposed by the Kennett Library’s Board of Directors that is soliciting the municipalities the library serves to help fund 20 percent of the cost of the new $15 million facility. The cost to the average homeowner in the township will be $36.48 per year.
The decision serves as a compromise by the township to continue its support of the library, one that falls short of the non-mandatory request by the library that is asking municipalities to institute a .3 mill real estate tax for a period of three years. In a Nov. 20 presentation to the board, Jeff Yetter, the vice president of the library’s board of trustees, said that by implementing a three-year property tax increase in the amount of .3 mills, the township would raise $240,630 a year – and $721,890 over the three-year span.
Ratliff said that the tax increase will be eliminated once the township’s full contribution to the library has been fulfilled.
In other budget news, Ratliff and Finance Director Amy Heinrich began discussions with the board about the possibility of raising sewer rates for the 630 customer accounts in the metered sewer district. While one of the districts in the township is self-treating, a second is passed to East Marlborough Township, and a third district is metered, which requires the transportation of sewage to treatment facilities owned and operated by the Kennett Square Borough. Currently, the revenues received from this district falls short of covering the operational expenditures – which are $75 for the first 5,000 gallons of water used per quarter, and $11 per thousand gallons over 5,000 gallons. Without any rate increase, the township’s sewer operating deficit and sewer capital deficit would total $614,000.
To better meet operating and capital expenditures, Ratliff and Heinrich proposed a $4 rate increase for each additional 1,000 gallons used by an account over 5,000 gallons, to a cost of $15, quarterly. A rate increase of this amount would create an estimated revenue of $174,000, which would cover the operating deficit.
The proposed rate increase will be further discussed for possible adoption at the board’s Dec. 30 meeting.
The 2020 budget was hammered out beginning in October by Ratliff, Heinrich and a budget development team, which included seven public meetings over the last month. Ratliff said that in light of the current investigations being conducted by the Chester County District Attorney’s Office and an independent forensic auditor to uncover suspected fraud on township accounts, that it was imperative for the team to do an ample amount of scrubbing, and create the new budget from “the bottom up.”
“It became clear that the finances of the township were managed in a way that did not allow for comprehensive understanding of the fiscal health of the township, nor the true cost to operate the township and deliver government services,” he wrote in his budget report. “Every 2019 expenditure was individually analyzed, consultant costs were annualized and then scrutinized, all project proposals were individually evaluated against township priorities and cost reasonableness.”
In other township business, the board authorized Ratliff to sign a service agreement with Traffic Planning & Design, Inc. in the amount of $11,000, for the firm to develop the study and design of the crosswalk at Route 82 and Cedarcroft Road, near the Route 1 exit. Part of the Kennett Greenway master plan, the crosswalk will be used as a connector to future greenway connections.
The supervisors gave approval to hire the law firm of Salzmann Hughes, P.C., to provide the township with counsel in open space negotiations and to help assure that the township will be in compliance with open space codes and regulations. They also approved the appointment of the law firm of Campbell Durrant, P.C. as labor counsel to the township, who will offer counsel in the field of labor law.
In preparation for the township's town hall meeting on Dec. 17 that will provide the public with an open forum to discuss the twin investigations into fraud in the township that are now completed, the board gave approval to a contractual agreement with VideoNet, Inc., a Malvern-based video production company, who will provide full video and audio coverage of that meeting, at a cost of $6,111.56. Due to a large attendance that is to be anticipated to attend the meeting, the township will host the event at the Red Clay Room in Kennett Square, beginning at 7 p.m.
The board also approved the appointment of Ratliff to the Historic Kennett Square Board of Directors. He will take over for supervisor Whitney Hoffman, who served on the board for the past nine months.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email email@example.com.