No tax increase in Oxford Borough12/22/2020 01:26PM ● By Steven Hoffman
Oxford Borough Council finalized a budget for 2021 on Monday night, and there will be no tax increase for residents. The millage rate will stay at 12 mills.
Despite one of the most difficult years ever because of the pandemic, the Borough of Oxford has had a very successful year. They completed their multi-modal transportation center, moved into a new borough hall, and made necessary police upgrades and kept the budget in check.
The budget was approved by a vote of 6-1. The one nay vote came from council memberr Ron Hershey who said, “The 2021 budget is troubling to me. We are taking $300,000 out of capital to cover this budget. This is big gap. Our surplus will soon be gone. The difference between income and expenses is only going to get worse without a tax increase. I’m not going to be able to vote for this budget tonight.”
Council member Amanda Birdwell asked Hershey if there were line items to change. “We have to have a budget. My understanding is we don’t have any room to change,” she said.
Hershey replied, “I haven’t seen how we are going to increase the revenue side by enticing more people into our town.”
Mayor Phil Harris disagreed, saying, “I think we have been conservative in revenue due to the pandemic. We have a former borough hall that should sell in the next year. I really think Council did a great job this year.”
Hershey cited the new police officer they would be hiring in the new year saying, “I’m in favor of replacing the officer we lost, but I don’t think we can add another officer. I think we have to find another way to pay for them.”
Birdwell responded by saying, “I respect your opinion, but we need to pass a budget. The officer we are hiring will be helping victims of violent crimes.”
Council president Peggy Ann Russell said, “I respect your history, Ron, but I would be negligent if I didn’t say when we reduced taxes last year it really set us up for where we are today, and the pandemic has certainly not helped.”
Council approved the budget.
One visitor to the council meeting might be bringing some future aid to the borough’s financial situation—developer Steven Frost.
Frost is no stranger to Oxford, having developed Wiltshire and Elk Ridge Estates. And Frost has been waiting for the right moment to develop the Moran farm, which he acquired years ago. He had a number of obstacles, including waiting for sewer capacity and an upturn for a depressed housing market.
The new plan, as they explained to council, is a restricted-age community, which would include residents ages 55 and up.
The plan would require a change in zoning because it would retain some of the property for a small farm.
The proposal would include 167 lots using public water and sewer. Approximately 94 lots are in the Oxford Borough and the remaining lots are in East Nottingham Township.
According to Anthony McGuire from Ryan Homes, housing prices would start in the $300,000 range.
“We are proposing a ranch-style home with 2 bedrooms or 3 bedrooms and a 2-car garage. The community will offer sidewalks on both side of the road, and we will have a community club house,” McGuire said.
Frost has other developments in the area, including Spring Valley Farms in Montgomery County and Sadsbury Park in Sadsbury Township.
According to McGuire’s research, since it is an age-restricted development it would have no impact on the school district and would also have lower traffic, while increasing property-tax revenue. The development will be discussed further in the upcoming months.
Brian Dix, the OMI Mainstreet Manager, gave council an update on the business district saying, “I’m happy to report that Small Business Saturday was one of the best days of the year, and one of best yet. We had fantastic weather, and thank Oxford Borough for free parking meters as well.”
The Shoebox Theater continues to move forward and is close to getting funding to finish the bathrooms.
Dix is hoping to do more video pieces. “I have the opportunity to do stories of downtown and I’m working on that,” he said.
Dix also thanked Mary Behringer who he said has been a volunteer for OMI since day one.
Council announced a change in the schedule of some council meetings in January and February due to holidays. All meeting dates and times are available on the website and oxfordboro.org.
Police Chief Sam Iacono told council that Civil Service had approved four candidates for the eligibility list. Council will be informed about the approved candidates over the next few weeks.
Both the Chief and Corporal Scott Brown are setting up the new Crime Watch website which will eventually give access to the public, council and the press. They expect it to be completed in January.
Mayor Harris reported a savings of $8,500 by working with Corporal Brown and Chief Iacono to secure a new engine through General Motors under their warranty.
Harris reminded everyone that the Oxford Police Department Toy Drive was going very well working with the public and Oxford Chamber of Commerce. Toys will be delivered on Christmas Eve.
The Public Works Department was thanked for their efforts in snow removal and clearing parking spots.
In other business, a motion was approved in the amount of $554.87 for Codes Official Training for Rachel Greer to attend a four-day training session Motions were approved in the amount of $16,000 for Brentage Chemical, and for Univar USA in the amount of $31,000.
A motion was approved for Payment Application #2 to Armour & Sons Electric in the amount of $2,531.95 for Regional Streetlight Procurement Project and the KSL Invoice Phase 2 Project Development in the amount of $6,350.40. When this payment is made the borough will get the PECO rebate.
Richard Nelson was appointed to the Planning Commission. However, another vacancy still exists.
Council also approved a motion to authorize the advertising of the Borough Management Ordinance Amendment.
A motion to adopt Resolution #1303-2020 Approving to codify Civil Service Commission’s rules and regulations was approved.
A motion to advertise Changes in the Language of Chapter 21, Part 7, Sidewalk Construction and Repair was approved.
A motion to Repeal Oxford Police Department General Order 1.3 and Adopt new Oxford Police Department General Order1.3, Body Worn and Mobile Camera System was approved.
Interim borough manager Arlene Harrison reported that the borough had received a check for over $60,000 from the anonymous donor and will receive one in 2021 and 2022.
Harrison also announced that the borough office will close at noon on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Russell ended the meeting by thanking Council member Robert Ketcham for reminding her of the significance of the night sky. This year the “Christmas Star,” also called the Kiss of the Planets,” was visible in some places. The best time to see this is an hour after sunset. Russell said, “ a tough year is behind us and we have tackled some very difficult issues. And today is the shortest day in the northern hemisphere.”
She ended the meeting with a few lines from a poem titled “Shortest Day” written by Susan Cooper:
So the shortest day came, and the year died.
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.