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Chester County Press

Kennett board approves township's 2021 budget

12/23/2020 01:04PM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

By a 3-0 vote at their Dec. 16 online meeting, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors officially adopted the township’s 2021 budget, one that features a projected $6.09 million in revenue, $5.6 million in operating expenses and no real estate tax increase for residents.

It does, however, include a local services tax at a rate of $52 a year – or $1 a week -- that will be levied on those residents who are employed in the township, as well as funding for infrastructure improvements in the township; contributions to the regional Fire and EMS Commission; and a contribution to the Kennett Library Capital Campaign.

On the revenue side of the township’s general fund, its projected revenues will be slightly higher than the $5.86 million it generated this year, and its expense sheet represents a $72,000 increase over the $5.47 million that was estimated to be spent this year.

After a presentation of a preliminary budget on Nov. 18 by Ratliff and Finance and Human Resources Director Amy Heinrich, the board approved the budget by a vote of 3-0.

“We wanted to make sure that we continued our capital investment,” Ratliff said. “There were some cuts in mid-year 2020 in our budgeting process on infrastructure upgrades, so I think we have done a much better job of ensuring that we will have the funds for that next year.”

Dotting the Is and crossing the Ts on the township’s budget was preceded by several public meetings – as well as input generated from email and offline communication -- to better ensure that the residents’ concerns would be reflected in the final numbers.

It was a two-way street of dialogue, Ratliff said.

“We heard from people who asked that we redirect our focus on infrastructure upgrades, and members of the community made us aware of some of the road services that were not getting the attention they deserved,” he said. “We also heard some input on sewer projects and sewer expansion, and we had lots of opinions on both sides of the spectrum on policing philosophy, strategy and building out of the department.”

Throughout the budget-making process, the township heard a familiar chorus from its residents: In a year that has been severely impacted by a deadly virus, now is not the time to increase taxes, and that the township should seek to reduce its budget where it can.

In response, the township will hire one full-time officer in January, but delay hiring a second officer until May. The township will also stand pat on the hiring of a new planner in its planning and zoning department until next May or June.

While the township has held the line on tax increases for 2021, Ratliff is foreshadowing a likely bump in taxes for 2022.

“In 2020 development process, we did float the idea of a tax increase to specifically support the capital campaign to support construction of the new Kennett Library and then we also floated a tax increase this year,” Ratliff said. “While neither tax increase was instituted, it does allow us to glimpse into what we can expect recommendation wise when we start develop our 2022 budget.

“If you look at the run rate of government operations, it will be at its most costly in August and September, so if you assume those costs going into the 2022 budget development process, we know that the bottom line is going to be higher than it is now,” Ratliff added. “That means we can either have to do with less investment on the capital side, increase our revenues, or cut previously implemented government services.

It will likely be a compromise between the three, but until we get to that process, I can’t profess to know how that process will play out.”

The alleged embezzlement of $3.2 million by former township manager Lisa Moore will not be factored into the township’s 2021 budget. About $1 million of the total has already been recovered and directed back into township’s reserves, as will the remaining money still expected to be recovered.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].