New Garden residents may face 120 percent tax hike10/18/2023 06:22PM ● By Richard Gaw
Citing several weaknesses and threats to the viability of New Garden Township, township Manager Christopher Himes proposed a real estate tax increase beginning in 2024 that would raise tax rates for homeowners as much as 120 percent beginning in 2024.
During a two-hour presentation before the township’s Board of Supervisors on Oct. 16, Himes proposed a scenario that would jack up millage rates from 1.72 mills to 3.9 mills on homes ranging from assessed values between $30,000 and $1.8 million.
If the budget hike is adopted by the board at the end of the year, the new tax structure will charge a household with an assessed home value of $30,000 an additional $9.75 per month in 2024 – and $65.40 for the year. For households whose home values are between $100,000 - $250,000 – 2,397 township households fall within this range – homeowners will pay $60.45 in monthly real estate taxes – a monthly increase of $33.79 and $725.40 a year – a total yearly increase of $405.48 beginning in 2024.
Those households whose homes are assessed between $250,000 and $400,000 will see their real estate taxes climb to $92.95 a month and $1,115.40 for the year – a total tax increase of $623.48 for the year.
Throughout his 57-page report, Himes took a wide-angle look into the financial picture of the township over the past several years that necessitates the proposed tax increase. He told the board that over that time the township has been bereft of “a master guiding vision” for its future and has been content to merely “keep afloat.” He said that the township is woefully understaffed and underpaid; that it has failed to upgrade its technology to better serve its residents; that its real estate taxes collected from township businesses are underperforming; that its population has remained fairly stagnant and aging since 2010, in a county that is projecting a surge in population and commercial growth – and therefore, an increased tax base -- over the next two decades; that its outdated infrastructure has had a negative impact on redevelopment; that it has been operating with an unbalanced budget for several years; and that it is suffering from the lack of a fully formed growth plan.
‘We don’t have a set of guiding principles…’
“Normally, when you put all of this together, you have some sort of value vision or mission statement as an organization that says, ‘This is who we are and this is what we are going to do,’” Himes told the board. “Our township doesn’t have one. We don’t have a guiding set of principles to push this township forward that says, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’”
In a segment entitled “Connecting Characteristics to Services,” Himes said that the best path forward for the township is to invest in its key assets in order to improve quality of life for its residents, such as the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department, the Avondale Fire Company, EMS services, its Public Works and Emergency Management departments, area parks and recreation and open space and trails.
Telling the board that “human capital” is the most significant asset and investment in an organization, Himes called for the township to improve the “organizational health” of its staff and departments by increasing salaries and redesigning its organizational structure, bolstering the strength of departments by hiring additional staff and streamlining job responsibilities.
The lack of a real estate tax increase has impacted the township’s method of paying its expenses. From year-end 2021 to 2023, the township has gone from a surplus of $1,207,585.54 to a deficit of $946,286.57, a scenario that has forced the township to tap into its general fund to cover operational costs and continues to chip away at its total fund balance.
By raising real estate taxes, the township would be able to boost what has essentially remained a flat revenue source for the last several years. Since 2014, the revenue generated from real estate taxes has risen a paltry 7.8 percent and has grown only $110,653 from the $1.3 million it raised in 2014 to the $1.42 million it earned in 2023.
By enacting a tax increase, the township stands to boost its real estate tax revenue to $3.27 million beginning in 2024 and in subsequent years.
The township’s Board of Supervisors will continue their discussion on whether to raise real estate taxes at their Oct. 23 budget meeting, beginning at 5:30 p.m. They are expected to finalize their decision at their Nov. 20 meeting and pass a motion to adopt the increase – or not – at their Dec. 18 meeting, as part of their adoption of the township’s 2024 budget.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].
New Garden residents may face 120 percent tax hike