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Council at a Glance: Double-Digit Tax Increase Possible

Phoenixville Council held a special meeting on Tuesday evening.

Though originally billed as a budget meeting, Tuesday’s special meeting of Phoenixville Borough Council had more in store.

Here’s the meeting at a glance. Phoenixville Patch will also have more on many of these topics, so stay tuned.

Budget Tax Increase Stands at 19 Percent

What Happened: The borough voted to advertise a preliminary budget set at 5.25 mills, up from 4.41 mills. That amounts to a tax increase of 19 percent. Earlier in the evening council voted to approve a bond that included $8 million in general obligation debt (see below), and that accounts for 0.71 mills of the increase. General fund operating costs falls short by $87,000, which makes up the difference.

The vote to advertise the budget for potential adoption on Dec. 13 was 7-1, with Councilman Dave Gautreau (R-East) opposing.

What It Means to Residents: For every $100,000 in assessed value, a 19 percent tax increase would equal $84 more per household per year. That would mean a total of $525, up from $441, annually for every $100,000 in assessed value.

The vote authorized advertisement and makes the preliminary numbers open to public inspection. The final vote is expected at council's meeting on Dec. 13.

Background: The final amount of the bond wasn’t known earlier, and the former numbers only included the general fund operating costs and not the new debt service numbers. As first unveiled, the budget .

Other Rates May Increase

What Happened: The 2012 master fee schedule included a $5 per quarter sewer infrastructure fee. That was approved 7-0 (Councilman Marc Reber [R-Middle] was out of the room at the time).

Under the preliminary budget, water fees would increase a little over 10 percent, sewer rates would go up 6.6 percent and sanitation fees will stay the same, at $74 per quarter.

What It Means to Residents: In the preliminary numbers, the water fees would go from $6.15 per 1,000 gallons to $6.80 per 1,000 gallons. Sewer rates will increase from $4.81 per 1,000 gallons to $5.15 per 1,000 gallons. The $5 fee would be included in the quarterly sewer bill.

Background: The increases in this earlier article. Last year, water fees went up 4.3 percent, with a $5 infrastructure fee charged. Sewer rates increased 15.7 percent. Sanitation costs went up $5 per quarter.

Bond of $10.9 Million Moves Forward

What Happened: The borough’s financial adviser Gary Pulcini of Valco Capital Partners presented on a potential bond issue. Council received some final numbers on the estimated cost of a new borough hall.

Council unanimously passed a resolution that would move the bond issue forward, and Pulcini said the auction for the bond will take place in early January. The bond includes $8 million in general obligation debt for a new borough hall, $500,000 for sewer improvements and $2 million for water system improvements. The not-to-exceed amount for the bond was set at $10.9 million to include costs.

What It Means to Residents: The $8 million in general obligation debt means a millage increase of 0.71 mills, which, lumped together with the $87,000 shortfall in the general fund operating costs, means a tax increase of 5.25 percent that is included in the preliminary budget.

Background: Following the meeting, Borough Manager Jean Krack said the vote taken Tuesday passed a resolution similar to one passed in July, when was issued.

Due to the involvement of real estate issues council went into executive session but early indications were that the new borough hall would be located at 347 Bridge St., on a lot with the district justice building.

Potential Steel Site Developer Presents to Council

What Happened: BPG Development Company presented on a plan to put 350 apartments on Parcel Q of the steel site. Parcel Q is an eastern section that includes bluffs and is bordered by the French Creek, the rail tracks and Main Street.

What It Means to Residents: Nothing yet; the plan is still in the sketch plan phase and according to Krack, nothing official has been submitted.

Background: The group attended the planning commission meeting on Nov. 10 and received some negative feedback due to the plan’s exclusion of the French Creek Parkway. Council President Richard Kirkner invited the developers to come before council at the special meeting.

Residential Parking Fees Set

What Happened: Council approved the master fee schedule for 2012, and that included final numbers on the cost of residential parking permits for residents in the 200 and 300 blocks of Hall and Church streets. The cost was set at $15 per year. 

What It Means for Residents: In addition to the $15 annual fee, other permit prices were also set. Temporary, 14-day permits for residents' guests will cost $5; businesses will be charged $5 per quarter and contractor permits will cost $5 per week in what's known as Residential Zone A. A parking ticket in the zone will cost more than in other areas, at $25 per ticket. 

Background: The residential zones were set in a previous meeting, and residents spoke in favor and against them, with many asking for tweaks to the hours that will be set up. 

The residential permits came about after a survey of residents in the area, a decision by the ad-hoc parking steering committee, a vote by the policy committee to move it to council and finally at its early November meeting.

Patch will have more on these issues later in the week.

Jaxxon November 30, 2011 at 04:04 PM
Barry, I forgot about that. Thanks. Let's not forget the occupation tax in addition to property taxes. That is a weird one--archaic nonsense to apply it to individual residents.
Lynn Jusinski November 30, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Hi Jaxxon, I'm doing a bigger story on the budget in the future but I do have some of the numbers you talk about ... as the bond was set to move forward, that 0.71 mills was rolled into the tax increase. That's $481,000 for debt service. In addition, the general fund operating budget is short by $87,000. There was a lot of moving things around, increasing revenues here and adding expenses there, so it took some time to figure everything out.
Jaxxon November 30, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Thanks, Lynn. Budgeting is very much a shell game, so I'm not surprised it would take awhile to disentangle everything. I look forward to your next story on the matter. As always, your work is greatly appreciated.
Ed Jones November 30, 2011 at 09:16 PM
I wish I could get more income each year just by a stroke of the pen . My fixed company retirement (little as it is) never gets any better. Social Security does not use the same COLA as State and Federal Governments. Note that SS recipiants received no COLA increases for a couple of years, but Federal & State politicians and workers did receive a COLA increase. Yet my expenses go up the same as theirs and Phoenixville.
Randy Morin December 01, 2011 at 12:16 PM
Just to clarify Ed. Federal employees have not gotten COLA increases the last 2 years and surely will not be getting one this year. Since health benefits generally increase annually the take-home pay of federal employees actually goes down.

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