Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Borough Council's obligation to Phoenixville taxpayers vs CDC "Bling"*

Councilmembers Ciruelos, Gill, Handwerk, and Speck of Phoenixville's Borough Council voted to spend more of our tax dollars last night to extend the CDC's contract for another five years with a $14,000 annual raise.

Richard Kirkner, D-N, reminded Council, "The intent was never to have this as a taxpayer-supported entity." He continued, "This is not a good contract." After Kirkner cited the possibilities of a layoff, Carlos Ciruelos, D-E, said, "That's the politics of fear." Several other Councilmembers weighed in according to the Phoenix, and the vote passed to August's full Council meeting 4 to 3.

Politics of fear or did Kirkner merely state fact?

Will Council learn from their own history of mistakes?

Council hired a borough manager who did not qualify for the position under their own advertised requirements. Phoenixville now has a new borough manager.

Phoenixville residents are paying a high premium for the borough program of trash removal rather utilizing a contract with a commercial hauler who guaranteed a fixed price for a number of years. Council made a huge mistake which will continue to rise in cost and haunt the taxpayer.

The institution of a Parking Authority meets my criteria for a risky move. Although we have heard little publically about the future considerations of the authority, will we learn of the need for taxpayer subsidies?

By my read of today's Phoenix article on the CDC contract extension, a $14,000 increase to the prior three year contract fee of annual $111,000 has now put us on the hook for a Council vote to approve $125,000 annually for a grand total for the life of the contract of $952,000.

For what?

Sure,the downtown looks nice and people have fun on First Fridays.

But, it's all "Bling". And, it's costing taxpayers money which, by all accounts will be needed for the 2009 budget.

Phoenixville, as with every other municipality in these United States, is fast approaching a fiscal crisis. We are already at an enormous deficit with the "Budget Time Bomb Discovered" thread at Councilman Buckwalter’s site.

How can the residents be asked to foot the bill for another unfunded contract?

Do none of these members realize the looming economic threats on the horizon?

Is there no foresight?

Where is the commonsense?

Economic woes have already reached our community.

A downward spiral in home prices is already evident locally, homes are not selling, and there are projections of defaults of 20 to 30% in home mortgage foreclosures.

Nationally, we are facing the possibility of a long recession.

Banks are failing.

IndyMac's problems prompted a bank run.

The stock market is in voltile bear country.

Many businesses are already cutting back which means the possible loss of jobs or rollbacks in hours worked.

We have already seen as much as an 85% increase in home heating oil for this winter, along with rising gas and electricity costs. Higher grocery bills and the hidden costs of the increase in energy are reflected in the cost of goods every time we shop.

The specter of hyperinflation may be just around the corner, and I am not the only one who has heard the stories of food shortages and riots in third world countries and the beginning whispers of a global depression.

The impact of higher costs will be reflected in Phoenixville’s 2009 budget, and the already overburdened Phoenixville taxpayer cannot afford a third year in a row double digit tax increase.

Now is the time for Council to realize it’s obligation to our residents.

Now is the time for budgetary cuts.

Now is the time for economic austerity, at home and in our municipal government.

Bling has it's place, but not at the expense of Phoenixville becoming an example of unintended consequences.

No tax hikes on the backs of Phoenixville taxpayers for an expendable CDC.

Cut costs, Councilmembers. Whether one is in denial or completely ignorant of the economic crisis it is coming whether we are prepared for it or not.

*For non-hip-hop fans, "Bling" is flashy, elaborate ornamentation.


Anonymous said...

Kirkner, Senley and Bucwalter have commonsense.

I know we csn't afford another tax increase, my hours have been cut, so where am I supposed to get the money for my oil AND the higher taxes for downtown and this boro?

Anonymous said...

I would like to quote one of our newest elected councilmember, Mike Speck- "To listen, to serve, to do". Little did we know, he would DO this. Karen, we voted for you!!

Anonymous said...

you wanna know what really ticks me off ... one of the councilpeople that voted for this doesnt even pay property taxes ... think about that.

Anonymous said...

I posted on your previous thread, but I will continue here if I may.

I don't think the 'raise' is that much. It works out to about $1.00/hr per year, which is a reasonable cost of living raise for any one of us.
As for "bling" it really bling or has it had a positive effect on Phoenixville (unlike the trash and other council fiascos)? I mean- a house on Franklin Ave couldn't bring $50000 when Phoenixville was a ghost town. The stores downtown weren't worth a quarter of what they are worth today. Why is that?

Look at what putting Phoenixville on the map has done for us. We used to whisper "phoenixville" when asked where we were from. Now people from far and wide come here to eat, yes, but also to buy property and bring in young professional families. How many times have you asked yourself 'who are all of these people?" as you walked the downtown. Who did that?

To drop the ball now would be a bad move, IMHO. Now that we are so well known it is time to bring in businesses to keep our tax base low. Solid businesses as opposed to blue ferris wheels, or same old same old Phoenixville >>> HUD and Section 8.
For what it is worth, I say be smart and keep Barry Cassidy and all of his colorful antics.

Karen said...

Anonymous 6:48 p.m., I'm sorry I cannot edit your comments.

Your post would look like a heavily redacted document released under FOIA clearance.

I do understand your disgust, and if you wish to submit another post perhaps you could approach the issue from a different perspective.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Who are the members on the CDC and do they live in Phoenixville?

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous July 30, 2008 7:41:00 PM EDT:

What price for "pride"? One member of my family could be laid off by Christmas. Another is in the middle of a union negotiation where management wants "give-backs" on vacation time and health care, with no raise in return. How are we supposed to afford a double-digit tax increase?

I've never been ashamed of where I lived. And with the economy tanking, where are these businesses that are going to move into town to give people jobs?

At every Council meeting, it has been mentioned that transfer taxes (what people pay when they buy a house in town) are way down. This means that people aren't moving into town.

More of the same from the past 5 years isn't going to help us in a recession. It's time to set priorities and what benefits the entire Borough, not just the downtown, must come first.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am thinking about backing a bond so that you can keep your water distribution and sewage treatment plant so that you and your family have clean water and a sanitary home.
Now, please tell me what is your general fiscal state. What are your towns obligations over the next few years?
OK - a parking lot for a fire company's social hall.
OK - providing no-cost health insurance, insurance and pensions to garbage workers - oh, and paying for fuel for a fleet of trucks
OK - you've got over a 650,000 pledged to keep a consultant happy - and what is his contribution to the revenue stream?

You know, I think I'll look somewhere else to invest the money I was thinking lending for a municipal bond. Your town seems to be a very high-risk place with little fiscal sense.
Good luck to you.
Oh, here's a buck twenty nine for some bottled water. And there's a porta-potty down the street where they're constructing a new bar. You'll see it. Just stand in line with the short men with the baseball hats. Via condidos.

Anonymous said...

People keep talking about houses in pville not bringing in the money we expected a year ago, and although it is a tougher sale I still continue to meet new people that have just purchased homes in pville and they have paid substantially more than I paid almost a decade age (substantially). Now, either I am a super savvy business person (NOT) or the housing market in pville, although slow, is holding SOME of its value depending on the home you are selling. Most of the opposed arguments are just mentioning scare scenarios and tactics. Most of these scare scenarios will never happen (show a history of when it has). We have been through these tougher financial times decade after decade after decade, and every time it happens there are a group of fear mongers that continue to buy into these scenarios. We will bounce back and survive these tougher economic times just as every generation in the past has survived. This is my first time on this blog, and now its my last because of all the fear mongering. I understand fiscal responsibility and cautiousness but this is just plain old scare tactics. And to the gentlemen who was going to invest in a bond for our town but now has pulled out: Bye bye! Next time you're driving by, please do (drive by that is).

Anonymous said...

Anon July 31: There is a national measure of housing prices which takes a snapshot of 10 regions throughout the entire country. On average, if you owned a home ten years ago the value would have more than doubled in the last ten years. It doesn't matter whether its Phoenixville, Phoenix Arizona or Hooterville. Some regions more than doubled. The point here is that you can not say that one person caused this increase in real estate values and that one person is likely to provide a magical buffer against national and regional trends. There are those who would like you to pay up and fall in line with the party line. You are free to believe what you wish. Most postings I've seen here are calling for common sense, responsibility and a community using the political process for the good of the people, not the greed of one supposed magical individual.
One place where the data is published is
If you bought your home a decade ago at the age when most people buy homes and you live in a predominantly lower-middle income place like Phoenixville, your income has been relatively flat and your expenses for essentials and fees and taxes have gone up. In recent times the hit you are taking on these things is relatively greater. Posters who are still placing are great deal of faith in the market value of their home as some kind of liquid financial asset they can take advantage of are advised by friends, neighbors and financial advisors that that kind of thinking no longer applies. If you don't believe it go try and get a home equity loan from a reputable lender. Please do stay here. Here's hoping you and yours can find a 5 year job for $125,000+ guaranteed for by the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

I've always enjoyed math, but I'm not quite getting how the CDC budget would be responsible for a double digit tax increase. How many taxpayers are in Phoenixville? Divide this number into the yearly mount actually paid by the borough, minus any grant money, and divide by 3. Can someone do this calculation for me rather than hit me with the politics of FEAR?
So what do we do in a recession? I would hope we would keep working hard to bring new businesses into town to generate income, rather than fold up and lock our doors (total old Phoenixville mentality). Council has an obligation to keep moving us forward. What is their current plan to keep things going if BC's contract ends? Do they have a solid plan or is this just more political BS against a stronger personality?
Disclaimer- I don't even know Mr Cassidy,but I do know the town wouldn't be where it is today without him.

Anonymous said...

re: Anonymous July 31 9am-

Ten years ago my Mont Clare twin was worth a little more than your downtown twin, and a lot more than your north side twin. Today my Mont Clare twin is worth much less than your Mill St row home or any North Side twin on the market. Why? I have almost 2000 sq ft and more upgrades than your Mill St home selling for > $250,000 and I have a large well kept yard. I have lots of parking around me and it is quiet here.
Why? I don't have a downtown district and my address isn't "Phoenixville, PA", though the walking distance from any one of your properties is equally distant. Reputation/Location means everything. Your downtown is a very important piece of your success. Don't be fools. Keep moving forward...or please send Barry Cassidy over here to work on our side of Bridge St.

Karl on Gay Street said...

Yep. You're right on everything but the CDC, and I wish my GOP counterparts understood that.

A marginal COLA raise in the CDC budget is a drop in the ocean. Now, if someone wants to talk about cutting the CDC entirely, that's a whole different conversation.

I am not aware of anyone proposing this.

Listen to our neighbor in Mont Clare. Also, when looking at housing figures take care to look at figures for homes that are older than 10 years. The bubble-burst is on the Toll Bros. McMansions out in the ruburbs. Not those of us in the Borough.

Cheers, Karl

PS: Why does everyone post anonymously on this blog, I wonder...

Anonymous said...

Thank God for people with some common sense around here. And it takes some folks in MC across the bridge to step up and realize how lucky we are to live in this great town that is thriving and moving forward. Most people in town have this positive outlook except for a select few who are fear mongers and continue to put up smoke screens for their political partners in council (3 come to mind) that can't get anything done. They have not convinced anyone of their ideas except to spread fear and pessimism. I want to see more from these 3 councilmen who are pandering to their constituents. Lets put them under the same scrutiny and see how the measure up.

Anonymous said...

Great job Karl, everyone is doom and gloom on these blogs.

Welcome to the Doom & Gloom channel where we give you doom & gloom 24 / 7. No one does doom & gloom like we do. If you want doom or gloom you've come to the right place where we give you nothing but doom & gloom (***Winners of the most doom & gloom by any other town***).

Anonymous said...

What people do not understand is that the residents of Phoenixville have been hit with double-digit tax increases for the last two years and with a average income of $47,000 WHERE are we supposed to get the money to pay for ANOTHER double-digit increase?

Spending more money on the downtown does not mean that money will lessen my tax burden, no matter how much money is thrown down there. It ain't gonna help the taxpayer!

Anonymous said...

Mont Clare can come pay my almost 20% increase in taxes from last year and the 12% or 14% increase from the year before.

Tell me again why I should support the CDC or blue ferris wheels. All I keep getting is higher tax bills.

andthetruthshallsetyoufree said...

To Anon 7/30 7:41
The average person works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year (Barry has certainly worked less weeks) for a total of 2080 hours. If you divide 14000 by 2080, it actually represents a $6.71 per hour increase if wwe actually got the full 2080 hours from Barry.

Anonymous said...

Again, I just think you are aiming your anger and comments at the wrong person. Barry is doing his job of helping the town move forward in their development. I say ask your council people where their contributions are listed? And why can't they get anyone other than a handful of folks to agree that the town doesn't need Barry. Maybe we need 3 less councilmen who can't seem to get anything done except redirecting the blame towards Barry. Lets put Karen in office and she'll get things done. But hey, this is who everyone put into office. As of right now I feel Barry is here to stay (for a while) so let him do his job effectively. If only we could get the same performance from council.

Jeff Senley said...

Really, folks ...

The heart of the issue from my perspective is that it is simply too early to make a financial commitment in the 2009 budget year to a non-critical Borough expenditure fully funded by the property taxpayer.

Yes, the CDC and Barry add value; however, he is pressing us for a 5-year commitment ahead of intended schedule, and we are in for a tough season on vital items, let alone luxuries.

Anonymous said...

If Phoenixville does not learn from History it deserves to repeat the mistakes of the past.

What Historical Memory do the following have, more than 2-3 years

1) Members of Phoenixville Borough Council?
2) Members of the CDC?
3) Members of PABA?
4) Members of the new Phoenixville Parking Authority
5) Members of the Phoenixville Area School District
6) Members of the Phoenixville Planning Commission.

so, who created and wrote the original Streetscape grants, that everyone in town feels created phoenixville's great revitalization?

whose idea was the firebird festival and organized the first one?

who created the Phoenixville Dog Park?

Who was instrumental in keeping Phoenixville Hospital in Phoenixville.

Who has brought more Tax Paying Development to Phoenixville than any other person and entity ever in the history of phoenixville with zero help from the public sector.

does anyone know?

Anonymous said...

I think Speck is a arrogant fool.
He votes in a very cocky manner with theatrics and his time should be swift as he does nothing !

Anonymous said...

regarding property taxes phoenixville needs to see how they compare to the rest of chester county, and montgomery county, i.e. montclare.

bottom line property taxes are composed of

School Taxes 80% plus or minus

Borough/Municipality Taxdes 10% plus or minus

County Taxes 10% plus or minus

take a look at how the Borough of Phoenixville compares to Chester County.

that said,,the successful revitalization of phoenixville benefits all. who is responsible for the HUGE added tax base in the last 3 years other than barry cassidy,


development on the north side
franklin commons
phoenixville hospital

now compare the above and the taxes and new residents it has brought to phoenixville without ANY PUBLIC DOLLARS to what has happened on bridge street

Blogwalter said...

Mont Clare, part of Upper Providence, pays ZERO dollars in municipal taxes. Phoenixville pays 3.8 mills.

Anonymous said...

Ken, are you comparing MC to Pville as a financial gauge? Oh my, you are sooooo desperate. You want so badly to prove the CDC wrong but I just keep looking at what you have been able to accomplish since we put you in office (Crickets). Great job with that.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on Jeff, where is the vigorous smoke screen you were blowing onto your constituents. Please prove me wrong and make a list of what you have done to get YOUR ideas passed in council. Ohhh, anyone can present ideas (knowing that have a better chance of seeing God then seeing the idea passed) but the real work is getting others who initially disagree with you to swing on your side because it makes so much sense. Not so much, huh jeff?

Anonymous said...

Karen is right. Stop spending my tax money on continuing to decorate the downtown and use the money to reduce the amount of the coming tax increase.

Anonymous said...

could the reason be that montclare pays ZERO taxes, because Upper Providence actually has real business's like Wyeth, GSK etc helping pay taxes.

What ever happened to all those Business's and job's on the steel site? didn't the cdc say they would produce 3,000 by now?

Anonymous said...

>who created the Phoenixville Dog Park?

Reservoir Dogs! Park was created by Dorene Pasekoff (grant writer, $25,000 DCED funding for the fence, $4,000 from Purina for the new water fountains), George Martynick, Ellie Acampora, Lee Kreider, Marie Byers, Alexandra Bricklin and all the amazing dog lovers in Phoenixville and the surrounding townships who handed us $20 bills at local events "to get this dog park built" and showed up at Planning Commission and Borough Council meetings until midnight to make sure this idea really happened.

Reservoir Dogs! Park is still a volunteer-run effort. Our work days are the 2nd Saturday of the month from 8 am to noon -- the next one is August 9th. We'll be gathering fallen wood to line the paths and the new run-off gardens for the water fountains, so it should be a pleasant morning under the trees -- not the heavy digging we've done in the past.

The Yahoo Group for the dog park is:

Anonymous said...

Hey, kenny contributed. Oh yeah, I forgot we're not in council meetings where he clams up (meow).

Karen said...

My intention in addressing the subject of Council's responsiblity to the residents of Phoenixville and the committee approval of an extension of the CDC contract was and still is to get people talking, post their opinions on the subject, and to give Council a blog-generated perspective on the issue.

In fact, my mission statement for this blog is to give a venue for the day's news and discussions.

I resent the fact that some posters choose to use this forum to attack Councilmembers.

I have reluctantly allowed those posts in order to create an example of how quickly a discussion can digress from valid critiques and support to unwarranted attacks.

That is over as of right now.

If you do not have a comment which states your position or solution to this issue before Council, and if your intention is only to incite others by completely going off subject with the intention of posting an attack it will not be published.

Stick to the content of the original discussion.

Anonymous said...

I just drove through the downtown about an hour ago. The sidewalks were PACKED with people, smiling, laughing, pushing baby strollers, etc. What a far cry from just a few years ago when the biggest item for sale down there was cocaine, and the foot traffic was much different.
Thank you Barry. Keep up the good work. You are worth every cent of your contract.

Anonymous said...

>>> Anonymous said...
could the reason be that montclare pays ZERO taxes, because Upper Providence actually has real business's like Wyeth, GSK etc helping pay taxes.

What ever happened to all those Business's and job's on the steel site? didn't the cdc say they would produce 3,000 by now?<<<

Could be.

I think the businessEs will come. They had to have a place to come TO. Phoenixville is the place to be. I think the steel site was tied up in some gameplaying for many years. I don't think the vacant site has anything to do with the CDC, though it appears Barry Cassidy is now working on it.
This is why you need to extend the CDC contract. Rome wasn't built in a day. You are all very happy that the downtown looks so great, but there is still much work to be done. Taking a place from ghost town to hot spot takes more than three short years.

Anonymous said...

An article which may be of interest concerning the wizardry of revitalization which took place in another town in PA. Yes, things do take time. They have a new main street manager in Dubois.

So just how sucessful was the Main Street Manager – DuBois, Pennsylvania – 1986 to 1991
· Managed downtown revitalization utilizing the Main Street 4-point approach, including streetscape, tourist development, facade program, and fundraising.
· Functioned as the redevelopment authority director and the parking authority director.

Anonymous said...

Re: August 1 9:19

I'm not sure what you are trying to say here. Checking out their main st progress over the last decade or so, this makes Barry Cassidy look like an absolute miracle worker for doing what he has done in 3 short years.

Blogwalter said...

anon - Aug 1, 2008 10:09:00 PM EDT

I believe what 9:19 was trying to say (maybe it was barry himself) were the accomplishments of the Mainstreet Manager during that 5 year period. It just so happens to be barry as the following excerpt from his resume describes:

Main Street Manager – DuBois, Pennsylvania – 1986 to 1991

· Managed downtown revitalization utilizing the Main Street 4-point approach, including streetscape, tourist development, facade program, and fundraising.

· Functioned as the redevelopment authority director and the parking authority director.

Anonymous said...

It is doubtful anyone vetted the work done claimed to have been done during the period in Dubois.
The Downtown DuBois Revitalization Group has been in official operation for six months (2008).
If they had such a miracle worker for so long, why would they need a new Main Street Manager for revitalization after having the holy grail of revitalization for 6 years - 22 to 17 years ago? Another small Pennsylvania town full of ingrates and unbelievers, no doubt.

Anonymous said...

DuBois - great argument. Have another drink!