Tuesday, September 23, 2008


During last night's Phoenixville Borough Council meeting, the unexpected DID happen!

A bluebird of happiness and the dove of peace flew into Council chambers through the borough hall door held open by two new Phoenixville residents, Pros Perity, and Gener Osity.

As the bluebird of happiness performed intricate aerial acrobatics over the heads of the astonished and delighted councilmembers, staff, and assembled public, the dove of peace gracefully settled on the center table, then quietly commenced preening and nodding sagely to it's rapt audience.

The normally staid environment of the Council chambers was in an instant magically transformed into a lush green garden wonderland while the exotic scents of rare blooming flowers competed for attention with the birdsong of chirps, gentle trills, and warbles.

Mr. Pros Perity, a dignified soul, dressed to THE nines, approached the microphone holding a rather large scroll in his meticulously manicured hands.

"I bring you GOOD TIDINGS!!!", Mr. Pros Perity exclaimed.

"I have secured for the great and wonderful Borough of Phoenixville an ENORMOUS GIFT!"

Council stopped breathing.

The birds stopped chirping.

No eye blinked.

All ears were trained on the owner of the sonorous voice.

Then, Mr. Gener Osity took the lead and reading from the scroll said, "The congresscritters of these United States have recognized in Phoenixville certain financial decisions the qualities of which are easily recognizable in actions taken by Wall Street mega-corporations."

"As part of the national bailout program," he continued, "subsidized by taxpayers from all over our great country, and due to your also excellent financial judgement, I am empowered to proclaim a portion of the $700 billion dollar GIFT FROM THE TAXPAYERS will also be rewarded to YOU!!!"

With an outcry heard all the way to the county seat of West Chester, councilmembers climbed over cushy chairs and excitedly mounted their desks, the audience exploded in approval by participating in shredding important documents into confetti and hurling it into the air all the while dancing wildly among the greenery and vibrant flowers.

Joy and contentment, emotions long absent from Council chambers spilled out onto the streets of Phoenixville declaring security in the knowledge that the CDC will have it's $625,000 GIFT from the taxpayers after all.

The End.

Ooops, wait a minute.

In reality, Councilmembers Ciruelos, Handwerk, Speck, and Wagner threw fiscal responsibility out the door with the birds and voted last night to approve the CDC's contract of $625,000 thereby re-confirming a NEW TAX is to be levied upon already over-burdened Phoenixville taxpayers.

Oh, the dove of peace was last seen flying towards Washington, D.C., and the bluebird of happiness took off for parts unknown.



Anonymous said...

I am glad we renewed the CDC contract. Some of us are willing to budget out $25 / year for the continued growth of our town. That's it - $25 / year and look at the town in the last 3 years. Some people who used to live here don't even recognize it. And visitors envy our downtown for its lively attitude and charming shops and restaurants. Lets chat in 5 years and see if it was worth it.

On a less serious note, that was some creative writing there Karen. Next time my daughter needs someone with creative writing skills to do her project, I'll give you a call.

Jeff Senley said...

Fine prose, fellow blogger.

Anonymous said...

Would you believe $25/month.

Anonymous said...

Let's do the math...

If my math is correct:

$125,000 / 15,000 people = $8 per year or 67 cents per month to keep the CDC. Sure, I'll gladly pay it to keep the revitalization of this town going.

Where do you come up with $25 per month?

Anonymous said...

It's not $25/month. That's ridiculous. Karen, how do you post that ridiculous comment. Now, some people are gonna see that as fact. The real numbers as agreed by council were $125 over the 5 year life of the contract. That's $25/year.

Karen said...

Anonymous 08/23/08, 5:38 p.m., I respectfully suggest you read Ken Buckwalter's post on his thread entitled, "So, how much is $125,000?" located on his blog.


You will quickly notice your $25 figure is not correct.

Karen said...

Thanks, Jeff.

My inital reaction was unfit to publish.

Karen said...

Anonymous 09/23/08, 10:42 p.m., please see the above referenced site for details.

Karen said...

I suspect the Anonymous 6:37 and 9:11 may be the same person.

Here is Ken Buckwalter's thread on the subject of the cost of the CDC contract.


So, how much is 125,000 dollars?

Before we answer the above question, context is needed as to how the Borough raises money to pay for the goods and services it returns to its residents for their tax dollars. Two of the main sources that comprise the general fund (GF) monies are the property tax and the earned income tax, also known as the EIT.

Currently, the general fund property tax is 2.06 mills (3.8 mills for all funds) and the EIT is one half of one percent. At a 93% collection rate, the Borough is projected to collect $1,316,442 property tax and the projected amount for collection of the EIT is $1,675,000 for the 2008 budget.

Each property owner gets a tax bill each year that states what their property value is assessed for. That amount is then multiplied by the millage. So a property assessed at $100,000 pays $206 into the general fund.

The total assessed value of Borough property for the 2003 budget was $$591,262,530 and five years later for the 2008 budget it came in at $687,150,078 for a net gain of $95,887,548. At the 2.06 mills, this represents additional GF monies of $197,283 or $39,505 per year.

The increase is understandable in two ways. First, the hospital property went from tax exempt to now paying taxes. Second, building in the Borough has been good in the past five years.

A person earning $44,460 would pay $222.30 in EIT that goes into the general fund. We supply the wage of $44,460 because that is the average wage a person earns in the greater Philadelphia area.

Now the answer to the question.

It takes about 65 million dollars of assessed property value to raise $125,000. To raise $125,000 from the EIT, using the greater Philadelphia wage average, it would take 562 new residents to move into the Borough. If we were to use the wage average of food workers at $20,920 per worker, we would need to see 1195 new residents move into the Borough.

The simplest solution though, would be to raise the property tax 9.5% to raise $125,000. And if we were to take the advice of our local columnist, Mr. Lawrence, we would double that and pay $250,000 for a tax increase of 19%. To read the column, “CDC a bargain at twice the price” click on the title.

Of course a 9.5% increase would only cover the additional $125,000. The increases in labor, health insurance, fuel, electric, materials, etc. would necessitate say, another 18% GF tax increase.

A bargain only becomes a bargain if you can afford to pay for it.

The 2008 budget can be downloaded by clicking here.

Posted by Blogwalter at 12:07 PM

Anonymous said...

It's $25/year folks. Those are the numbers that was the agreed upon numbers during public (on record) meetings. Now on blogs Ken is using averages and collected taxes vs. owed taxes, and greater Philadelphia averages, and food wage averages. Their numbers also don't account for the new residents that have moved into the new Washington Street Mill Lofts, The Ledges, the Burne Building Lofts, the Iron Hill Condo's (which are 100% full), and other new residents in the area. $25/year to provide a safe, fun and proud place to spend your free time for you and your family. I follow what's on record, not what is said on blogs.

Solofloyd said...

I suspect the Anonymous 6:37 and 9:11 may be the same person.

Actually no, I posted the 6:37 comment and didn't realize I wasn't logged in.

Anonymous said...

By the way Karen, not that I care one way or the other but your suspicions about the anonymous being the same person are wrong. If you notice that persons numbers were not in conjunction with the numbers I we (the people) were read at the borough council meeting. No other contrary numbers were argued at that meeting or haven't been argued in subsequent meetings. Therefore I take the numbers read in a public forum in open discussion over numbers posted on a blog.

Anonymous said...

Good job Solo! The numbers read into record and argued in the public forum of council meetings are much different then the numbers argued here on blogs. Why is that? People want to know why the numbers here are not argued in public council meetings?

Karen said...

Thanks for all the comments, but some posters may be missing the point of Ken's research on the amount each individual homeowner and property owner will pay just as a result of the CDC's $625,000 contract.

In coming up with a $25 figure for the CDC's $625,000 contract, Council floor discussions may have been based on a generic, easy to use figure of a property assessed at $100,000. Do each of you own homes or property at an assessed value of $100,000 (for the sake of argument)?


The value of homes vary in Phoenixville.

Therefore your burden of the increased taxes from the CDC's $625,000 contract will vary from homeowner to homeowner.

Remember, Ken pointed out..."The simplest solution (though), would be to raise the property tax 9.5% to raise $125,000."

9.5% INCREASE TO ADD AN ADDITIONAL $125,000 THIS YEAR for the CDC's contract.

As Council works through the budget, each taxpayer in Phoenixville will be liable for the 9.5% ON TOP of whatever else they find is needed to float the boat of the good ship Phoenixville.

According to Ken, it may very well be an 18% increase in the taxes you CURRENTLY PAY for the 2009 budget.

Add an 18% INCREASE to what you paid in 2008, and you'll get a ballpark figure as to your taxes for 2009.

I simply cannot state it any simpler than this.

Anonymous said...

Again these numbers have not been hashed out in the public forum of council meetings. To initiate these discussions on a blog serves no other purpose then to inflame public opinion in your arguments favor. Ken can argue these points in borough council meetings. That's what he was voted in office to do. Not make broad statements on a public blog that have not been reviewed by other council members and the public as a whole.

Karen said...

As a former Councilmember who helped produce 8 budgets, and as a considerate Phoenixville neighbor, I am trying to help you understand, Anonymous, the ONLY method of checking ACURATELY what YOUR individual tax increase will be based on the CDC's annual contract of $125,000 per year for the next five years.

Unless Council has now developed some other magical financial method on which to calculate increases in the budget, the explaination I offered you is accurate.

1) The amount of property taxes you will pay in 2009 WILL be based on the assessed value of your home.

2) The amount of your individual property taxes for 2009 will RISE by at least 9.5% due to a need to raise an additional $125,000 to pay for the CDC contract.

3) Expect your taxes to be higher as per Buckwalter: "Of course a 9.5% increase would only cover the additional $125,000. The increases in labor, health insurance, fuel, electric, materials, etc. would necessitate say, another 18% GF (general fund) tax increase."

Please check your records for the amount of property tax you paid in 2008, multiply that figure by 9.5%. You will then have a figure which will be the COST to YOU just for the CDC's $125,000 contract.

As I stated earlier, the figures stated by Councilmembers were probably generic and meant to be used as an example only. Not as the total cost per taxable property in Phoenixville

Karen said...

For the sake of clarity, my last post at 2:59 p.m. should read...

"As I stated earlier, the figures stated by Councilmembers DURING THE COUNCIL MEETING were probably generic and meant to be used as an example only. Not as the total cost per taxable property in Phoenixville."

Anonymous said...

Then Ken should issue these numbers in a public council meeting. That is what he was voted in to do, but not take (until agreed by council - ie public) the numbers to his blog. Ken speaks softly at council meetings but his personality is quite different on his blog. Council meetings are where these things are hashed out in a public form. Not isolated blog entries that just inflame public opinion. Its a shame.

Karen said...

Coincidentally, psychically, or by just plain dumb luck, Councilman Ken Buckwalter posted a new thread at his blog on this very subject.

There is NO magical formula, folks, it is as stated.

Remember, as you read Ken's post, the amount you will pay for the CDC's $125,000 contract is just a PORTION of what your taxes will be for 2009 after the budget discussions are completed.


New Math, Fuzzy Math, It’s Really About Property Tax Millage

“It's $25/year folks. Those are the numbers that was the agreed upon numbers during public (on record) meetings….[I] follow what's on record, not what is said on blogs.”

At the end of this post I have included a few other uninformed, anonymous comments, found on other local blogs concerning just how much the CDC is costing taxpayers of this Borough. It is clear most don’t know or care to understand the funding mechanism or where the money comes from to engage in reasonable discussions.

The cost of the CDC contract is borne by monies that comprise the General Fund (GF). The GF has a number of revenue sources that comprise the fund. However, only property taxes from people, who own property in the Borough, can be raised to make up excess expenses over revenue. No other revenue sources are under Council control to raise or lower additional revenue.

The revenue for the GF is determined by the assessed value of a property times the millage rate, which is currently 2.06 mills. So a property assessed at $100,000 pays into the General Fund an amount equal to $206/year. A 9.5% tax increase, (the increase required to fund the $125,000/year CDC contract) would be an additional $22.56/year.

The assessed value for properties in Chester County, Phoenixville in particular, is not what the property was purchased for.

The assessed value, GF tax amount and 9.5% increase for the following elected officials are as follows:

Mayor Scoda’s assessment- $157,270 tax- $323.98 9.5% increase- $30.78

Councilman Buckwalter’s assessment- $155,890 tax- $321.13 increase- $30.50

Councilman Ciruelos’s assessment- $90,080 tax- $185.56 increase- $17.63

Councilman Handwerk’s assessment- $0.00 tax- $0.00 increase- $0.00

Again, only property taxes can be adjusted to raise additional revenue. It doesn’t matter how many people live in the Borough; only property owners shoulder the additional financial burden when taxes are raised.

As promised:

“It's $25/year folks. Those are the numbers that was the agreed upon numbers during public (on record) meetings….[I] follow what's on record, not what is said on blogs.”

“Let's do the math...If my math is correct: $125,000 / 15,000 people = $8 per year or 67 cents per month to keep the CDC.”

“Would you believe $25/month.”

“Jeff the numbers on public record (ie. the borough council meeting) is $125/resident over the 5 years of the contract. That equates to $25/year.”

“The numbers are not based on the number of people residing in Pville. [T]he numbers are based on the amount of "households". Every household has an average number of tax dollars and that is how the numbers are factored.”

Karen said...

Almost forgot.

Thank you, Councilman Buckwalter!

Anonymous said...

Karen, looks like you, Ken, and Jeffey can have your own conversations and hash things out between yourselves. Thats okay because you were the only ones buying it anyway. Step aside!

Anonymous said...

Karen, where was Jeff when the important CDC vote was originally taken? Isn't it true that if Jeff showed up for the meeting, that this wouldn't even be an issue?

Anonymous said...

Looks like those birds dumped on all of us before heading south.

Anonymous said...

No Jeff = No vote
No vote = new CDC contract
Jeff = pro CDC

Actions always speak louder than words!

Solofloyd said...

I think it is surely worth roughly $20-40 per year depending on the assessed value of your house to keep the CDC operating and improving Phxville.

Anonymous said...

I agree Solofloyd and I suspect many would. However, I also believe many more would buy in if four additional things happened. CDC Board, are you listening too?The first would be for the merchants/downtown property owners to make a public and obvious contribution to the CDC either voluntarily or via a BID district tax. Second, that Mr. Cassidy be replaced with someone with more acceptable social and professional skills. Third, that the CDC open up their tax payer/grant funded books for all to see how the money is spent. And fourth for the CDC to get on the same budget track/schedule the entire rest of the Borough's expenses are on. I truly believe those four things would make buyin the overwhelming majority opinion. Until those things are done, there will be angry opposition.

Anonymous said...

I believe most Phoenixville residents who take part in their community and participate in everything it has to offer respects the CDC for what it has done for the downtown. I continually read comments about the way Mr Cassidy looks or his sandals or whatever, but they all seem to be fishing for something to discredit his accomplishments. I don't feel that a few extra dollars a year is worth eliminating his contract (thats my opinion). I think if it reached a ridiculous amount of money then people would stand up and say no (especially considering he doesn't take home all of that money -the contract and the salary are 2 different numbers). So, like I stated earlier, I believe that we should continue to support the CDC and the efforts they have accomplished. But I'm sure I'll get a litany from the regular crew that doesn't support the downtown.

Long time resident

Jeff Senley said...

No other Councilmen aside from myself and Mr. Buckwalter or any members of the CDC participate in blogs.

Mr. Ciruelos at one time did participate, but has ceased to do so citing irritation with anonymous commenters in a past Borough Council meeting.

Anonymous said...