Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Good News and Bad News from Councilman Jeff Senley

Councilman Jeff Senley sent a post to my previous thread alerting us to the following information posted to his blog after tonight's Finance Committee meeting.


Good News and Bad News

It's late in the evening, and I will provide some details and discussion later.

Good News:

The good news to report is that the Finance Committee agreed to reduce the proposed 2009 Phoenixville property tax increase from 13.8% to 5.8%. I am pleased with the Committee's newfound sensitivity to the taxpayer in tough economic times. Ultimately, taxpayers have me, Mr. Kirkner, Mr. Buckwalter and particularly Mayor Scoda to thank.

The Mayor indicated that he would veto a 13.8% tax increase if it was passed by Council, and the aforementioned Councilmen indicated that we would not vote to overturn his veto (which requires a 6-2 vote). This turned the 5-3 majority favoring said tax increase to a sour note pretty quickly. I personally express my thanks to the Mayor for standing up for the rights of the taxpayers.

This revised increase will be recommended to Council for approval at the upcoming December meeting. It is my expectation that this will pass, along with the 21.5% increase in water rates, 4.5% increase in sewer rates, and 0% increase in trash rates already recommended for 2009.

Bad News:

75% of the reduction was achieved by spending existing fund balance on recurring expenses, and only 25% of the reduction was achieved by cutting spending. This will have to be dealt with next year in preparation for 2010. I'm not sure how we do that without windfall development revenue (which we've already tagged for other projects should it come in), or an early basis for a large tax increase in 2009, starting at 25% or more instead of 0%.

Also, only 1 member of the public was present at the meeting to contribute to the discussion. This has been a frequent occurrence at Committee Meetings this year (excepting times that a rogue individual busses in a load of people to parrot his unverified opinion on an issue). I know that several of you have reached out to your Councilmen through e-mails and phone calls, which is a step in the right direction. I would like to see more people interested and/or brave enough to come out and speak their minds.

Our local paper did not send representation (just as they did not send anyone to last week's Special Meeting), but yet felt it appropriate to published an opinion piece in today's edition of The Phoenix supportive of the tax increase. The paper justified with arguably fuzzy mathematics why the Borough should raise taxes 13.8% in this economy and the taxpayers should support it. Your humble blogger may or may not have been mentioned in said article; it seems more likely to me that Mr. Buckwalter is the purported "popular local blogger".

More on this later for your review; I hope the short-term good news improves everyone's holiday.


1 comment:

Karen said...

The late night news from Jeff of a reduction in the tax hike from 13.8% to 5.8% is the result of the concentrated efforts of Councilmembers Ken Buckwalter, Richard Kirkner, and Jeff Senley.

Mayor Leo Scoda's intention to veto the original increase forced Council to find alternatives to the double-digit hike which proved successful at the vote.

I want to thank the Mayor and those Councilmen for their tenacity and for realizing the residents of this borough can no longer support the outrageous annual demands from borough hall.

However, as Jeff mentioned on his blog, the larger portion of the tax increase was achieved by earmarking monies from the fund balance.

My exasperation level remains the same as it was prior to last night's Finance meeting.

A whopping 9.5% could have been shaved off our taxes by nixing or suspending the controversial $125,000 CDC contract.

As I have maintained from the original request by the CDC for funding via our tax dollars, the CDC was NEVER intended to become a publically funded institution, the borough is NOT a philantrophical organization, and in hard economic times, bling for the downtown is akin to ordering Beluga Almas caviar when one can only afford hot dogs.

The reduction in the tax hike just staves off the inevitable unless Council is willing to begin financial austerity by cutting the fat off the budget by removing involuntary taxpayer contributions to the CDC.

Coupled with uncertainty of the national financial situation, the Council action taken last night may have set the Phoenixville taxpayer up for an increase for 2010 such as we can only imagine.

I strongly suggest that Council commence working on the 2010 budget in January examining every method available to cut costs, secure applicable monies from the state and feds, and commence a serious investigation into a tax vehicle for the downtown business district.

It is time for Council to be fiscally responsible by becoming proactive rather than reactive with our money.