Monday, November 2, 2009

State of the borough - State of the taxpayer

Ever notice how quiet it becomes on the local political front just prior to elections?

With the Phoenix down to a weekly, the Mercury is picking up some of the slack, but what I really miss around this time of year are those editorials from long-ago editors, the political endorsements, and even the "Roses and Thorns" we became accustomed to reading.

I'll need help on this thread from my fellow citizens in recalling the good and the bad efforts and the results of the same over the last few years from our local elected officials, Phoenixville Borough Council as well as the PASD School Board.

I'm also asking for input as you'll see below.

On the 2010 budget front, the good news is that we will probably not see an increase on the trash hauling program. Lucky break. I'm still unsure if Council will have the ability to maintain that status for very much longer. We were guaranteed a five year contract with no rate increases by an outside hauler, but a previous Council chose to do the hauling in-house. If you recall, the borough collected the trash years ago but dumped the plan. Did anyone ever stop to learn why?

When I look back at the last few years, the first item which comes to mind is one which affects every property owner.

Taxes.

The PASD already voted a 1.93% increase for the 2009 - 2010 budget. We can anticipate the cost of the new middle school to result in more pain for the taxpayers of the school district.

My numbers may be fuzzy, but according to my recollections our borough taxes have risen approximately 40% since 2006.

We are still waiting for the hammer to fall signaling the vote on a borough tax increase for 2010, and the last we heard is the borough has a need for around $450,000 in additional tax revenues. If Council doesn't pare more monies off the half-million deficit, we will be looking at an 18% increase.

Total? A whopping 58% increase in borough taxes in just a few years.

It has to stop.

The water and sewer rates typically rise anywhere from 2% to 6%, and although we recognize the annual departmental costs rise, we also recognize each increase is compounded over and over with each budget.

Just because the constantly rising rates and taxes are approved and thereby mandated by law, it does not mean each and every resident has the same ability to absorb the increases.

Which brings me to the point where Council needs to consider the following suggestions.

Cut.

Cut.

And, cut some more from the budget.

Council should recommend each department wage a last minute attempt to cut expenditures from their budget. Any employee who can identify areas of waste, or suggest a viable cost saving measure should be given a bonus, an award of some sort allowable by law, a gift card, etc.

Phoenixville should go green. Not just a kiss and a promise, dedicate some time to examining possible ways to save energy.

Paint the roofs of all municipal buildings white.

Change the lighting fixtures in each and every building to energy efficient.

Examine the costs associated with changing all the utility lights throughout the town. Go solar! At least one military base is relying on solar energy for lighting.

The technology is now available to reclaim energy from the methane generated at the sewer plant. Are we examining that potential?

If it isn't a rumor, get out of the $4.00 a gallon contract for gasoline for borough vehicles.

Speaking of contracts, examine all contracts, i.e., wireless providers, vendors, etc., and re-negotiate them.

Take a long, serious look at the contract for providing service to the community for the Council meetings, etc. $60,000 annually is outrageous. When we bought that service to the community, it was not supposed to have that kind of a price tag. Remember, there would be no community channels if it were not for the fact that WE own them. The community channels can only be owned by a municipality. Why are we paying $60,000 annually for something WE own?

Stop giving away our assets. Coming close to selling the Prospect Street parking lots and Second Avenue for $1 flies in the face of fiscal responsibility.

Stop spending taxpayer monies to market the downtown. If the business community has a desire or a need to attract more business to their stores and restaurants, let them do it the old-fashioned way. Let them pay for it. No matter how one spins it, the taxpayer doesn't have a dog in that race.

Cut the CDC. We have no money for bling. $125,000 annually is a heavy weight borne by the property owners of Phoenixville. Why are we subsidizing the downtown district? The taxpayer of Phoenixville has not received one dime in a reduction in taxes due to the "revitalization".

Create a BID, a DID, a business district tax in whatever shape or form is compatible with law. We residents already pull our weight, plus.

Are borough vehicles permitted to be driven to employees homes overnight? Cut the expenditure.

I'm fairly certain other municipalities are tightening their collective belts, and their ideas may be shared online. Please check.

Leave no stone unturned.

Phoenixville Borough Council can only go to the well so often, and this year the well is particularly dry due to the economic depression, and the rapid rise of the overall cost of living.

I have to wonder if Council members have taken the time to speak with any of the residents and learn how they are faring during the recession.

Do they know the number of Phoenixville residents who have lost a job?

Do they know how many residents were laid off and how many unemployment benefits have ceased?

How many foreclosures already have occured or are about to happen in the borough?

Who is hanging on by a thread?

I listen when senior citizens tell me of their situations. I listen when a worried Mom tells me she can't afford doctor visits, dental work, flu shots for her children or a simple treat for the family.

I've directed those in need to the services provided by the community, but there is a line which must be crossed when asking for help, and many people, rather than rely on the generosity of others, will suffer in silence.

Know that.

Council must remember the impact of the 2010 budget vote during these last budget meetings.

The taxpayers of Phoenixville simply cannot absorb another hefty increase.

We are aware this blog is read by public officials.

That is fact.

This is the point where you, the reader, can simply comment on the questions posted below, provide some insight, offer suggestions, and/or speak to what is on your mind this weekend prior to the election.

Your responses will be read by at least some of those who need to see your answers.

Have you examined the candidates and their positions, the incumbents and their work?

Did they represent you well?

Were they accessible to you?

Did you see the results you wanted on any issues?

Are you, like me, waiting for the outcome on the 2010 budget?

Who are you supporting for office, and who will you vote for?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Karen
Let the new council open the budget in 2010 and kill the CDC.Maybe they will have the cojonies to do it .

Anonymous said...

Who are you supporting/endorsing?

Karen said...

The new Council will have that option, Anonymous 7:29 a.m.

After taking office in January, I believe they have 40 or 45 days to reopen the budget.

The responsibility of cutting wasteful tax dollars currently lies with this Council.

Karen said...

Anonymous 8:48 a.m., I spent time recently weighing the pros and cons of publishing my choices for the East Ward as well as my suggestions for Mayor and the Council seats in the North, Middle, and West Wards.

Readers of this blog may already know my position on a few of the incumbents and candidates.

Therefore, whatever privacy I personally might have had is gone.

Check the blog tomorrow for my decisions in Tuesday's election.

erin.mayerson said...

Dear Karen:

After speaking you today it is my understanding that you will be posting the statement I sent you this afternoon later on this evening.

I appreciate your making an exception to your "one entry a day" policy on my behalf. I hope that followers of your blog will stay tuned till this evening to read my statement.

Regards,

Erin McDevitt

Karen said...

The original request for candidate statements was sent to both party officials and others on September 30, 2009.

Several follow-up reminders were sent in October, aware we have 8 council and 5 school board candidates with each timely submission requiring a seperate thread for comments.

Those who chose to participate were published in the order received, giving each candidate time as the top thread.

Unfortunately, Erin McDevitt's candidate statement was not received until today around the noon hour.

In fairness to Ms. McDevitt, and in service to the East Ward voters, I have offered to publish it, as requested, under a seperate thread.

Please look for Erin McDevitt's candidate statement later today.

Erin McDevitt said...

Thanks Karen.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Karen said...

I have deleted the last comment because I accidentally posted it before I read it.

My apologies.

Here is an edited version:


Anonymous said...

Karen,
The CDC must be cut out. We taxpayers don't need to spend any more money downtown. Tuesday is our chance to be heard!!!
Don't cry later if you don't vote!

November 2, 2009 1:17:00 PM EST

Karen said...

You are welcome, Erin!