The Phoenix Reporter and Item (http://www.phoenixvillenews.com)

Phoenixville to see no tax hike in 2013


By Frank Otto, fotto@pottsmerc.com

Thursday, December 13, 2012

PHOENIXVILLE — Going into Tuesday night’s meeting, borough council was faced with a draft budget that called for a 1.3 percent tax increase.
By the meeting’s end, Phoenixville citizens were assured of no increase on their property taxes from the borough in 2013 after a budget with a flat millage rate was approved.
“I’ve been on council in years when we’ve cut services and raised taxes,” Council President Richard Kirkner said. “This is a welcome, refreshing change from that.”
The $8,020,161 budget passed 7-1 a year after taxes increased by 18 percent to account for, among other rising expenditures, the construction of a new borough hall, work on a water plant and improvements on the municipal sewage treatment plant.
Council was able to keep the town’s millage rate at 5.25, as opposed to raising it to 5.32, which the draft budget called for, because new numbers came in dropping the budget’s shortfall from $47,000 to $17,000.
“Thursday of last week, we received our assessment valuations from the county,” said Jean Krack, Phoenixville’s borough manager. “Those came in higher than we actually expected them to be.”
As such, a tax increase to close the revenue-expenditures gap would have been less than a half of a percent, according to Krack.
For roughly 15 minutes, council discussed whether they should stick with a tax increase or to change course and keep rates the same.
Dana Dugan, chairwoman of the finance committee, expressed caution with not closing the gap through taxing because of the possibility that revenues could be projected “too high.”
“I would love to go to go to zero, but I’m not sure if that’s exactly the right thing to do just because we might have a few estimates that might be higher,” she said. “We might end up with a zero percent increase next year if we have this influx of cash.”
Councilman Karl Bucus shared Dugan’s concern about the revenue projections.
“(They’re) not irrational estimates, but they’re estimates,” he said. “I would prefer to err on the side of (being) conservative.”
Christopher Bauers, another council member, also fell on the side endorsing the small tax increase to even out what he called a “level planning budget.”
Mayor Leo Scoda was the first to speak on the side of a zero percent increase, saying that the town’s residents were looking for a break following the 18 percent increase in 2012 and a 10 percent increase in 2011.
“You’re dealing with such a small number, $17,000,” Scoda said. “You’re not unbalanced by $100,000 or $200,000.”
With taxes likely to increase due to budgets from the county and the school district, Scoda said relief from the borough would be welcome.
Additionally, he cited construction projects over the next year that could bring further tax revenue into the borough as a reason to hold at 5.25 mills.
“Given the fact that we can get this (deficit) down to $17,000, I’m sure we can find this somewhere in the budget and get to zero,” Councilman David Gautreau said in support of Scoda’s sentiments.
Both Councilman Mike Speck and Kirkner said they echoed Scoda and Gautreau’s feelings on freezing next year’s tax rate.
After discussion clarifying what exactly the budget would stand at, the vote was held to set the 2013 budget with no tax increase.
Bucus was the only council member who voted against the budget.
The budget’s $17,000 shortfall will be made up by the municipal fund balance.
The approved budget added an extra police officer to the borough’s force. That officer, Jason Komoroski, was sworn in Tuesday night.
Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.