PHOENIXVILLE — Firmly moved into its new digs, borough council voted to use the cash obtained from auctioning off the old borough hall to make maintenance improvements and acquisitions for the parks and recreation department around town.
Mayor Leo Scoda suggested using the money from the auction toward the 2014 budget to essentially offer a tax break in town, but council President Richard Kirkner maintained that using those funds in such a way would create problems down the road.
“I think the finance committee is of the mind that it would be a bad fiscal precedent to use proceeds from the sale of a capital asset to offset operating expenses and a potential millage rate increase,” Kirkner said. “I think this council and previous councils have pretty much been of the philosophy that capital assets and capital proceeds are treated separately and kept in a separate pot from operating expenses.”
If the money were used toward the 2014 operating budget, it would likely be a one-time contribution. Even if it were spread out over a number of years, the money would eventually have to be up by other revenue.
“I would argue strongly against using the proceeds of the sale to offset any kind of operating expense,” Kirkner said. “That’s just my two cents and I was one of the four votes in finance committee (who) voted to report this resolution now.”
Council voted 7-1 to use the funds from the impending auction to finance the replacement of benches in front of the band shell in Reeves Park, exterior work at the Phoenixville Civic Center, and the acquisition of land and open space.
Jim Kovaleski was the sole council person who voted against the measure, believing other funding issues might be more pressing.
Citing public concerns brought forward by Republican mayoral candidate Ken Buckwalter at the beginning of the meeting, Kovaleski said some money could be put toward enlarging the budget for tree trimming and removal in the borough.
The funding motion was “putting the cart before the horse,” Kovaleski said, and he attempted to table it.
“I think that needs to go back for a more global plan,” for improvements funding and scheduling, Kovaleski said.
His motion to table the funding resolution received no second.
Scoda was concerned that committing money to certain projects already was “short-sighted” before the 2014 budget was presented, but Dana Dugan and other council members on the finance committee said they have been working on the budget and believe the numbers work.
“I understand where the mayor is coming from,” said Councilman David Gautreau, but he said the improvements detailed for funding were necessary.
For instance, Gautreau said the benches in Reeves Park were aging and becoming dangerous with sharp edges.
“We’re always kicking the can down the road,” Gautreau said.