Borough Increases 2021General Fund Expense Budget by 50%
Tonight's meeting focused on the 2021 fiscal year budgets. The council budgeted $907K in expenses in the general fund taking advantage of the 2020 transfer tax windfall. This 2021 Expense Budget exceeds the previous year's budgets by more than $300K or 50%. Expenses in previous years hovered around the $600K mark.
Other Budget Highlights:
1) The largest Expenses are budgeted for Open Space & Park Improvements at the various borough properties totaling $395K.
2) The Council reduced the non-restricted annual contribution to the fire company and moved it into the restricted fire fund budget for 2021. The council plans to eliminate all non-restricted fire company contributions to the fire company in the future.
3) Councilwoman Lim noted that the budget includes funding in account 459.10 for historical home signs ( $250 each).
This initiative to identify historic homes in Chester Heights was presented to the borough as part of a collaborative outreach effort by Mrs. Anne Searl in her role with the Heritage Commission of Delaware County. The plan is being considered by the historical committee to be implemented at the pleasure of the council with the approval of historic homeowners. Perhaps they can reuse the Guided by Our History Logo adopted in 2017.
4) The MS4 Plan will be moving forward in the amount of $35,000 toward basin 1 efforts to reducing sediment in the borough. This is a state-mandated program.
5) Oh, 1 more thing, the council will be providing an IRA match of $3000 for our office staff.
Approximate 2021 Budgets
Revenue: $911K ( $345K from prior years)
Liquid Fuels Fund:
Open Space Fund
No Deposits /No Expenses - Balance $12K from the prior year
Councilwoman, Laura Lim noted that these were the rough drafts and the budget will be finalized over the next few weeks.
Real Estate Tax Assessment
The 2020 Chester Heights real estate assessment increased from $215M to $245M within the year. The new 2021 total assessment for the borough is reported to be $464M, a $219M increase. This number is not final and is expected to change. Homeowners and the school district are appealing and it is not certain if the final assessment will be ready before the borough budget is due.
Councilwoman Ellis echoed concerns I raised in a meeting earlier this year regarding the $329,080 assessment of the Summit. Last year it was valued at $17M and was more recently purchased for $45M. She asked if the borough should be pursuing an appeal. The response this time was similar to the one given to me by Greg Chestnut, but this time given by Jerry Montella, our solicitor. He noted that typically the school district would be the moving party and the borough would be an intervener so the borough should wait and let the school district take the lead. He was asked to contact School District Solicitor to see if they are pursuing an appeal for this assessment.
MORE FINANCE DISCUSSIONS:
PECO GREEN GRANT
Council Approved Resolution 10-A-20. The application to the PECO GREEN GRANT PROGRAM for the amount of $10,000, committing $10K of matching funds once the grant is awarded. The intended use of the money was not disclosed at this meeting.
Only 1 bid was received. The bids closed at 3 pm on October 26th.
They were not opened and will be discussed at the Nov 2nd meeting. Councilwoman Clarke asked the engineer and the solicitor to provide prior year's bids to determine whether the bid is acceptable.
STAY DOG CONTRACT
The Contract will once again be with Mr. Alan Strickler with 2 additional entities handlings the housing of dogs and cats. The contract will be prepared and submitted to the council for review.
CHESTER HEIGHTS PARK TRAIL
The Developers of Quarry Knoll had committed to building a tail path in Chester Heights Park. The borough has delayed the project changing the scope several times hoping to extend the path further into the woods. The path was to be built within 9 months of breaking ground on the development and the council discussed extending the deadline after they review the exact path they would like the trail to take.
A discussion lead by Councilwoman Clark on the lanternflies. There was mention of possible resources from the USDA, however, those may not be available due to us not being a priority.
Trish Williams Godwin - Noted that she was circulating a petition in opposition to the new carwash and asked who she should send it to once completed. The council advised that it should be sent to the Zoning Hearing Board.
Marta Driscoll (that's me) - Since the borough will be voting at the Garnet Valley Middle School, I asked if the borough will be placing the signs to direct voters or should I plan to do it. Ms. Ellis noted that she will be placing signs on Sunday before the election.
I also asked about the budget:
Was the carryover included in the top-line revenue budget or was the council increasing revenue? Answer - the top line includes carrying forward surplus from the prior year.
...and I also asked if they have looked at the current tax assessments - the replies are incorporated in the notes above, but Mayor Wood noted that they do not anticipate a tax increase for either the borough and/or the fire fund.
The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 2nd at 7 PM.