Pottsgrove School District Business Manager once told that school board that "no one remembers a zero tax hike the next year."
That piece of wisdom may now become relevant to Pottstown Borough Council which, in past years, has passed zero tax hikes by raiding its reserves and now finds itself facing a double digit tax hike of 18.61 percent.
In fact, without scheduling any further budget meetings, council last night adopted a preliminary budget at a "not to exceed" tax hike of 18.61 percent for 2018.
"I can't believe we sat up here and passed a budget not to exceed 18 percent. I'm shocked, just cannot believe it," said Councilman Dennis Arms. He and Council Vice President Sheryl Miller cast the only no votes.
As Councilman Ryan Procsal, reelected last week without any opposition, pointed out, all the vote means was that next year's property taxes would not rise above that increase. "I don't see what the big deal is," he said.
If enacted without change, the "big deal" would be an annual increase of more than $163 on a home assessed at $80,000, the borough median,
"These are real people and it's their money, savings and retirement we're impacting," said Arms, who added that his mother can no longer afford to pay the taxes in town. "We are going to drive more people out of this town."
Several cost-cutting suggestions were floated Monday night, including reducing the number of fire companies to two; out-sourcing the codes department and cutting administration where Vice President Sheryl Miller insisted the borough is "top-heavy. We have assistants to assistants to assistants."
And, in fact, Finance Director Janice Lee confirmed part of the $170 increase in the public works department in the budget draft is due to a new "assistant public works director."
As Borough Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. explained, there are certain deadlines council must meet in terms of public availability of a draft budget and council's action last night means no action need be taken until the next meeting in December.
Although budget meetings later in December can be scheduled -- "it's been done before" -- said Weand, there was no mention of any additional meetings being scheduled in either November or December.
"We have a month. We're not finished yet," said Weand who began the budget discussion by characterizing the many assessment challenges the borough has endured this year as "somewhat of a tragedy" and being "outside of our control."
In other business, council also rejected a request from Creative Health to endorse a pitch to convert a vacant warehouse on Robinson Street, adjacent to their facility, into housing for patients being displaced by the closing of Norristown State Hospital.
Here are the Tweets.
Here are the Tweets.