The Kennett Square Borough Council is giving serious consideration to digging deeper into its residents' pocketbooks next year.
Budget discussions during the past three meetings have centered on raising real estate taxes by one mill. A mill is a tax of $1 on every $1,000 of real estate value.
Property owners currently pay 2.35 mills, of which six-tenths of a mill goes to emergency service; an increase of a mill to 3.35 would cost the average property owner $112 more a year, according to acting Borough Manager David Fiorenza.
The proposal for the tax increase was first discussed at the Nov. 6 meeting, during which time Borough Council President Jeff Darman said it would be needed to maintain the current level of services. Fiorenza concurred, saying that the increase is necessary to maintain the borough's fund balance at a healthy level.
But some council members balked, saying that they would prefer to see cuts in spending to offset the need for increasing taxes.
During the Nov. 20 meeting, the members discussed alternatives to the rise that included transferring money from the emergency services account, increasing parking fees and tightening the belts of the various departments.
Council members expressed various sides of issues. For example, Council member John Thomas said he believes the borough is overstaffed, while Council member Rich Pesce said he sees the staff as overworked.
Council member Emidio Falini said he has "... a problem with an increase in taxes. I supported a five-story building (the new Genesis building on State Street) because I want our revenue to increase. I'd rather put my energies on the growth side."
When Darman asked if the increase could be reduced, Fiorenza said the borough could transfer $40,000 from the emergency fund and use $90,000 from the general fund balance. That would result in a tax increase of one-half of a mill, or an annual increase of $56 for the average property owner.
On Monday this week, Council met for a special workshop to toss around more figures and try to come to a consensus. But the consensus was not forthcoming.
Darman and Pesce maintained that there are things the borough needs that can come only through a tax increase. Two things that Darman mentioned were an assistant borough manager and a park ranger. "Rich and I feel we need a little more money to build up reserves and have some positive programs. I hear the majority say we want a tighter ship and no tax increase. My fear is that we've done a really good job. It's a good place to live and shop, and I don't want to mess it up or [not] continue to give people things," he said.
Council member Joe Makowski took a middle ground, saying that he would like to see a half mill increase with half of that money collected put in a reserve fund.
Council members Steve Kelly, Jerome Rhodes, Falini and Thomas opted for no tax increase, with Rhodes saying Fiorenza had not counted in the money garnered from interest income and other sources.
Kelly said he did not foresee any pressing need for an increase, and he didn't want to put the burden on his constituents. "I'm not going to vote for any tax increase. I think future years will be better. Right now we don" need any more money. I'm not going to take any more money out of people's pockets," he said.
Falini said that he has heard requests for tax increases every year for more than a decade, but when they were not implemented, the borough succeeded in getting the money it needed because of positive growth.
Next week the Council will have a public meeting to vote on a proposed budget, (which had not been built as of the end of this week's meeting).
After the meeting, Kelly said there are enough votes to defeat a tax increase, but mentioned that Rhodes will be out of town and unable to come to the meeting next Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the borough building.
Should a tie ensue next Monday, Mayor Leon Spencer will have the power to break the tie with his vote.