Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Phoenixville phiscal phorecast?

Proposed county budget
includes no tax increase

The Daily Local News, October 30, 2007

Wonder why you don’t see the Phoenixville Borough budget yet?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Phoenix gets one right

Steel & Slag

from The Phoenix, October 26, 2007

Slag goes to the borough administration for not presenting even preliminary budget estimates at the borough council committees meeting on Monday, despite council’s previous order to do so. Borough Manager Anthony DiGirolomo said that presenting current estimates would only waste time. Is that really his decision to make?

Apparently so, because council made hardly any objection. Slag goes to the seven members who tamely accepted this refusal of their direction, but Steel goes to Kendrick Buckwalter, the councilman who has been pressing to get budget figures sooner, so that there would be sufficient time for debating them and making changes, if necessary.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Happy holiday pay

Did you know that last November or so, the Borough announced it was changing how it paid police officers’ holiday pay?

Did you know that apparently someone in the Borough administration thinks that the Borough had been overpaying holidays?

Did you know that the police association has filed a grievance on this issue? (Not too surprising, is it?)

If the Borough is wrong, do you have any idea about how much more the Borough will have to pay the police officers?

If the Borough is right, do you have any idea how long it had been paying incorrectly, how much was paid incorrectly, and what plans there are to recover the overpayments?

It’s only our Borough, it’s only our police force, and it’s only our money–why should our Borough government tell us about it?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Help--my budget's fallen and I can't bring it up

On October 10th the budget preparation was on target for distribution to Council Members on the 19th, according to the Manager.

By October 18th, he announced it had fallen so far behind that it would not be ready until November 9th.

Can anyone offer a rational explanation of how the schedule could slip three weeks over only eight days?

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Boro budget -- a tale of deliberate impotence

October 9th– Council unanimously directs the Manager to present a draft budget and narrative on October 22nd, with advance distribution to all Council Members on October 19th. Councilman Ciruelos states “This will be a pillar year for the budget. This is the first year of feedback on a different way of allocating funds [in a new budget format adopted for 2007], and it will help to have a little bit of extra time.”

October 10th– Borough Manager DiGirolomo tells The Phoenix “We will be ready. Really, October 22 was the date I was shooting for anyway. [Departmental] managers are sending their material to me now, and I’ve blocked out next week to work with Steve.”

October 22nd– The Manager fails to deliver a budget, stating that it will now be delayed until November 9th. Other than Councilman Buckwalter, who protests, and Councilman Ciruelos, conveniently absent, Council does nothing.

But the Finance Committee did recommend approval of a budget transfer of $8.06 for soap. That's right, $8.06. At least they are keeping the important things in focus.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Revitalization--best practices?

The New York Times reports on October 14, 2007 about a number of more interesting revitalization projects, among them the conversion of the former “State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers” Massachusetts into luxury residences. Click here.

Makes you wonder what could be done with Phoenixville Borough Hall.

Reading comprehension anyone?

There was also the reconfirmation of the fourth-quarter trash fee, of $73.50. Council believed that it had in June imposed that amount for both the third and fourth quarters, having effectively budgeted in January a trash fee for the first and second quarters only.

–G. E. “Skip” Lawrence in The Phoenix, October 15, 2007

Councilman Gill made a motion that was seconded by Councilman Ciruelos to approve the 3rd Quarter Trash Fee of $73.50 conditioned on the Solicitor’s Opinion as to the need for a formal resolution. The motion passed 4–1.

–Phoenixville Borough Council Minutes of Meeting of June 25, 2007 (approved August 14, 2007); minute book page 468, as available on the Borough’s unofficial/official website.

Instead of just trying to remember (incorrectly) what they had done, why didn't Councilmembers read their own approved minutes? Isn't that why Council keeps minutes?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Revitalization math -- 2 + 2 = ?

For a perspective on government tax incentives for business development read this New York Times article of July 31, 2007, entitled

State Warns Companies in Tax Deals

At least it's not Houston

Two separate headlines that appeared, one after the other, in the October 7th “Local News” section of click2houston.com:

Officials: Middle School Students Caught In Sex Act In Class

Despite Law, Breeders Ignore Permits

The link is here

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Revitalization math -- the Schuylkill Metro

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics November 14, 2006 news release, the average weekly wage in Chester County was $1,083 in the first quarter of 2006, while in Philadelphia it was $979.

So we want to build a rail line to encourage commuting from Chester County to Philadelphia, in order to earn $104 less a week, not to mention the additional costs, taxes, and time incurred.

Revitalization math -- jobs

Another justification that is claimed for Borough revitalization investment is the creation of new jobs and the resultant additional employee taxes.

With the unemployment rate for Chester County at 3.5% (Source: BLS Labor Force Data By Counties, 2006 Annual Average), is job creation an issue that really needs to be stressed?

As to tax creation: a single new $40,000 job generates $252 in Borough wage-related taxes, assuming that the employee lives in the Borough and wasn’t employed elsewhere before. And what do the new 'arts and entertainment' jobs really pay? More or less than the first-quarter 2006 average weekly wage of $1,083 in Chester County (Source; BLS Philadelphia News Release November 14, 2006).

A $1 million CD would earn about $40,000 a year.

To produce the same $40,000 in revenue, the $1 million Borough investment would have to generate 159 newly tax-generating jobs.

Again, this assumes that the government incurs no additional costs because of the employee influx. Now, if you have to create parking for 159 people, perhaps the picture changes.

Revitalization math -- real estate ratables

One justification that is often claimed for the Borough’s investment in revitalization is the increase in real estate tax revenue. Let’s take a look at this claim.

A $1 million Borough investment in a certificate of deposit could generate about $40,000 per year.

At the Borough’s current real estate tax rate, 3.296 mils, it would take $12,135,922 in new real estate ratables to produce the same $40,000.

This assumes that $12 million in new development imposes no additional costs of government services and ignores any tax abatement programs, such as LERTA, which reduce taxes on new development.

If we assume that the development would require $10,000 a year in government services, the amount of new development required would rise to $15,169,903.

Do you think that $1 million of bricks and lights generates $15 million in new ratables?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Connecting the dots

In October 2006 the Borough Solicitor was asked to research matters about the “ownership” of a “blog.”

In February 2007, Emanuel DeMutis filed suit in Chester County against “www.watchingphoenixville.com” leading to the ‘outing’ of blog author in April 2007.

Is there a connection here?

Kirkner takes the lead in bad excuses for budget delay

In a recent email to Council Members, Finance Chair Richard Kirkner points out that under the Borough Ordinances “apparently the manager has until Dec. 31 to provide us with a budget.”

Kirkner goes on to state that a budget submission in early November is, in his view, “well above and beyond” the ordinance requirement.

Question to Councilman Kirkner: precisely how late a start to a public budget process are you advocating? How much of a New Year’s fiscal hangover will you be giving us?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Cheap trash

Don't forget that Council raised the trash fee for the third quarter only.

For the fourth quarter (beginning October 1), it's back down to $55.25, payable in advance. Pay the new lower fee now.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

And he won't even need clean underwear

"We've tried to tailor the budget process to my schedule, such as it is. Because I'm on medical leave from my job until at least Oct. 24, I cannot attend any public meetings before that time (not to mention the chairs in Council chambers would probably discloate [sic] my new hip). So as far as I'm concerned, my public involvement in the budget process is on hold for the best part of October."

"That said, it did seem like you and other council members were trying to force a change in the process without my involvement, and I just had to hold up a red flag as chair of the committee in charge of the process. My approach may not have been most tactful, but at the time tact was a quality difficult for me to muster."

–Councilman Kirkner, writing to Councilman Wagner

Council consists of eight members. It takes five of the eight to conduct business. This system exists precisely so that our local government can continue to function without all Council Members present.

Councilman Kirkner not only clings to the delusion that he is indispensable, he has apparently decided that his personal participation in the budget is the most important objective, even if it means the exclusion of the six Members other than Mr. Messina and himself. And the public, of course, can be disregarded entirely.

The choice about Kinker's participation is, in any event, a false one. Has anyone considered just putting a speakerphone in the Council Chambers and letting Mr. Kirkner participate from home while Council does business in public as usual?

He said it himself

To see Council Member Kirkner's December 2006 eloquent praise (or is it self-congratulatory posturing) of an open public budget process go here.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A Pulitzer for the pusillanimous

Only in Phoenixville would the local paper run a column suggesting that the public needs to “get over” the fact that the government is intent on hiding the annual budget just as long as it can.