Township of Kennett maintains line on property taxes for 2021

By Richard L. Gaw

Personal editor

By a 3-0 vote at their Nov. 18 online meeting, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors passed the township’s draft 2021 budget, which does not propose a property tax increase for residents.

However, he proposes the introduction of a tax on local services at the rate of $52 per year and levied on residents who work in the township.

Presented by Township Manager Eden Ratliff and Director of Finance and Human Resources Amy Heinrich, the township’s preliminary budget for next year projects revenue of $6.1 million, operating expenses of $5.6 million dollars and transfers of $500,000 to capital. It also includes funding for infrastructure improvements in the township; contributions to the regional Fire and SMU commission; and a contribution to the Kennett Library fundraising campaign.

Next year’s budget will also include $38,000 that will go to local nonprofits, many of which are providing frontline support during COVID-19.

The two-hour meeting that established the proposed budget for next year was attended by more than 80 residents. It was the latest in a series of budget hearings the council has held which began on September 16, which provided residents with a line-by-line look at what the year’s budget will look like. coming from the point of view of income and expenditure.

At each of those meetings — including one held on Nov. 11 — the township heard a familiar refrain from its residents: In a year that has been badly hit by a deadly virus, now is not the time to raise taxes in Kennett Township.

“After the last public hearing on the budget, many of our citizens urged supervisors to delay a tax increase as many in the community continue to deal with the impacts of COVID-19,” the vice-president said. President Whitney Hoffman. “As costs continue to rise alongside demands for government services, we have pushed and cut as much as possible to balance this budget without increasing the burden on taxpayers.”

Delay on new hires

In response to public comments at past budget meetings that advised the township to retain where it can, its police department will hire a full-time officer by Jan. 1, 2021 — but delay hiring a second. officer until May 1. The canton will also welcome the hiring of a new planner in its planning department until June 1, 2021.

The good news for the township will be that the alleged embezzlement of $3.2 million by former township manager Lisa Moore will not be considered in the 2021 budget. About $1 million of the total has already been recovered and redirected to the township reserves, along with the remaining money that should still be recovered.

Although the township has decided to increase property taxes for 2021, it may not be able to deliver on this promise in future years. Ratliff said while a tax freeze is good for the general public in the short term, it presents a challenge for the rapidly changing face of a township that must support an expanding police department, fund its ongoing mission to buy additional plots to use for open spaces, and challenge a new-look staff to redefine how they govern – all under the weight of the current pandemic.

“Professionalizing the community”

“One of the unspoken challenges our department heads face is that the departments we inherited a year ago were not where they needed to be as a second-class township,” he said. declared. “We are professionalizing the canton, which we have to do. The reality is that there are improvements that we are required to make, and unfortunately this is going to cost money.

In a prepared statement he read at the end of the presentation, Supervisor Scudder Stevens likened the job of crafting this year’s budget to “making sausages in the government budget process,” made even more difficult by channeling through the current economic downturn.

“We recognize that private companies have shrunk with declining employment and cutting costs,” he said. “But we know we can’t. We don’t have the ability to treat the township like a business. It’s not a business and we can’t stop providing the services each of us expects and is entitled to. We have an ethical and legal obligation to care for the health and well-being of our residents. And that’s where the tension comes in: what’s needed and what’s not?

Stevens said that while creating an annual budget provides for necessary township operations and “keeps the lights on for the township,” the process, due to its emphasis on monetizing these services, does not adequately reflect “ what makes Kennett Township unique.” and special.

“We have to find a way to cover not just the light and warmth of our community, but also the quality and character,” he said. “We are more than double lines on the roads, highway shoulders and mowed rights-of-way. We are more than first aiders responding to our emergencies. We are kids playing baseball and soccer, fishing and swimming in our waters, partying on the park green and walking around our open space, enjoying the birds and flowers.

“When we talk about budgets, we have to take the big picture,” Stevens concluded. “We didn’t do it last year, and we didn’t do it this year. We have to do better next year. We need to find a better balance. »

Kennett Township’s 2021 budget is expected to be approved by supervisors at their Dec. 16 meeting. The preliminary budget is also included on the municipality’s website.

To contact editor Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected].

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