Chadds Ford looks for zero tax hike in 2011

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Needs to find just under $24K to keep rates flat for second straight year

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
CHADDS FORD — Finding just under $24,000 in savings is all that township supervisors say they need to once again balance the township budget without a local tax increase — a task they expect to have completed before the 2011 budget is formally introduced next month.

Supervisor Garry Paul walked residents through the proposed budget, which calls for just over $1 million in spending during Wednesday night’s Board of Supervisors meeting and noted that he expects for the second straight year that there will be no tax increase from the township. Taxes from Chadds Ford generally make up less than 10 cents of the average real estate tax bill dollar paid, the rest going to Delaware County and the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District. Typically, those two rates have increased in recent years.

Paul noted that the township takes great pains to work in a conservative manner — and highlighted the issues that nearby Bethel is facing — having used a $500,000 in surplus last year to patch a budget hole, residents there are now facing a 144% tax hike. Paul also talked about the state budget, noting that lawmakers had decided to use surpluses to close the budget gap this year and had used them up, leaving little in the way of options for the coming budget year.

“We exercise fiscal conservatism,” he said. “We only spend money on the things we can handle. Sure, in an ideal world, there are things we would like to spend money on, but you try to minimize tax increases — or ideally — have no increase at all.”

Still, Paul allows that this year’s budget has been “very challenging.” Supervisors expect a further drop in transfer taxes — taxes paid when a property is sold — a trend that may continue into 2012, Paul said. Between that projected loss in revenue and some rising expenses, the supervisors and township staff have managed to get very close to a zero increase budget. The hope is that over the next few weeks the last $24,000 in cuts can be found to get it there.

Still, the township’s financial shape is fairly robust — with a $2.6 million reserve. That reserve is much larger than most neighboring towns can boast and a prime reason, Paul said, township residents do not need to worry about struggles of Bethel coming to Chadds Ford.

“It would take a long, long time and a lot of bad decisions to get ourselves into that situation,” he said.

One change that could impact the 2011 bottom line — although it’s unclear in which direction — is a plan to create a township health department to run inspections on local restaurants. Supervisors chair Deborah Love said she hoped that the township could get that in place for 2011 and begin inspections — supported by fees. The hope is that it be at minimum, revenue neutral.

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