West Chester Twp. has a $50.7 million spending plan for this year, with extra emphasis on roadwork and public safety.
The trustees got a first glimpse of the proposed 2020 budget Tuesday but won’t pass an appropriation resolution until the coming weeks. The budget for 10 funds represents a 3.2 percent increase over the 2019 budget. The township spent $40.7 million lats year, which was 17.1 percent less than approved. Revenues were estimated at $40.7 million, but officials said there is ample carryover to balance the higher budget this year.
The township did a national survey last year to gauge what the residents find important and help the budget process. Public safety and infrastructure were key to the township’s residents and businesses, according to Trustee Mark Welch, and the 2020 budget reflects attention to those. More than $8.85 million in infrastructure improvements were highlighted in the budget.
“I think that the results from the survey validated our historical position of police, fire and roads investment,” Welch said. “Because people are always interested in safety, and people always expect good roads, particularly in a community that has been honored as many times as we have as one of the best places to live.”
The township committed $20 million in TIF funds, some in cash and the rest in bonds, to the new diverging diamond interchange under construction at Union Centre Boulevard. The township will spend about $3 million for landscape and hardscape design at UCB and $950,000 for beautification and design at the Tylersville Road interchange improvement project.
For the past decade the township has diverted general fund money to road work. This year $1.5 million in general fund money and $1 million in interest earned in the Sustainable Infrastructure Fund, a first time fund transfer, will be invested in road projects. An additional $1.2 million in TIF funds will go towards repaving about eight miles worth of roads.
The township’s police and fire levies are going to need a boost soon, but the trustees have not determined if a levy request will come this year. The fire levy has gone untouched, meaning it hasn’t been replaced or adjusted at all, since 2006 and police 2010. Fire expenses for this year are projected at $16.8 million against approximately $11.5 million in revenues. The fire fund has a $12.2 million carryover from last year, which is expected to drop to nearly zero in 2022.
The police department budget is $18.3 million versus $13.4 million in revenues with about $10.7 million in carryover to balance the budget. The police carryover is also expected to drop to nothing in a couple years.
Trustee Lee Wong said the two levies must be replaced soon.
“Replacement is unavoidable, you have to because police department and fire department, we are ala carte government, you’ve got to pay for every item,” Wong said. “You want steak you pay for steak, we are very lean, we are on salad, a lean and mean machine. That’s how township government is because we don’t have a city tax.”
The township is carrying almost $40 million over in the general fund, roads, fire and police accounts from last year. This does not represent all available monies, like money that has built up in the various TIF funds to pay for things like the diverging diamond.
The township will being using TIF dollars to build a new $3.7 million Fire Station 73 this year on Duff Drive. The 747 TIF has a fund balance of almost $26 million and generates around $7 million a year in taxes to fund things that benefit the area within the TIF district.
Trustee Board President Ann Becker said the goal is to not spend more money than the township takes in, but there are exceptions.
“Having a balanced budget is very important but sometimes there are considerations that you have to look at,” Becker said. “This year in particular with our police and our fire departments, making sure that our payrolls are met and that we have the ability to hire high quality police and firemen is important too.”
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