Coatesville council deadlocked on budget

Members can’t agree on how to balance the budget

By Kyle CarrozzaStaff Writer, The Times

CoatesvilleLogo-copyCOATESVILLE – City Council continues to find itself in a budget deadlock after further discussions during Monday night’s budget workshop.

While council seems to agree that they want to pass a budget with no tax increase and a minimal hit to the trust fund, members cannot agree on how to make this goal happen.

“I think the majority of council is prepared to pass a budget with no tax increase and no trust fund,” said council member Bill Shaw.

However, council did discuss taking about $140,000 from the trust fund for the re-roofing of city hall. Multiple council members said that the state of the roof qualifies as an emergency and therefore, using money from the trust fund would be appropriate.

In previous budget workshops, council seemed to loosely agree on cuts in multiple areas that would have brought the budget within about $180,000 of breaking even. But council members had second thoughts about these cuts and explored other options, a strategy that not all council members agreed with.

“We’re talking about starting over and doing this all over again. We simply don’t have the time,” said council member Marie Lawson.

Some of the council members said that city employees have not played their part in coming up with a balanced budget.

“The reason we have staff—it’s to present us with ideas,” said council member Ed Simpson.

Council President Linda Lavender-Norris said that she presented multiple ideas for cutting expenses, but Acting City Manager Michael O’Rourke has not provided the numbers to show how much of a difference these cuts would make.

O’Rourke responded, saying that he was not aware how much detail council members wanted, and he will provide them with more specific numbers in coming weeks.

Council also discussed ways to increase revenue.

O’Rourke said that the codes department currently operates under a deficit, and the city should increase codes fees to even that out. He also said that 500 rental licenses have gone unpaid, and he believes this is partially because the penalties for leaving these fees unpaid are not steep enough.

“We’re horrible at keeping good financial records particularly in the codes department,” said Simpson.

O’Rourke also suggested increasing parking fines, street sweeping fines, and other fees, such as the fees to replace handicap signs.

Following a previous suggestion by Bill Shaw, council also discussed implementing a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program that would request—but not require—nonprofit housing facilities to pay the city 50% of what they would otherwise pay in taxes.

Finance Director John Marcarelli advised council to consider the impact that cutting various positions will have on the city.

“To pull the plug with any of us four in the [finance] office, it’s going to set us back years,” he said.

He cited the example of the city’s audit system. He said that 2008-11, the city used outside companies for audits. When Marcarelli took over, the city completed its own audits, cutting the costs from around $200,000 a year to about $60,000.

Council will discuss the budget further at Monday’s full council meeting.

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