Coatesville adopts $12.55M budget with no tax increase for 2015

Approved in 4-3 vote, budget makes multiple cuts, takes $140k from trust fund

By Kyle CarrozzaStaff Writer, The Times


Frances Sheehan, CEO of the Brandywine Health Foundation previews Coatesville Centennial events for council.

COATESVILLE – City Council passed a $12,548,165 budget for 2015 at Monday night’s meeting. The budget will not raise taxes and includes a $140,000 withdrawl from the city’s trust fund in order to repair the city hall roof.

The final vote was a 4-3 decision with Council President Linda Lavender-Norris, Vice President Marie Lawson, and council members Ed Simpson and Bill Shaw voting in favor of the budget and council members Ingrid Jones, Arvilla Hunt, and Joe Hamrick voting against it.

Lavender-Norris said that none of the council members got everything they wanted in the budget, but being on council means listening to different opinions and coming to compromises based on them.

Hamrick said that he voted against the budget because he did not want any money taken from the trust fund, but he thinks council was thorough in investigating its options.

“I thought we did a good job working together,” he said. “Some things we can’t all agree on.”

To reach a balanced budget, council cut multiple positions including a building inspector in the codes department, a crew leader in public works, and an accreditation coordinator in the police department, as well as scaling back multiple full-time positions into part time.

Hunt expressed concerns that the budget cuts could affect residents more adversely than a small tax increase would.

“We’re all citizens in this community, and we’re all affected by the cuts,” she said.

Lavender-Norris said that a tax increase would put the burden of past mismanagement on residents.

“The residents have been carrying the entire load the entire time this administration has been spending like there’s a bottomless hole,” she said.

Council members also said that passing the budget will allow them to focus on other issues facing the city, particularly finding a long-term city manager.

“We need to find somebody that has a vision,” said Ed Simpson. He said that the manager they hire should be able to “think outside the box” when it comes to increasing revenue and revitalizing the city.

Public feedback on the decision seemed mostly positive with the final vote receiving applause from the packed council chambers.

David DeSimone from the Coatesville Housing Association commended council for getting through disagreements respectfully and “holding the line” when it came to not increasing taxes.

However, Paul Evans, also from the Coatesville Housing Association was still concerned about the decision to take money from the trust fund, saying that if city hall’s roof constituted an emergency, Codes Director Damalier Molina would have condemned the building like he has for many tenant-occupied properties throughout the city.

In other city news, council adopted an ordinance banning smoking from all city parks. The decision comes after last meeting’s presentation regarding the state’s Young Lungs at Play program. The ban will allow police to issue a $250 fine to those using cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco as well as “e-cigarettes, vapor cigarettes, and all alternatives” in parks.

“It’s to keep our parks cleaner, our environment cleaner,” said Lawson.

Also regarding the police department, the city approved the hiring of eight part-time officers on Monday. These officers will replace personnel who have taken full-time jobs or left the department.

Brandywine Health Foundation President and CEO Frances Sheehan presented a preview of events that will celebrate Coatesville’s Centennial throughout 2015. The first event will be an inauguration at the Coatesville Train Station on Apr. 27. Multiple state politicians as well as the CASH Beltones and Redmen, marching band, and ROTC are expected to attend.

The Centennial will be a recurring theme at other events as well, such as the Community Unity Explosion in July and a heritage day to be held in October. The hashtag #Coatesville100 will be used to share information, pictures, and related materials on social media.

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