No Pottstown Tax Hike Due, In Part, To 3-Year-Old Report Says Council President

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  And also due to the tireless efforts of Jason Bobst, Janice Lee and Dan Weand for fixing the broken accounting system.  Imagine what Pottstown could become if Council President Toroney followed the ULI Report recommendations!

POTTSTOWN — Borough Council President Stephen Toroney credited a 2009 consultant report on the borough’s finances for starting Pottstown down the road to what he considers a landmark achievement, that was made official Monday with the adoption of a $38.5 million that does not raise borough taxes for the first time in recent memory.

Councilman Mark Gibson, who, as a paid driver for the Empire Fire Company could be said to benefit financially by voting for the budget, which makes contributions to the fire companies, abstained from the vote.

But the budget, officially balanced at $38,530,729, otherwise received unanimous support from the remainder of council.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20121214/NEWS01/121219662/no-pottstown-tax-hike-due-in-part-to-3-year-old-report-says-council-president#full_story

Many Questions About Jason Bobst’s Departure

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Below is a Letter to the Editor in today’s Fishwrap.  We give two big Roy’s Rants thumbs up to Glenn Mooney of Pottstown for raising his very valid points.  There is far more to Jason’s story, but unfortunately we will never know all the details.  Pottstown politics are nasty and people get tired of beating their head against a wall.  Sometimes you just have to walk away to preserve your own sanity.  Mr. Toroney has learned nothing from Jason’s departure.  We can only hope enough new people get on Council in November to pick a new Council President.  It’s time to clean house!

Referring to the most recent Mercury article by Evan Brandt, dated Aug. 15, I have some questions not about his report but about the mayor and borough council’s account of losing Jason Bobst.  Let me understand, Councilman Toroney stated, and I quote from the article, “He did a fantastic job for us.  But age and experience were not on his side.  He didn’t have the battle scars.  We need someone with experience who has the wherewithal to do a good job for us.”  My bet is Jason could elaborate quite a bit about battle scars!

This sounds a little funny regarding whose choice it was for his leaving Pottstown?  Then we have Mayor Bonnie Heath and Jeff Chomnuk stating that the borough has begun to gain traction in its recovery efforts, due largely to the efforts of Bobst and Finance Director Janice Lee.  Hhmm?  These comments were to help justify going outside to hire a new manager at a 30-percent higher salary.  Then Mayor Heath stated and I quote, “It’s actually kind of an awkward fact that we were paying Jason less than $100,000.”

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20120901/OPINION02/120909989/many-questions-about-jason-bobst-s-departure

Bobst Reports Pottstown Borough Financial Picture Looking Up

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Further proof of how devastating losing Jason will be!

POTTSTOWN, PA - It’s starting to look like when Borough Manager Jason Bobst leaves the borough in August, he will be leaving it in pretty good financial shape.

He offered council a mid-year budget status report last week that could be summed up as “most of the funds are going pretty well.”

“Some lines,” he said, “are cause for concern but overall, the borough’s books are on a positive cash basis and we’re projecting a $50,000 surplus at the end of the year, barring anything unexpected.”

Given that as recently as 2009, the borough has ended the year with deficits, this is good news and the result of hard work by Finance Director Janice Lee and her staff, Bobst said.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20120611/NEWS01/120619941/bobst-reports-borough-financial-picture-looking-up&pager=1

Pottstown Borough Budget Meeting

Today, November 30, 2010 at 6:00 pm, Pottstown Borough Council and borough staff discussed the proposed 2011 borough budget.

I must commend Jason, Janice, Councilor Weand, the Finance Committee and our borough staff for the effort they put into finding ways to cut costs and maintain services.  I do not think it is possible to ask Jason a question he can not answer.  Janice Lee has more than earned her salary by walking into the abyss aka borough finances and taking the bull by the horns!  So much has been accomplished to get our financial house in order.  As I said in an earlier post, accounting is boring to write about however, the changes implemented by Jason, Janice and Finance will pay huge dividends down the road.  We now have a clearer financial picture than ever before.  Frankly, things are not all that bleak now that Generally Accepted Accounting Principals have been returned to borough hall.

Council asked some tough questions of Jason, Janice and the department heads.  I was impressed with how well the questions were answered and the manner with which our borough staff handled themselves.

The bottom line is that council unanimously approved the 2011 budget with a 3.1% tax increase.  The increase equates to $25.66 per year on a home assessed at $85,000.  We have a $177,000 deficit that unfortunately makes this necessary.  The increase can go down if more spending cuts are found or unexpected revenue comes in before the end of the year.  However, the increase can not go any higher than 3.1%.  The projected property tax collection rate is 92% for 2010.

Getting to a zero tax increase would mean selling a park, laying off Parks and Recreation staff, cutting programs or messing with the paid driver’s health benefits in the Fire Department.  Our parks are a big plus for existing borough residents and attracting new residents.  We can barely maintain our parks system with the staff we have and cutting programs affects the quality of life for our residents.  Fire Department drivers can not afford to pay their health benefits at their current salary levels.  It is not their fault costs are skyrocketing.

The assessed value of all Pottstown real estate came in a million dollars higher than projected which also helped the process.  The rate of decline in assessed property value seems to be leveling off and council is hopeful that this trend may reverse itself as some development projects in the pipeline are completed.  Unfortunately, the assessed property value of Pottstown still declined $1.9 million dollars from last year.  This brings in less tax revenue. 

PCTV has agreed to reduce their management fee to $331,000.  The borough can ill afford to absorb their $147,000 revenue shortfall so going forward they need to break even.  PCTV has lost revenue because of the recession and now when FIOS comes to Pottstown, Verizon will not allow PCTV to be a for-profit community access channel.  PCTV could potentially lose 25% of their viewers as residents switch from Comcast to Verizon.  Council will be scrutinizing PCTV very closely in 2011.  PCTV is trying to get grant money, however, until such time as a grant is received, they will still continue to struggle.

Pottstown’s 2011 Budget

Not that we can jump for joy just yet, but it sounds like better days are ahead on Pottstown’s financial front.  Barring any unforseen hiccups, or any contract arbitrations that run awry, we could be looking at no tax increase for next year.

First, we should thank Jason Bobst, Borough Manager, Janice Lee, Finance Director and Councilor Weand and his Finance Committee for their hard work and financial stewardship.  Everyone is working hard trying to get Pottstown’s financial house in order.  This is a rather daunting task as things have not been property attended in the past thereby making this a herculean task for the above named people.

I ran into Councilor Weand at the polls yesterday and we had a nice conversation about finances.  

Accounting is boring and most of us don’t understand much about it.  It isn’t an exciting topic of conversation and most people end up in “deer in the headlights” mode if discussed for too long. 

Our financial practices as a borough were a hideous.  Dan and his committee are trying to shore up the foundation so our house doesn’t collapse.  This is also necessary if we want to get grants and funding for projects.  Nobody wants to throw money at an organization that can’t keep track of their books!

The work accomplished this year has been tedious and rather complicated.  However, we are starting to see results that you and I can appreciate and understand.  We have a handle on the check book, we can pay our bills, we are returning Pottstown to standard accounting practices that will make our finances transparent, understandable and make us eligible for grants and such as we have a paper trail aka back-up documentation to prove what we say.  You may have noticed that lenders usually don’t just take your word for stuff.  They want proof!  Same way with municipalities folks!

Bottom line - Because of all this behind-the-scenes work, we might not have to increase taxes and maybe we can get some free money to do some awesome projects to help Pottstown become all it can be!

Keep in mind that Rome, or Pottstown for that matter, wasn’t built in a day.  This is an ongoing process.  There is more progress to be made and no one is resting on their laurels.  Keep up the good work!  We look forward to more positive results.

Pottstown’s Financial Audit

I read with great rejoicing the article in today’s Mercury that our borough financial audit was vastly improved.  The financial health of Pottstown is much brighter than one year ago.

We must give thanks to Jason Bobst, our Borough Manager for his diligence and perseverance, our Finance Director Janice Lee, 5th Ward Councilor Dan Weand and the finance committee for their hard work in making this turnaround a reality!

The dramatic improvement in one year illustrates the committment everyone is making to get our financial house in order.

For the full story see:

http://www.pottsmerc.com/articles/2010/08/09/news/srv0000009031783.txt