It is going to cost more to own property in West Chester. Borough Council members plan to raise property tax rates, although just how much is up for debate.
Borough staff suggested a three-percent millage rate increase on November 15. “That would generate $150,000 of new revenue,” said Borough Manager Sean Metrick during a Borough Council voting session. Property owners would see at least $30 added to their yearly property tax bills. That doesn’t count the already rising property values.
Councilman Bernie Flynn wanted a larger tax increase, citing upcoming costs, including the new police contract. “I was leaning more towards a five-percent, which is roughly $97 a year,” he said during the meeting. “That would generate $300,000… that’s the cost of three police cars.”
Flynn desired an eight-percent increase but settled on five-percent as a compromise because “I don’t think it is much to ask” for the five-percent increase. He called a decision by the Public Works Department to shift funding from a new dump truck to pay for paving a case of “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
He later told DVJournal in an email that he doesn’t give interviews when asked about the proposed property tax increase.
Other council members defended the three-percent proposed hike during the meeting as the middle ground.
“I don’t want to say it’s nothing; it’s a lot to a lot of people,” observed Councilman Patrick McCoy. “I’m leaning towards [a higher increase because] we have a lot of things that we need to do and want to do in the borough, and I’m not sure three percent will get us there.”
Councilman Brian McGinnis argued the council was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“No one really wants to raise taxes, but I believe in this instance a three percent tax increase is warranted to accomplish our objectives moving forward,” he said. McGinnis wanted no tax increase but said the borough needs to fund police and pave roads. But he also mentioned cutting spending “so that way we’re not going to ambush our taxpayers moving forward. That’s on us…”
There was no tax increase last year. Previous tax increases happened in 2021 and 2020. The borough has estimated that its expenses will rise to $40 million by 2028. Most of that is due to higher costs in the general and sewer funds.
The Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce isn’t taking a position on the proposed hike. Realtors, however, believe current and potential homeowners will take any tax increase in stride.
“I don’t think anyone is ever excited to hear their taxes are going up,” Amy DeMell Coye told DVJournal. She said West Chester’s taxes are low compared to the rest of the county and that the borough is “one of the strongest real estate markets in the county. I do not think a tax increase will drive away buyers.”
According to Zillow, West Chester’s property values are up at least 7.3 percent. Redfin estimated even higher value year-over-year growth at 14.1 percent.
That has some wondering if the proposed property tax increase is even needed.
Jim Selken of Continental Realty said property taxes rise yearly because “of the inflated prices of the housing market.” Not only that, but “that kind of happens by itself without anyone purposefully” pushing for property taxes.
He added school districts push for higher property tax assessment increases because of rising neighboring property values. That includes going to court in hopes of a favorable ruling.
Selken called it “a dynamic situation” and thinks property taxes and values will keep rising unless the borough or county conducts a countywide property value reassessment.
There is a New Year’s Eve deadline for the 2024 budget and a potential property tax increase. There will be a new council sworn in next year. They can make additional budgetary changes in January and February.