2016 budget closer to fruition in Pocopson

The Pocopson Township Board of Supervisors made minimal changes to a draft of the 2016 budget at its second and final budget workshop on Wednesday, Oct. 28.

Pocopson Township Supervisors Georgia Brutscher (from left) and Barney Leonard listen as Peggy Lennon, the township's treasurer, explains numbers in the draft budget for 2016.
Pocopson Township Supervisors Georgia Brutscher (from left) and Barney Leonard listen as Peggy Lennon, the township's treasurer, explains numbers in the draft budget for 2016.

With four residents in attendance, two of them the expected, incoming supervisors – Alice Balsama and Elaine DiMonte – the board allocated up to $950,000 for the completion of the Barnard House. The historic building, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, is being renovated for use as the township municipal building and the home of the Kennett Underground Railroad Center, a repurposing that has sparked dissent.

Peggy Lennon, the township’s treasurer, explained that the draft budget included a $750,000 loan, which appeared in the 2015 budget but was not used, as well as a $200,000 transfer from the general fund into the general reserve.

The transfer would serve as insurance for overruns or unexpected expenses – funds that might not be needed, Lennon said. According to township records, about $800,000 has been spent on the project so far.

“The ability to have that flexibility is valuable,” noted Supervisors’ Chairman Barney Leonard.

The supervisors also agreed to add $15,000 to the township’s reserve fund. And they concurred that paying down at least two years of the township’s open space loan when its pre-payment penalty expires in October 2016 offered dual benefits. It would not only save the township money by reducing interest payments, but it would also enable the township to stop collecting the open-space tax sooner.

At the suggestion of Supervisor Ricki Stumpo, the board agreed to add an $8,000 generator to the 2016 budget. “We need to get our emergency management plan active,” Stumpo said, adding that Pocopson lags behind neighboring townships in disaster readiness. For example, she said the township should be able to offer services to residents rather than shutting down during a prolonged power outage.

The board also discussed a request from resident Scott Kirkland, the township’s liaison to the West Chester Public Library. At the Oct. 26 supervisors’ meeting, Kirkland had suggested that the township double its contribution this year to the West Chester library, using the $8,000 budgeted for the Kennett Public Library, which has gone unused.

Tensions between the township and the Kennett Public Library have been strained since May 2013 when the library’s board rejected the township’s two nominees for a seat on the library’s board. Pocopson, which had contributed equal funds to both libraries since both serve its residents, stopped contributing to the Kennett library, a stalemate that has continued.

Since then, the Kennett Public Library has made changes to improve communication with the eight area municipalities it serves, including amending its bylaws to enable each municipality to appoint at least one representative. However, Pocopson’s supervisors have thus far rebuffed requests to appoint a representative or join a task force, suggesting that the incoming supervisors can revisit the issue in January.

In the meantime, the board voiced support for doubling its contribution to the West Chester Public Library since the unused $8,000 had already been earmarked for library use. The supervisors said that they planned to vote on the request at the next meeting and would make it clear that the increase represented a one-time occurrence.

Lennon said the proposed budget should be available for public inspection after the next supervisors’ meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 9, at 7:30 p.m. Following the required 20-day period for review, it could be voted on at the Dec. 14 supervisors’ meeting, she said.

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