For five years, Doylestown has been buying time.
Like many towns across Bucks County and the country, the borough of Doylestown has been putting off maintenance, forestalling equipment purchases and cutting expenses wherever it can.
But gas and concrete haven't gotten any cheaper, and buildings and equipment are starting to deteriorate.
Thursday night, Doylestown borough council members will meet to discuss the budget proposed for next year. The finance meeting starts at 7 p.m., and the public is encouraged to attend.
The proposed budget lays out about $5.3 million in expenses and $4.9 million in revenue, leaving a shortfall of $360,000, borough manager John Davis said Wednesday.
While revenue has gone up about 1.84 percent over the past year, expenses have gone up by 1.96 percent, Davis said.
Davis said recommended capital projects include:
- stormwater upgrades in the Old Orchard neighborhood, estimated to cost about $300,000.
- an upgrade to borough water meters, estimated to cost about $500,000
- significant expansion of the borough's aging public works building at the end of Harvey Avenue.
The Harvey Avenue project alone likely will cost about $600,000, Davis said, but he said it is necessary.
In use since the 1950s, the building has never been significantly expanded to accomodate the growth in the borough's fleet of trucks and equipment. There is not enough room inside to store lawn mowers, snow plows and dump trucks, so they remain outside, exposed to the weather. They rust faster, which shortens their usable lifespan, Davis said.
"We've got $1 million worth of equipment that we need to get out of the rain," Davis said. "We need a major facility overhaul."
All options to close the budget gap still are on the table: a property tax increase, a water rate increase, pulling from the borough's reserve fund and borrowing money. The borough could take out a 30-year loan through the Delaware Valley Finance Authority, at an interest rate of 2.5 percent to 2.9 percent, Davis said.
"We're trying to keep taxes and water rates as low as possible, while dealing with some difficult fundamentals," Davis said. "For the past five years, we've been trying to wait out the recession, to buy some time. But there's just not a lot of room left."
If discussions move ahead as planned, the borough hopes to have a preliminary budget ready for public review in November, Davis said, with a vote on the final budget in December.