MILLBOURNE — Thanks to several years of sound fiscal management, Millbourne is no longer on the state’s list of financially distressed municipalities.
Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican seeking re-election, formally announced the news Thursday at a press conference outside borough hall. Millbourne became just the seventh municipality to exit Act 47, the state recovery program for financially distressed municipalities.
“It’s the culmination of 21 years of hard work, of careful budgeting, cooperation — and I want to stress that — between your civic leaders and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Corbett said. “It marks also a transition from the economic and administrative chaos in which this town did find itself in 1993 to one of solid, economic decision-making.
“Obviously, it’s not been an easy journey for the borough, but with five straight years of positive fund balances on its books, careful spending and a commitment to progressive, local government, that journey is now over. ”
The borough entered Act 47 in 1993 — five years after a Sears department store moved to a new location along 69th Street in Upper Darby. The tiny borough of 1,246 residents struggled to replace the lost tax revenue.
“When we lost that source of revenue, our tax base took a tremendous hit,” Mayor Tom Kramer said. “We were struggling to make ends meet with that. It was several years after (Sears) left, we entered Act 47. Now, coming out of it, (it’s) really due to a lot of cutting expenses and being creative with spending.
“Actually, I think we’ve got better services now and we’ve been able to keep our property taxes stable for the last four years.”
Millbourne, which has an annual budget of about $750,000, slashed its insurance costs by 50 percent, installed energy-efficient streetlights and saved money on various items by joining the state’s COSTARS (cooperative purchasing) program, among other efforts.
The borough has spent within its budget for five years, Kramer said. Its reserve fund stands at $319,000. The 1-mill property tax increase this year was the first tax hike since 2010.
Kramer said there is a $10 million commitment to develop the former Sears property into a mixed-used complex, but another $6 million is needed to cover infrastructure costs. He said the borough is looking to gain that funding from the Rural Community Assistance Partnership.
Now that Millbourne is out of Act 47, it will lose some perks associated with the program.
“I don’t think it’s really going to impact us that much,” Kramer said. “A lot of funds that were available aren’t really there anymore.”
Kramer is part of an all-Democratic administration that includes five council members. David Landau, chairman of the Delaware County Democratic Party, gave credit to the Democrats for instilling sound financial practices.
“We thank Gov. Corbett for recognizing the great work of a majority Democrat Millbourne Borough Council,” Landau said in a statement released before Corbett’s announcement. “The Democratic elected officials’ sound fiscal management lifted Millbourne out of financial distress. While Gov. Corbett was working hard to help out his donors and big business in Harrisburg, the Democratic leadership in Millbourne was busy securing the economic future of the borough.”
Corbett rebuked the remark as partisan politics.
“If they want to make it partisan, make it partisan,” Corbett said. “I think it’s through the leadership of the civic leaders who are here. If you look at many of the (Act 47) cities, they’re Democratic cities also. ... That’s not the issue — whether it’s a Democratic city or a Republican city. The issue is ... working with the Department of Community and Economic Development and working with the leaders of those municipalities to get them help (and) to get themselves out of Act 47.
“If they want to make partisan politics out of it, let them make partisan politics out of it. I’m here to congratulate the men and women who did this.”
There are 20 municipalities that remain in Act 47, including the city of Chester.
Corbett faces a primary challenge from Bob Guzzardi, an Ardmore businessman. There are five Democrats vying for the seat.
By John Kopp, Delaware County Daily Times. See the original story here.