Chester County hikes taxes

CHESTER -- Chester County residents will see a tax increase under the rate plan approved by county leaders on Tuesday night.

Most of the small increase is expected to cover rising costs of expenses such as gasoline.

The tax increase will equate to about $22 on a $100,000 home, according to figures provided by county finance director Becky Moon. Of that increase, about $16 will go toward county operations.

Other additional tax revenue will pay for the J.A. Cochran Bypass building where leaders hope to move most county offices.

The tax increase will accommodate the budget passed earlier this summer.

Chester County taxes couldn't go up much because of a new state law limiting how high the county can raise its taxes, officials have said.

State law now ties property taxes to last year's inflation rate. That means taxes may not rise this year more than 3.2 percent. But the law also allows local governments to raise taxes more if their communities are growing. That tax increase can match the growth rate.

Other counties, such as York and Lancaster, have more leeway than Chester because of population growth. But the most recent U.S. Census numbers show Chester County is losing people, and that hinders the county's ability to raise taxes.

The latest Census projections show that between 2000 and 2005, Chester County's population decreased by 2 percent.

But Chester County has also received good news in the last year, with the promise of jobs from companies such as Poly-America and JRS Custom Fabrication.

Montrose Plantation, a 6,000-acre commercial, recreational and residential community with up to 8,000 homes and two golf courses, is also a highly-anticipated project.

County Councilman Alex Oliphant asked Tuesday night about pulling the needed money from the county's savings instead of increasing taxes.

But after some discussion among officials, he said he might wait to bring up the topic next year.

The vote to raise taxes was unanimous.