Chester remains a financially-struggling city that recently raised wage taxes on residents who are employed.
But a snapshot review of city expenditures dated Feb. 5, 2016, shows the city spent more than $20,000 renovating Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland’s office just weeks after he assumed the job.
The city remains under Act 47, the state’s program for financially-distressed municipalities, and its May 2016 Financial Recovery Plan shows its cumulative deficit for this year is projected to be $20,364,991.
City employees recently lost their Independence Blue Cross health insurance because the city owes the region’s largest healthcare insurer a reported $7 million and Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale recently reported that two of its three pension funds need millions of dollars just to break even or face certain insolvency within a matter of months.
But according to the city’s own records, Kirkland has made unprecedented renovations to the mayor’s small office totaling $20,575.75.
According to the list of 2016 expenditures, four line item payments were made to various vendors for cosmetic renovations such as flooring, furniture and design in February 2016.
The first item, paid to “Construction Management” for flooring in Kirkland’s office, cost $6,167. Two payments were paid to “Fiona Hew-Wing” for furniture and design for $3,805.75 and $8,000, respectively. An additional payment for furniture was made to Search and Rescue Designs for $2,600. The latter is a Chester-based furniture store on Avenue of the States.
Current Chester City officials failed to respond to inquiries about the mayor’s renovation expenses, but former Mayor Wendell Butler said the approximately 200 square-foot office was already a “tremendous upgrade” from the old City Hall building.
Of the current City Hall office, Butler, who served as mayor from 2002 to 2011, said, “It was very functional and accommodating.”
Kirkland’s predecessor, John Linder, said the mayor’s suite – about the size of one row house room — required some renovations during his term as mayor, such as sound-proof walls and a new carpet.
“If I or people in my office spoke loud enough, other people outside the office were able to hear it,” Linder said. “I also suggested to take-up the carpet; it caused a lot of people’s allergies to flare up.”
Both Butler and Linder said if they wanted to make any renovations to the office during their tenure, they were unable to because “the money wasn’t there.”
“As mayor, I tried to be a manager for the city,” Butler said.