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General News
Infrastructure reform among 2019 NAR policy priorities

Bucks County
Warminster tax hike must be approved by court

Chester County
Landscapes3 adopted by Chester County Commissioners

Delaware County
Cost of new middle school in Clifton Heights to be evaluated

Montgomery County
Norristown budget includes $1.8M deficit

Philadelphia County
City council downsizes new protections for renters in ‘Good Cause’ bill
 

 



 

News Briefs Archive December 11, 2017

 

General News

It’s not too late to influence Congress on tax reform
Realtors® have helped positively influence tax reform in some key areas. For example, both the House and Senate have agreed to maintain deductibility of state and local property taxes up to $10,000, and to maintain Section 1031 tax-deferred exchanges in their present form for real estate investments. But Realtors’ work is not yet done. There is still an opportunity to influence Congress to help make the tax reform bill more favorable to homeowners and consumers. Now that both the House and Senate have passed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, a conference committee will address the differences between the two bills. Important improvements in the legislation are possible by encouraging Congress to maintain the current law for the mortgage interest deduction and capital gains exclusion. Retaining current law makes the bill more favorable to homeownership. Take action now!
Source: Realtor Action Center; 12/4/2017

Delaware County reassessment moves forward, could spread
For the first time in more than 20 years, every property in Delaware County will have a new assessment — and a new tax bill — by 2021, following homeowner lawsuits that resulted in a court order. Property assessments are legal values established by counties that determine tax bills. The countywide reassessment will distribute the tax burden more fairly, but it will create winners and losers. An analysis of the most recently available state tax data showed that roughly 37 percent of Delaware County properties are overassessed. Delaware County property owners are slated to receive notice of their new assessments in 2020, and they will be able to file appeals before they are taxed the new amounts in 2021. The process could set off reassessments in other counties. Both Delaware and Chester County’s last reassessments happened after a court order. Following those court orders, Montgomery County voluntarily reassessed properties. Bucks County, however, has not done a reassessment since 1972.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/30/2017

Bucks County

Bensalem holds the line on taxes
Bensalem Township Council recently approved a proposed budget that will maintain the current tax rate for 2018. The property tax millage will remain at 19.5 mills, meaning a home assessed at the township average of $37,251 will pay about $726 in township property tax. According to Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo, the township will use some of the $11.3 million in contributions from Parx Casino to increase the amount each property owner receives under its Homeowners’ Assistance Grant from $200 this year to $300 in 2018. The increase will bump the program’s cost from $3 million to $4.5 million.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 12/5/2017

Warrington posts supervisor vacancy
Warrington Township has announced a vacancy on its board of supervisors. Interested candidates should provide a statement of qualifications to the township, including contact details, education, employment, experience and other information relevant to the position, as well as a statement explaining the reasons for seeking the position. The qualifications statement should be received by the township before Friday, Jan. 2, 2018, at 3 p.m. at the township offices, 852 Easton Road, Warrington, PA, 18976, or via email at blivrone@warringtontownship.org. The Warrington Township Board of Supervisors will hold a public meeting at the township building on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, at 6 p.m. to interview candidates interested in filling the supervisor vacancy.
Source: The Intelligencer; 12/4/2017

Durham preliminary budget maintains tax rate
Durham Township supervisors are scheduled to finalize the proposed 2018 budget on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 7:30 p.m. If the budget is approved with no changes, Durham residents will continue to pay 6 mills in township property taxes. One mill is equal to a tax of $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value. A property owner with a home assessed at the township average of $38,000 will pay about $228 per year. The draft budget is available for review at the township office, 215 Old Furnace Road, during regular business hours.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 11/22/2017

Northampton Township preliminary budget available for review
The Northampton Township Board of Supervisors recently adopted the 2018 preliminary budget. The document is available for public inspection in the administration building at 55 Township Road, Richboro, and on the township website. The supervisors will consider the adoption of the preliminary budget at a meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 20.
Source: Northampton Township; 11/17/2017

Chester County 

Kayak rack added along Brandywine in Downingtown
Kayakers at Downingtown’s Kerr Park now have easier access to the Brandywine Creek, thanks to a partnership between the Brandywine Conservancy, Downingtown Borough’s Parks and Recreation Commission, and Lionville Boy Scout Troop 220. Staff and volunteers installed a canoe and kayak storage rack and an information kiosk along the creek behind Borough Hall, making Downingtown the first municipality on the Brandywine with such public amenities. The canoe and kayak storage rack will allow boaters to safely secure their boats while they drop another vehicle downstream or spend time in the borough. The creek access improvements are part of the Conservancy’s Brandywine Creek Greenway initiative and will be a valuable recreational asset for the community for years to come. The new information kiosk will contain maps of the creek, access points and other recreation opportunities. Both additions were funded by generous grants from the William Penn Foundation and the Miller Fund.
Source: Daily Local; 12/5/2017

Milne calls for freeze on pipeline construction
State Rep. Duane Milne (R-167) is calling for a “complete reboot” of the Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline. Milne wants Sunoco to immediately and voluntarily pause construction due to pipeline-associated issues. The wells of more than 30 West Whiteland residences were impacted by horizontal directional drilling (HDD). In turn, Sunoco picked up the tab to connect residents to public water providers and gave each household $60,000 to pay for future water bills. Sunoco has also spilled drilling fluid more than 80 times. Also in Milne’s district, Sunoco is considering changing from HDD to open trench burial of the pipe. If trench construction were to be used in West Whiteland, a creek would need to be dammed and diverted within feet of the Chester County Library. “There has to be time to address ongoing issues and concerns,” Milne said.
Source: Daily Local; 12/4/2017

Two projects in Chester County get state funding for redevelopment
Two projects in Chester County have been approved for millions in state funding to support redevelopment efforts. The projects receiving funding through the Business in Our Sites (BOS) program are the redevelopment of the Pennhurst Hospital site in East Vincent and the restoration of the former Foote Mineral site in East Whiteland. The Chester County Economic Council will administer the funding. Pennhurst LLC was approved for a $4 million grant and a $6 million loan. The BOS funds will be used for environmental remediation, demolition, roads/streets, excavation/grading and engineering. The cost is $13.2 million for the remediation and the project is expected to create around 600 new jobs. Developers of the former Foote Mineral site in East Whiteland were also approved for a $4 million grant and a $6 million loan to assist with the redevelopment of the brownfield site. The total cost of the prep work for that project is estimated to be $16.7 million, and it is expected to create about 60 new jobs.
Source: Daily Times; 11/29/2017

West Caln to consider blight ordinance
West Caln will consider a “Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Ordinance.” The ordinance will be considered for adoption on Wednesday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m. at the West Caln Township Building, 721 Kings Highway, Wagontown. The Alliance has requested the proposed ordinance for review.
Source: Daily Local; 11/29/2017

East Coventry to consider volunteer service tax credits
The East Coventry Board of Supervisors will consider a Volunteer Service Tax Credit. The tax credit program will enact real estate and earned income tax credits for volunteer members of the Ridge Fire Company. The ordinance will be considered at a public hearing on Monday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. in the Township Building, 855 Ellis Woods Road, Pottstown.
Source: The Mercury, 11/30/2017

Delaware County

Stormwater Authority of Chester to start charging property owners
Property owners in Chester will soon have to pay a fee to the city’s newest authority, the Stormwater Authority of Chester (SAC). The fee will come into effect in December and will be based on size, meaning that larger business and residences will have to pay more for the space they occupy. The SAC is a new body intended to establish long-term, private-public partnerships that combine state and federal grants with the fees assessed on property owners to help establish a new stormwater infrastructure. What is needed in Chester is a modernized municipal separate storm sewer system, commonly known as MS4, which are separate and different from sewer lines in that their sole purpose is to safely drain excess rain and groundwater from paved streets and other impervious surfaces. The new fee will be assessed using the measurement of Equivalent Residential Unit, which is an average single-family property that covers 1,139 square feet. The cost per ERU will be $8.25. The fee was halved during a public hearing held by the SAC, when plans to mitigate the continuous problem of stormwater runoff and pollution were discussed. Residents and business owners balked at the original base monthly fee proposed by the SAC.
Source: Pivot Today; 12/1/2017 & Daily Times; 12/2/2017

Radnor to consider sewer lateral inspection program
Radnor Township is considering adopting a point-of-sale requirement for an inspection of private sanitary sewer laterals in an effort to reduce inflow and infiltration of stormwater into the sanitary sewer system. The Radnor-Haverford-Marple Sewer Authority (RHM) has notified the township that RHM currently does not have any spare capacity for Radnor Township. This means that the township cannot allow new connections to the public sewer system. If this ordinance moves forward, there would be a potential impact to those selling homes in the township. The township commissioners may consider the proposed ordinance for passage in December. The Alliance has submitted commentary to the township which may be viewed here and will continue to reach out to the township on this issue.
Source: Radnor Township; 11/2017

Upper Darby’s plan to build, renovate schools could cost $180M
If Upper Darby School District officials want to build a new elementary school and renovate existing elementary schools to conform to their ideals of adequate learning spaces, it’ll cost them $180 million. That was one of the major takeaways from Assistant Superintendent Dan McGarry’s presentation to the school board on Nov. 28, as he gave an update on the ongoing facilities study being prepared by the district’s architect-of-record, Bonnett Associates Inc. The figure includes money to build a new school on 69th Street, closing the Kindergarten Center, closing Charles Kelly and Walter M. Senkow schools, expanding on Garrettford and Primos schools, instituting half-day kindergarten in the schools and making other necessary capital improvements to the district’s elementary schools. Some redistricting would be required to accommodate all students within only district-owned facilities. (More than 400 students currently are bused to leased buildings every day). These district-wide capital projects are being considered in conjunction with a plan called Scenario 32, which was compiled through the district’s facilities committee to provide adequate learning spaces as determined by the district’s education specifications. No immediate board action will be taken on the $180 million item, as it was only an informational item presented in committee.
Source: Daily Times; 12/3/2017

Haverford OKs preliminary budget with 2.4 percent tax hike
Haverford Commissioners have adopted a $43.2 million preliminary budget for 2018. The proposed fiscal plan includes a 2.4 percent real estate tax increase that would raise rates from 7.993 to 8.185 mills. The new rate would translate to an additional $28 in annual taxes for the estimated median assessment of $145,000. Plans call for keeping annual trash collection and sewer rental fees at current rates, $197 per year and $4.70 per gallon water used, respectively. Township Manager Larry Gentile said all share the goal of keeping tax increases in check while maintaining the “high quality of services residents expect and deserve.” The proposed budget “did not come without sacrifices,” he added, pointing to staff reductions of 2.6 full-time employees.
Source: Daily Times; 12/6/2017

Montgomery County

After investing millions, Upper Perkiomen halts middle school construction
Newly elected Upper Perkiomen School Board members who ran on a platform of stopping construction of the new Upper Perkiomen Middle School have followed through on their promise. A recent school board meeting began with the swearing in of four new board members whose votes led to a 5-4 decision to cease construction on the $58 million building project. The new building had been approved by the prior school board, and construction of the new facility is already underway, with more than $10 to $15 million invested. Underground systems and conduits for electricity, fire hydrants and stormwater have already been installed at the new middle school site. The vote came at the end of a four-hour meeting that began with the newly elected school board president, Kerry Drake, announcing a change to the agenda. A new agenda had been printed that canceled the scheduled presentation on the middle school construction project and changed the key item from a vote on “suspending” the project for 60 days to one terminating all contracts. About 31 people spoke during the public comment period, with a total of four speaking in favor of the board’s course of action. Board Member John Farris asked Superintendent Alexis McGloin about the financial impact of stopping construction, and she replied, “I don’t know the answer to that question.”
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 12/6/2017

Upper Merion seeks feedback on local flooding issues
The Upper Merion Township Sanitary and Stormwater Authority is seeking public feedback on flooding issues plaguing the region. A short survey can be found on the township website, www.umtownship.org, or on paper at the library or the Public Information Office. The online version of the survey includes an interactive map where participants can place pins on locations of flooding concern. The survey, which runs through Friday, Dec. 15, will be used to identify and address flooding issues that threaten public safety in the community.
Source: King of Prussia Courier; 11/29/2017

Small tax increase proposed in Narberth
Narberth Borough Manager Sean Metrick presented a preliminary 2018 budget to Borough Council that proposed about a 1 percent tax increase and a 28 percent sewer assessment rate increase. The tax increase would raise the millage rate from 9.55 to 9.645 mills. The owner of a single-family home assessed at the borough median of $174,130 would see a property tax increase of about $16 for the year. The increase in the sewer assessment would add $48 to the tax bill for the same median household. Metrick said the sewer increase is necessary to support planning and initial improvements to the borough’s aging sanitary sewer system. The proposed budget document is available for public review and comment on the borough website at www.narberthpa.gov/information/financial-information.
Source: Main Line Times; 12/3/2017

Merck to sell 154 acres in Lower Gwynedd
Merck & Co. Inc. has put up for sale a 154-acre property it owns in Lower Gwynedd Township. The property abuts Gwynedd Mercy University and has a 157,000-square-foot building with most of the remainder of the property undeveloped. It is zoned for industrial and manufacturing uses. The building was constructed in 1963 by the original owner, Moore Products, which made instruments that were used in the manufacturing industry. Siemens bought Moore in 2000 and kept its operations in the building, even after selling it, until vacating the space last year. Merck bought the property in 2004 for $45.6 million for future expansion needs.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 12/1/2017

 

Philadelphia

Inclusionary zoning bill clears committee, but final vote delayed until 2018
Maria Quiñones-Sanchez’s controversial bill requiring developers to devote a percentage of new housing to low-income residents incrementally advanced, but it will not be voted on until Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, at the earliest, when the next session of City Council begins. It is expected that new amendments will be hammered out in the interim to address concerns with the existing legislation. All the testimony relating to the bill occurred at a marathon hearing where developers, civic associations and affordable housing advocates sparred over the proposal. Sources familiar with the debate in City Council say that there are possibilities a new bill could be in the works, possibly including an impact fee that would charge developers a set rate to be paid into the city’s Housing Trust Fund. It is expected that an affordable housing bill of some kind — whether a rewritten inclusionary zoning bill, an impact fee bill, or another increase in the real estate transfer tax — will likely be passed next year. The Kenney administration proved broadly supportive of Sanchez’s bill, as did City Council President Darrell Clarke, especially as the current federal government’s commitment to affordable housing grows ever more tenuous.
Source: Plan Philly; 12/5/2017

Editorial: City leaders need to agree on a plan to make tax deadbeats pay their share
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board, the city is owed $395 million in back taxes, fees, fines and interest on 69,000 properties as of September. Mayor Jim Kenney and Councilman Allan Domb have a plan to use tax liens as collateral for bonds, hire a vendor to collect on the liens, use the money to pay off the bonds, and, hopefully, come out ahead. The plan concerns Council President Darrell Clarke, who says the liens are riddled with errors that may cost vulnerable residents their homes. However, Domb’s legislation explicitly protects owner-occupants and properties that the city may want to use for future residential and commercial development. Domb is eyeing the people who choose not to pay their taxes, including suburban and out-of-state deadbeats. Clark has introduced a bill that would exempt all residential properties, including rentals, in his district and several others. He wants to clean up the city’s property data of uncollectable liens to protect property owners in Philadelphia. The Inquirer Editorial Board feels this is an opportunity to raise some money for the schools and ensure that more people pay their taxes — if the parties would work together.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 12/4/2017


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