NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Counties roll out emergency rent and utility assistance programs

Bucks County
Bucks sheriff sales go online

Chester County
Chesco to offer webinar on Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Program

Delaware County
Brandywine Battlefield property purchased

Montgomery County
Lower Merion extends business privilege/mercantile tax deadline

Philadelphia County
Philadelphia rental and utility assistance program open for tenants and landlords

 

News Briefs Archive December 14 2020

 

General News

NAR urges Treasury and FHFA to delay actions on GSEs
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) sent a letter to the Treasury Department and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (PDF) asking them to refrain from any rushed actions to end the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These two entities currently finance the majority of single-family mortgages and are critical not just to supporting housing during the pandemic, but also for the future of homeownership. A rushed exit from conservatorship could jeopardize reforms that have been made so far and reforms that are still needed.
Source: nar.realtor; 12/5/2020

 

PennDOT considers tolling bridges to fund repairs
PennDOT is looking for ways to boost revenue to fund bridge and road projects, and one option is to charge fees for motorists driving across some bridges. PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said federal funding has been flat for the past few years despite rising inflation, and decreased travel due to the pandemic has resulted in a reduction of funding from gasoline taxes. The proposed fees are part of a new transportation initiative by PennDOT called the Pathways program to maintain and improve the state’s 40,000-plus miles of highway and more than 25,000 bridges. The public can review information presented on PennDOT’s Transportation funding website and provide input until Thursday, Dec. 17.
Source: Times Herald; 12/1/2020

Bucks County

Newtown Township residents could see 133% tax increase
Newtown Township officials have reduced a proposed 7.99 mill tax increase to 5.99 mills, but the increase is still 133% more than the 4.5 mills currently paid by property owners. If approved without change, the tax increase would add $224 more in annual taxes for a resident with a property assessed at the township average of about $37,500. The current tax rate for the same property amounts to $169 a year. The substantial tax increase was recommended by a consultant who said the township needs to dramatically increase revenue in order to provide adequate services without continually depleting the township’s savings account. The preliminary budget is available for inspection on the township website. The supervisors are tentatively scheduled to vote on making the budget final at their Tuesday, Dec. 22, meeting.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 12/3/2020

Tax increase for Nockamixon
The $1.14 million 2021 proposed budget for Nockamixon Township includes a tax increase for the first time since 2009. The 0.33-mill tax increase will bring the total tax rate up to 6.33 mills — about an $11 annual increase for the average homeowner. Township Manager Keith DeLuca noted that increased support for the fire service was the driving factor for the tax increase.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 12/3/2020

Falls begins review of $1.5 billion redevelopment plan
Falls Township supervisors started their review of a $1.5 billion redevelopment plan for the U.S. Steel property. NorthPoint Development presented a sketch plan at a recent meeting, which will be continued on Monday, Dec. 14, at 5 p.m. The developer is proposing 20 or more state-of-the-art industrial warehouse buildings totaling about 10 million square feet on 1,846 acres. For information on how to join the Monday, Dec. 14, meeting, visit the Falls Township website. The township building is closed to the public until Jan. 18, 2021, with access by appointment only.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 12/8/2020

Mask up in crowded Bucks County parks
Bucks County Commissioner Robert Harvie recently said that rangers will be asking visitors to don a mask in county parks. Harvie, speaking at a virtual economic development conference hosted by the Lower Bucks Chamber of Commerce, said that mask wearing is needed in some outdoor spaces due to the substantial increase in coronavirus cases locally. "Certainly, if you're jogging and you're the only person on the trail we don't expect you to have a mask," said Harvie. "But if you see someone coming towards you, we would ask you to mask up for those couple seconds. If you are going into the parks, we ask you to be considerate of those around you.”
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 12/3/2020

Chester County 

County website to aid businesses gets update
Chester County Commissioners and members of the county’s COVID-19 Business Task Force announced important updates to the Restore Chester County website. Launched in May, the site provides public health and safety guidance for the county’s 15,000-plus businesses and 525,000-plus residents, including a checklist for 21 industry sectors on how to reopen and remain open. The website has also provided resources for businesses and organizations to obtain personal protective equipment. Newer updates include carefully curated strategic actions, broken down by industry, and links to current economic conditions, business practices and industry support. Businesses and organizations that would like to share innovative ways they have navigated COVID-19 are invited to submit their stories by emailing business@chesco.org and to share stories, tips and insights on social media using the hashtag #RestoreChesCo. The task force is also focusing on the development of Chester County’s long-term economic recovery strategy.
Source: Daily Local; 12/7/2020

Deadline nears for rental aid
Chester County officials remind all qualified county residents who may need rental assistance because of the impact of COVID-19 that applications for funding should be submitted by Monday, Dec. 14. In September, the county commissioners approved $1.8 million in CARES Act funding to help cover rental payments and additional services, such as utilities for those with job and income losses. “Previous programs have provided up to $750 in rental assistance, but that is not enough to cover the cost of housing in Chester County,” said Pat Bokovitz, director of the Chester County Department of Community Development. “This additional funding provides a more practical option for families who have lost income due to this pandemic.” Renters meeting the program criteria should contact 211 and ask for assistance with rent payments. The county’s rental assistance program provides for payment to be made within 48 hours, once all application forms are submitted with the necessary documentation. The assistance is for individuals and families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic who are unable to pay their rent and are in danger of becoming homeless without assistance. The funding will be disbursed by the Housing Authority of Chester County to implement its Homeless Prevention and Rental Assistance Program, and will complement additional funding that the county and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency have provided. Qualified applicants can receive assistance that may cover up to a six-month period beginning March 1, 2020. The household must also have family income below the county’s median income limits.
Source: Daily Local; 12/8/2020

Phoenixville council to vote on 15.6% tax hike
Phoenixville Borough’s $25 million 2021 budget will raise property taxes 15.6%. The increase is less than the 17.2% hike that had been proposed in November. Borough Manager E. Jean Krack said that costs were shaved off the general fund budget so it is balanced and the tax increase is now entirely due to the $15 million bond council voted to take out last month. That bond will pay the costs of replacing the Civic Center building at 123 Main St. and the current firehouse at 177 Church St. Krack said the 2020 figures from Chester County show that the borough’s assessed property value grew by $11 million in the past year and is now up to $805 million. “Right now, there are about 700 residential units being built or on the pipeline,” said Krack.
Source: Daily Local; 12/4/2020

Malvern posts proposed 2021 budget ahead of vote
The proposed 2021 budget for Malvern Borough is available for review on the borough website. Borough council will consider the budget for final adoption at the Tuesday, Dec. 15, meeting at 7:30 p.m. Information on how to participate in the virtual meeting will be provided on the borough website here.
Source: Daily Local; 12/8/2020

East Marlborough budget vote set for Dec. 23
The East Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 23, at 7:30 p.m. to consider for adoption the proposed 2021 budget. The special meeting will be conducted remotely/virtually. The public may listen in and participate by following instructions that will be posted on the township website. The proposed budget is available to view here.
Source: Daily Local; 12/4/2020

Delaware County

Delco computer systems restored after hack attack
Delaware County officials say disrupted computer networks have now been restored but would not comment on whether a ransom was paid to do so. Unidentified computer networks were hacked last month, although county officials said the Bureau of Elections and Emergency Services were not impacted. Officials declined to say whether personal financial information was breached. 6ABC reported that hackers were demanding a $500,000 ransom to free up police reports, payroll, purchasing and other databases. “The county has worked tirelessly, including through the holiday, to respond to the event,” county executive director Howard Lazarus said. “Under the guidance of the computer forensic specialists, the county has restored critical systems and is strengthening the security of our network.” Lazarus added that network security processes will continue to be updated and passwords will be changed as necessary.
Source: Daily Times; 12/5/2020

Newtown Township looks to amend property maintenance requirements
The Board of Supervisors of Newtown Township will consider an ordinance amending the property maintenance code by adding Article II, Property Transfer Certifications. The update would require sellers of residential property to comply with certain requirements regarding carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, electrical outlets, sprinkler systems, sidewalks, sump pumps, etc. For nonresidential property, there would be additional requirements regarding exits, fire extinguishers, sewer laterals, etc., prior to the transfer of property. The full text of the ordinance is available here (PDF) . The ordinance will be considered for adoption on Monday, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m. Instructions on how to join the meeting virtually will be posted with the agenda on the township’s Civic Web portal. The Alliance is submitting commentary to the township.
Source: Daily Times; 12/3/2020

County council details $352M budget with no tax increase
Delaware County Council released its no-tax-increase budget — a 97-page document outlining a $352 million spending proposal for 2021. Council Chairman Brian Zidek said the council’s goal has been increasing transparency in how the budget is prepared and how funds are raised and spent. “I think we’ve taken some steps towards that end this year, but there’s more work to be done and I know that we’re all committed to continuing along that path to continually improve in making sure the residents of Delaware County understand where their tax funds are going,” he said. Prior to this year, county budgets were typically about 20 pages. The proposed financial plan closes a $23 million deficit with no tax increase, despite projected revenues being down $6 million from 2020 to $352 million. The budget also reflects the establishment of a county health department, the result of a process that started this year and is expected to end with state approval at the end of next year. A slide show of a public budget presentation is available on the county website. Council is expected to vote on a final passage on Wednesday, Dec. 16, in a meeting broadcast via the county website and on its Facebook page. Comments can be submitted to publiccomment@co.delaware.pa.us or by calling the county public relations office at 610-891-4931.
Source: Daily Times; 12/3/2020

Upper Darby prepares to vote on 2021 budget
Upper Darby Township Council will consider adopting the $91.6 million 2021 budget at a meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 7 p.m. Council members will be participating remotely, and the meeting will be streamed to the public via YouTube and over the Upper Darby Township Council Facebook page. Starting Tuesday, Dec. 15, at noon and continuing until Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 7 p.m., residents can submit comments by calling 484-393-5861 or emailing comments@upperdarby.org and including their name and address. The comments will be read into the record during the meeting for up to 30 minutes. Any comments not read into the record at that time will be sent to council if received before the beginning of the meeting. The 2021 budget address can be found here. A presentation of the budget was made on Oct. 14.
Source: Daily Times; 12/8/2020

Upper Chichester to vote on budget on Dec. 16
The Upper Chichester Board of Commissioners will consider the adoption of the 2021 budget at a virtual meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 7:30 pm. The commissioners are seeking a revenue-neutral real estate tax millage of 3.0352. The millage rate is lower than the current 5.1 mills because the countywide reassessment changed the total assessed value of property in the municipality. The meeting can be viewed live on the township Facebook page or listened to live by calling 571-748-4021 and entering the passcode 827-829-234#. The meeting will include a public comment section. Residents must be on the call to participate during the public comment section.
Source: Daily Times;12/7/2020

Media Borough budget vote scheduled for Dec. 17
Media Borough Council will present and consider for adoption the final 2021 budget during its meeting on Thursday, Dec. 17, at 7:30 p.m. The meeting will be held via Zoom and livestreamed on YouTube. A complete copy of the proposed budget is available for public inspection on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Municipal Center, 301 N. Jackson St. The public is invited to comment on the budget during the meeting.
Source: Daily Times; 12/7/2020

Montgomery County

Norristown approves ‘Quick Ticket’ program for certain property maintenance violations
Norristown Municipal Council recently approved an ordinance that adds the Property Maintenance Quick Ticket (PMQT) program to the Municipal Code as Chapter 240. PMQT creates fines for violations for certain existing property maintenance and code requirements without the issuance of any warnings. Click here for the list of quality-of-life violations subject to PMQT, with subsequent fines and a description of the appeal process.
Source: Norristown Municipality Facebook post; 12/9/2020

Aqua PA no longer buying Norristown sewer system
Representatives from Aqua Pennsylvania and Norristown announced that Aqua is “no longer pursuing the acquisition of the Norristown wastewater system.” Neither party offered further comments about the circumstances leading up to the decision. The $82 million sale was initially approved by Norristown’s council in June, with two ordinances (20-14 and 20-15) supporting the sale passing 5-2 in October. Residents mobilized against the sale and started two separate petitions against the ordinances. They collected over 2,000 signatures, and the petitions were submitted on Nov. 5. Municipal administrator Crandall Jones said there were sufficient signatures to compel council to either repeal the ordinance or create a referendum question. The council is scheduled to repeal ordinances 20-14 and 20-15 at the Tuesday, Dec. 15, meeting at 6:30 p.m.
Source: Times Herald; 12/3/2020

New Hanover preserves part of golf course
New Hanover Township supervisors voted unanimously to preserve close to 50 acres of the Hickory Valley Golf Club. The township will use about $571,000 of its open space fund to purchase the development rights on the “Ambassador” part of the golf course located on Ludwig Road. The conservation easement will preserve the parcels and “keep the area open as opposed to being developed as homes,” said township solicitor Andrew Bellwoar. The Montgomery County Planning Commission has identified New Hanover as one of the fastest growing municipalities in the county, and in recent years supervisors have taken a harder line with developers, especially those proposing more housing.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 12/4/2020

Taxes steady in Royersford
The proposed 2021 budget for Royersford Borough holds the line on taxes. The $4.6 million budget allocates $3.3 million to the general fund to pay $1.4 million to police operations, $400,000 to public works and about $335,750 to government expenses. The borough’s millage rate will remain at 8.95 mills for the general fund plus another 1.25 mills for the fire tax.
Source: Times Herald; 12/4/2020

Whitpain holds the line on taxes, again
Whitpain Township supervisors will consider adopting the 2021 budget at their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m. The budget holds the line on taxes, maintaining a 3.2 mill tax rate. Whitpain Township has not seen a tax increase since 2010. The proposed budget also maintains current sewer rates for 2021.
Source: Whitpain Township; 12/3/2020

Philadelphia

City’s Eviction Diversion Program shows early success
Philadelphia’s Eviction Diversion Program launched in September and requires landlords to go to mediation with tenants in most cases before filing for evictions in court. The goal is to reach an agreement that benefits both the tenants, who are suffering financially because of the pandemic and facing the loss of their homes, and the landlords, who are losing income and potentially facing foreclosure. Over the past two months, 237 mediations occurred, according to the city. Of those, 182 reached agreements, avoiding eviction filings. In 42 cases, participants agreed to keep negotiating. Thirteen didn’t reach agreements. Another roughly 220 mediations have been scheduled. Housing advocates are seeking to extend the program, developed in collaboration with landlords, while city officials determine its future, possibly in the court system. City council is expected to vote Thursday on an extension through March 31. The requirement that landlords use the diversion program is slated to expire at the end of December, at the same time city and federal bans on most evictions are set to expire.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 12/4/2020

How would you spend $1M in city cash? Philly wants residents to shape next budget
For the first time in Philadelphia history, city officials are asking residents to weigh in on the spending plan and generate ideas for capital projects, then vote on which get funded. Mayor Jim Kenney wants residents to decide how to spend $1 million. Philadelphia’s capital budget is the city’s plan for investing in community facilities and public infrastructure — everything from sidewalks, streetlights and sewer drains to libraries and parks. “This is an opportunity to amplify the voices of previously ‘muted’ constituencies in order to serve community needs and values through planning and participation in the budget process,” said Eleanor Sharpe, director of the city planning commission. Public participation will determine only a tiny sliver of capital spending — Philadelphia spent $3.4 billion in its 2021 capital budget. But Tempest Carter, director of community and economic development for ACHIEVEability, a registered community organization in West Philadelphia, said if the city’s use of participatory budgeting truly respects community input, it can still lead to long-term benefits. Residents can expect a call for ideas in early spring, with a final vote on those ideas in June 2021, as city council is expected to vote on the 2022 budget. In the meantime, those interested in being part of the initiative can apply by calling 311 or applying online by Tuesday, Dec. 15.
Source: Plan Philly; 12/3/2020

 
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