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General News
Registration is open for PAR’s Public Policy Training

Bucks County
Falls Township offers DocuSign, updates forms

Chester County
Kennett township manager: Fired workers weren’t directly involved in scandal

Delaware County
County begins sending new assessment notices, announces 10-day review window

Montgomery County
Developer discusses 279-unit mixed-use building in Ardmore

Philadelphia County
Philly offers assistance program for first-time homebuyers

 

News Briefs Archive December 2, 2019

 

General News

Study raises questions about who benefits from buyouts of flood-prone homes
A broad analysis of federal records finds that homeowners hoping to relocate out of flood zones don't have equal access to the main source of federal funding meant to help them. The study looked at more than 40,000 records for flood-prone homes that have been purchased by local governments with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) since the late 1980s. These voluntary buyouts of flood-prone properties are an important policy tool to move people out of harm's way, but homeowners can pursue a buyout only if their local government has set up the program through FEMA. This study found that not all flood-prone communities are able to do that. It requires significant bureaucratic and monetary resources to apply for and distribute buyout funds. FEMA generally pays for 75% of the cost of a home, so local and state governments must find the remaining money elsewhere. “We found that the counties that administer buyouts on average have higher income and population density,” said Caroline Kraan, a graduate student at the University of Miami and one of the study's authors. Junia Howell, a sociologist at the University of Pittsburgh who studies relocation, equity and disasters, said the study's findings raise important questions that need to be answered as soon as possible, given how climate change is driving increased flood risk. Click here for the article.
Source: npr.org; 10/19/2019

Bucks County

Warminster faces bleak financial future
Warminster Township supervisors passed a 2020 draft budget with a 3.08-mill tax increase by a 3-2 vote. Homeowners with properties at the township’s average assessed value of $25,500 would pay about $78 more if the budget is finalized with the tax increase, for a total bill of $748. The tax increase alone will not keep the township from going broke at the end of next year. Township Manager Gregg Shuster reported that the municipality will likely end 2019 with a $1.3 million deficit. Savings from the general fund balance are available to cover the shortage and to help with upcoming expenditures in 2020, but the financial picture gets bleaker after that. By 2025, 25 township employees will be eligible for post-retirement healthcare if they choose to retire. The potential sale of the township’s water and sewer systems may be enough to avert financial catastrophe, but it will not solve all of the township’s financial problems. “We’re running out of money, and every second we wait the situation is getting worse,” Shuster said. “There is a massive deficit in 2020 if no action is taken on the sewer and water system. It’s pure math. Bear in mind it is not a permanent solution.” The 2020 budget is scheduled to be finalized at the Thursday, Dec. 19, supervisors meeting.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 11/25/2019 & Montgomerynews.com; 11/25/2019

Bucks County announces transition team
January will mark the first time since 1988 that there will be a Democratic majority on the Bucks County Board of Commissioners. Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia and Commissioner-elect Bob Harvie have appointed Tom Jennings to lead their transition team. Jennings has four decades of work as an attorney and has also been recognized for his service on numerous Bucks County and regional nonprofit boards. Three other attorneys were chosen to serve on the transition executive committee: Michael P. Clarke, Kyong Ha Growney and Gregory C. McCarthy. The transition team will examine government functions over the next few months and report back to the commissioners, Jennings said. Ellis-Marseglia will commence her fourth term as Bucks County Commissioner in January. Harvie and outgoing state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo will be sworn in on Jan. 6, 2020.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 11/21/2019

Centennial superintendent named best in the state
Centennial School District Superintendent David Baugh has been selected 2020 Pennsylvania Superintendent of the Year by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA). Baugh assumed the role of superintendent of Centennial in 2015 after holding the same post in the Bensalem and Neshaminy school districts. PASA Executive Director Mark DiRocco said Baugh was selected from eight nominees. Among Baugh’s accomplishments are helping to install full-day kindergarten, providing one-to-one electronic devices for students in grades 6-12 and one-to-two devices for grades K-5, aligning all subjects to the PA Common Core, and launching a Spanish immersion program beginning in kindergarten. Baugh credited his team and support from the school board for the honor.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 11/11/2019

Chester County 

Phoenixville school board OKs $3.5M to purchase site for new school
With two members missing and four new members coming on board next month, the Phoenixville Area School Board voted unanimously to spend $3.5 million on 29.5 acres of land off Hares Hill Road for a new school building. It is likely it will be a new elementary school, but that decision has not yet been made, said Superintendent Alan Fegley. The triangular property is bounded by Route 23, Route 724 and Hares Hill Road. The vote followed a presentation on the 18-month search for a property for a new school. Tim Gibson, the district's director of operations and technology, said the property in East Pikeland is well-suited because it has easy access to major roads and is nearest to the north portion of the township, which is where the zoning has directed the residential growth that's coming. The need to purchase property for a new school is being driven by the steady 2% to 3% annual enrollment growth in Phoenixville. In 2019, enrollment increased by 100 students. The school that would be built on the property, most likely an elementary school, would have a capacity of about 600 students, Fegley said. It would take about four years before a school is opened there.
Source: Daily Local; 11/22/2019

Chester County Water Resources Authority plans two public meetings
The Chester County Water Resources Authority has two more public meetings scheduled regarding updates to the county’s water plans. There will be an opportunity to ask questions and provide input for the plans. The meetings will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4, in Phoenixville’s Borough Hall and Thursday, Dec. 12, at the East Goshen Township Building. Learn more about these upcoming meetings and the county’s water resources plans on the county website.
Source: Chester County Planning Department; 11/21/2019

West Bradford to make changes to accessory suites ordinance
The West Bradford Township Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing to consider and possibly enact an ordinance amending Chapter 450 of the township code regarding accessory suites. This amendment could affect the value of properties in West Bradford Township, although the nature and extent of this effect are not known. The amendment recognizes that certain uses, such as in-law suites and employee housing, are legitimate accessory uses and provides requirements for all conditional use applications for accessory suites. Those requirements include: attached structure; street address; utilities; primary exterior entrance; interior access; sewage facilities; parking; limitations; code compliance; certificate of occupancy; private restrictions, and transfer of ownership of the principal dwelling. The hearing will take place at a regular meeting to be held on Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m. at the township building, 1385 Campus Drive, Downingtown.
Source: Daily Local; 11/25/2019

East Whiteland, Charlestown get park grant
East Whiteland and Charlestown townships have received more than $540,000 in state funds for a new township park. The grants were awarded through the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “This grant is outstanding news for East Whiteland and Charlestown townships, as the new park will help contribute to our sense of community,” said state Rep. Kristine Howard (D-167). The project focuses on the acquisition of approximately 154 acres stretching across both townships for use as a public park.
Source: Daily Local; 11/21/2019

Delaware County

Hundreds apply to Delco transition team
More than 800 people applied to participate in 12 working groups established as Delaware County Council transitions to an all-Democratic governing body. Those applicants were vetted down to 200, but Democratic leaders say to stay tuned for other ways to get involved. The incoming council members invited community members to apply to the 12 working groups that will gather to make recommendations on specific topics, namely: the census; criminal justice; economic and workforce development; elections; ethics and transparency; finance; government administration; government facilities; human services; natural resources; public health; and public safety. Each group is setting up its own parameters in terms of its meeting schedule and goals ahead of the new council being sworn in on Jan. 6, 2020.
Source: Daily Times; 11/24/2019

Ridley Park talks contractor permits, budget
Contractors doing work in Ridley Park Borough are advised to get a permit first. During a report at the borough council’s November meeting, Susan McAtee, chair of council’s planning and zoning committee, said a total of $845 in fines were paid by eight contractors working in the community without a permit. “If you are not sure you need a permit, call the borough hall,” McAtee said. Borough Manager Richard Tutak said permits are a safeguard for those hiring workers, because they ensure the contractors are insured. On a separate note, the council plans to adopt the 2020 budget at its Tuesday, Dec. 17, regular meeting. The proposed budget lists general fund expenditures of $5 million and a tax millage increase from the current rate of 9.04 mills to 9.55 mills. The increase means an additional $50 on a property assessed at $100,000. The sewer fee is scheduled for a 3% increase, up to $395 per unit. The trash fee is tentatively scheduled to remain at $265 per unit.
Source: Daily Times; 11/23/2019

Upper Prov OKs $6.3M budget with tax bump
Upper Providence Township Council approved the proposed 2020 General Fund Budget of just under $6.3 million. The budget includes separate fire protection and library funding, totaling about $300,000 combined. Property owners will have a total millage of 4.235, a 0.075 mill (1.8%) increase. The average assessment is roughly $238,000, resulting in a tax bill of about $1,000. The increase for the average property would be about $18 per year. The final budget, and an ordinance that will set the 2020 tax levy, will come before council for adoption.
Source: Daily Times; 11/23/2019

Meeting on plans for Don Guanella site postponed
A Marple Township hearing regarding the plan to develop the Don Guanella tract was postponed at the developer’s request. The township planning commission was expected to review the developer’s “by-right” plan to develop the former longtime home of the Don Guanella School off Sproul Road. Sproul Road Developers had submitted a plan to build 140 single and twin homes on 39 acres of the 213-acre tract along Sproul and Reed roads in the Broomall section of the township. Building homes on the back two lots of the property is considered a by-right usage because it is zoned as residential. No new date has been set for a review of the plans. Several efforts to develop the tract have met with serious opposition from neighbors and the community, with most pointing to increased traffic concerns.
Source: Daily Times; 11/22/2019

Montgomery County

Proposed 2020 county budget maintains current tax rate
Montgomery County has posted the proposed budget for 2020 that recommends no increase in the current real estate tax rate of 3.849 mills — with 3.459 mills for general fund purposes and 0.39 mills dedicated to funding Montgomery County Community College. If finalized without change, a home assessed at the county average of $170,000 can expect a county real estate tax bill of $654. Click here for the budget presentation. Proposed budget hearings will be held Thursday, Dec. 5, with a morning session at 10 a.m. and an evening session at 5:30 p.m. The budget is scheduled to be finalized on Thursday, Dec. 12.
Source: Montgomery County; 11/21/2019

Springfield Township budget holds the line on taxes
Springfield Township Commissioners have put forth a $17.7 million 2020 draft budget that maintains the current property tax rate of 4.441 mills and the 1% earned income tax. A home assessed at the township average of $175,400 can expect to receive a property tax bill of about $780 if the budget is adopted without change. Commissioners will accept questions and comments at a Monday, Dec. 9, budget workshop meeting and a Wednesday, Dec. 11, board of commissioners meeting.
Source: Ambler Gazette; 11/25/2019

Pottstown advertises $45.5M budget proposal
Pottstown Borough Council has posted its proposed $45.5 million 2020 budget on the borough website. The proposal calls for a total millage rate of 13.216 mills, an increase over the 2019 rate of 12.675 mills. Borough council intends to adopt and enact the budget and accompanying tax ordinance at its regular meeting on Monday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. in the Council Meeting Room at Borough Hall.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 11/20/2019

Philadelphia

Philly Council moves to phase down abatement after abandoning cap on tax break
A bill that aims to “phase down” Philadelphia’s controversial 10-year tax abatement on residential construction was introduced at a recent city council meeting. The meeting was the last opportunity to introduce legislation in the current council session. The bill would phase out the abatement, reducing it by 10% each year. Another piece of legislation that would increase the value of the city’s homestead exemption for homeowners was also introduced. As those two bills moved forward, another abatement reform measure failed to make it to the floor. That bill would have capped the value that can be exempt from taxes under the abatement. The real estate industry, including developers and building trades unions, oppose any form of cap. Philadelphia offers the 10-year abatement on property taxes for new construction and rehabilitation projects as an incentive for development and a counterbalance to the city’s high building costs. But the incentive is controversial with neighborhood groups and education advocates, who see it as a force of gentrification and a drain on school funding. The reform measure that moved forward Thursday only applies to new residential construction, leaving the abatement on rehabs and commercial and industrial properties unchanged. The phase-down legislation would go into effect on July 1, 2020, while the increase in the homestead exemption will go into effect in 2021. The abatement reform includes a provision that requires a review every three years to evaluate economic impacts.
Source: Plan Philly; 11/21/2019


 

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