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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 4, 2017

 

General News

Contact your senators and tell them to oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
The Senate is poised to vote soon on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, tax reform legislation that threatens American homeownership by eliminating valuable deductions. Pennsylvania senators are a critical voice on this issue, so the National Association Realtors® needs your help to further urge them to oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act! Click here to send a message to your senators. If you have already answered that online Call to Action, the next step is to call your senators offices — click here for more information.

Budget season: Will your local taxes increase in 2018?
As Pennsylvania lawmakers emerge from their latest budget impasse and Congress weighs an overhaul of the tax system, local and county governments are setting their budgets for next year. Property taxes will remain level in Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties, according to preliminary budgets. In Bucks County and some boroughs and townships around the region, property owners could see an increase in their 2018 bills. School district tax rates, which account for the largest share of property taxes in Pennsylvania, are not set until local school boards finalize their budgets in June. Counties and municipalities — which must pass budgets in December — use property taxes to fund services including courts, community colleges, street repair, snow removal, police departments and fire stations. Tax rates vary widely, and homeowners’ total bills also are dependent on their property assessment, but property taxes traditionally have been a four-figure burden for households across the region. The median annual bill tops $4,000 for homeowners in the Pennsylvania counties that surround Philadelphia. If the federal tax bill passes, “that is certainly going to impact our constituents … and that could lead to pressure from our constituents to eliminate or lower taxes,” said Valerie Arkoosh, chairwoman of the Montgomery County Commissioners. Arkoosh said she has voiced concerns to her county’s congressional delegation about the tax plan — especially about the proposal to cap the property tax deduction and another measure that would end a deduction on interest for bonds that local governments use to borrow money.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/26/2017

Bucks County

Preliminary Dublin budget includes 19.6 percent tax increase
Dublin Borough Council members unanimously approved a preliminary 2018 budget that includes a 3 mill tax increase. If the millage rate is finalized, a property owner with a home assessed at the borough average of $26,262 would pay $479 in real estate taxes – about $79 more than last year. Borough Manager Angela Benner said 16.75 mills will be dedicated to the general fund and 1.5 mills to the street improvement fund. The preliminary budget is available to view on the borough’s website, www.dublinborough.org. Borough council will vote on the final budget at its meeting on Monday, Dec. 18.
Source: Perkasie News Herald; 11/28/2017

Slight tax increase proposed in Newtown Township
Newtown Township supervisors approved a $12.87 million preliminary budget that includes a one mill tax increase. The approval allows the preliminary budget to be advertised for the 20-day minimum required under state law, so that a final budget can be approved at a supervisors’ meeting in December. Of the proposed one mill tax increase, 0.55 mills, which equals about $150,000 in revenue, will be directly assigned to the Newtown Ambulance Squad. Originally, the budget had $120,000 earmarked for the squad coming out of the general fund. The remaining 0.45 mills will be assigned to fire hydrant maintenance. Millage assignments for certain municipal services are allowed under state law and free up money in the general fund for other township items. If finalized, the township property tax rate would rise to 4.5 mills and add about $40 to the average property tax bill. Click here to access the 2018 preliminary budget.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 11/28/2017

Middle Bucks Institute of Technology has student-built house for sale
Middle Bucks Institute of Technology has a student-built, colonial-style modular house for sale. The school is accepting sealed bids for the house until Thursday, Dec. 14. The minimum bid is $106,000. Bidders must have a lot on which to put the house and the ability to transport it in four segments and reassemble it, according to Business Manager Robert Vining. The house was constructed by students in the residential construction program with contributions from students in computerized drafting, engineering graphics, HVAC/plumbing technology and electrical technology programs, Vining said. Instructions for submitting a bid can be found at www.mbit.org.
Source: The Intelligencer; 11/21/2017

Doylestown Borough eyes property tax and water rate hikes
Doylestown Borough Council recently approved advertising proposed increases to both water rates and property taxes next year. The increases are part of the council’s approval of the preliminary 2018 budget, with a final vote planned for Monday, Dec. 18. Water rates are expected to increase about 6 percent from $20.64 to $21.88 per quarter for a water main under 1.5 inches. The property tax increase under consideration would be 0.45 mills, dedicated to the Fire Protection Fund. If approved, the borough property tax rate would increase to 13.175 mills. A homeowner with a property assessed at the borough average of $28,681 would see a property tax bill of $377 — an increase of about $13 over 2017.
Source: The Intelligencer; 11/22/2017

Chester County 

East Goshen Township unveils plan to transform Paoli Pike Corridor
Transforming the Paoli Pike Corridor was identified as a top priority in East Goshen Township’s Comprehensive Plan. The township was recently awarded a Transportation and Community Development Initiative (TCDI) grant from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to develop a coordinated transportation and land use plan for the Paoli Pike Corridor between Airport Road and Line Road. This plan provides a blueprint for achieving East Goshen’s vision of making this corridor a destination. The vision to “Make Paoli Pike a Destination” conveys that Paoli Pike and the town center of Goshenville are attractive and sought-after places where people want to walk, bike, shop, live and work. View the plan here.
Source: Vista Today; 11/29/2017

Kennett Township homeowners call for action after rash of flooded basements
Evidently there’s no one cause or simple solution for a rash of flooded basements in the Kennett Township village of Hamorton. Michael Kissinger, an engineer with Pennoni Associates, told a group of village residents gathered at the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors meeting that the firm had studied the drainage system in the area to find the source of the problems. Radar and video inspections showed a number of blockages from dirt, leaves, debris, tree roots and other causes, all of which would be expected in a system like Hamorton’s that dates back the better part of a century, Kissinger said. Originally the system took the rainwater away to a drainage field, Kissinger said, but the blockages, most of them on private property, are causing the water to back up and flood the residents’ homes after heavy rains. Kissinger and Roger Lysle, who heads the township’s public works department, recommended the residents disconnect their exterior storm drain system from the in-ground piping and let the water drain out on their lawns. They also said sump pumps and various types of systems such as French drains could help keep water out of the residents’ basements. Lysle and Kissinger said the township and Longwood Gardens, to which the drainage system extends, are working together to see what improvements might be possible to the overall situation.
Source: Kennett Paper; 11/21/2017

No casinos or tax hike in Pennsbury
Pennsbury Township supervisors voted to prohibit mini-casinos in the township. The action follows a state law that allows major casinos to open Category 4 satellite casinos. Category 4 casinos are those "with not less than 300 or more than 750 slot machines and gaming tables," according to the letter sent by the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors. Supervisor Aaron McIntyre said having such a casino would go against the character of the township. Supervisor Wendell Fenton added, "If at some point it turns out that it would be advantageous to have such a casino, we have the right to rescind the resolution." While Pennsbury won't be taking in any extra revenue from gambling, it also won't be taking in any extra property tax from residents and business owners. Supervisors adopted a preliminary budget that holds the line on taxes at the current 1.49 mills. Supervisors will vote on the final budget during their meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 13.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 11/16/2017

Hankin sets sights on new Exton apartments
The Hankin Group is working on its latest apartment project in the Downingtown-Exton area and plans to have it open for occupancy in August. Keva Flats will be a 21-acre, five-building community that will contain 240 units on Business Route 30 just west of Route 100. The project’s final price tag will be about $60 million. The buildings will be four stories over parking areas. Michael Hankin, chief operating officer, and Rebecca D. Reeves, vice president of operations at Hankin Apartments, said the development will be walkable. There are 1,000 rental units expected to go online in the Exton-Downingtown area in the next five years.
Source: Daily Local; 11/21/2017

Delaware County

Council picks vendor for countywide reassessment
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. A new $6 million contract with Tyler Technologies approved by Delaware County Council launches a court-ordered reassessment of all 200,000 parcels. The last countywide reassessment occurred in the county in the late 1990s. Property assessments are legal values established by counties that determine tax bills. A reassessment will distribute the tax burden more fairly, but it will create winners and losers. Local governments may not use reassessments to raise more money through taxes. An analysis of the most recently available state tax data showed that roughly 37 percent of Delaware County properties are overassessed. The county council also approved a contract for a company to take aerial photographs to use in the reassessment. The photographs will be compared to building permits and other existing information about the properties. In some cases, assessors will go door-to-door. 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 on the new assessment in 2021.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/30/2017

County poised to adopt new transportation plan
Delaware County Council intends to adopt a new county-wide transportation plan. The public is invited to review the proposed transportation plan online at www.co.delaware.pa.us/planning and to comment on it at a public hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 13, in the County Council Meeting Room in the Government Center Building, 201 W. Front St., Media.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/22/2017

Rose Valley may lower taxes
Rose Valley is considering a tax decrease. In the preliminary 2018 budget approved by the borough council, real estate taxes would be lowered by 4.4 percent. The figure would follow a two percent decrease in 2016 and a six percent decrease in 2017. The preliminary figures would reduce the millage from 2.23 to 2.13. Based on an average assessment of $450,000, the typical tax bill would decrease by $44, from $1,004 to $960. The budget is posted for review here. The vote on the final budget is slated for Wednesday, Dec. 13.
Source: Chester Spirit; 11/22/2017

Aston Township considers tax credit for volunteer service
Aston’s Board of Commissioners will hold a hearing on an ordinance to authorize a Local Real Estate Tax Credit for volunteer members of township fire companies and nonprofit emergency medical service agencies. A public hearing will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m. in the Aston Township Municipal Building, 5021 Pennell Road.
Source: Daily Times; 11/17/2017

U.D. school board to approve tax resolution for Drexelbrook Hotel
The Upper Darby Board of School Directors will vote on a temporary tax exemption for a hotel construction project. The proposed Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) resolution will hold off on collecting all property taxes for five years on the planned Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites at the Drexelbrook Catering & Special Event Center in Drexel Hill. The six-floor, 100-room structure is expected to be completed in June 2018. Starting with full exemption in 2019, the exemption will decrease by 20 percent each year until the total property assessment of $2.24 million is taxed starting in 2024. The LERTA is a state act that allows local taxing authorities to exempt new construction in deteriorated areas of economically depressed communities, and improvements to certain deteriorated industrial, commercial and other business properties. The act was created to build up tax bases and improve community economies. The board is expected to vote on the LERTA resolution at its meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m. at the Upper Darby High School Performing Arts Center, 601 N. Lansdowne Ave., Drexel Hill.
Source: Upper Darby School District; 11/29/2017

Montgomery County

Pottstown adopts land bank law
After two years of sporadic discussions, Pottstown Borough Council has adopted a land bank ordinance. The land bank would take ownership of derelict and blighted properties in the borough and hand them over to developers willing to renovate them. The land bank’s primary goal would be to create more owner-occupied market-rate housing, eliminate blight, stabilize neighborhoods, facilitate private investment and assemble large parcels for redevelopment. Under the new ordinance, the land bank would be overseen by a five-member board whose members would be appointed by borough council. The land bank board would be tasked with setting up the parameters, policies and goals for the organization. Councilman Dennis Arms was concerned that council did not identify a way to fund the land bank. Council President Dan Weand said it was never council’s intention to fund the land bank through the budget, but instead through grants and other sources of funding.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 11/28/2017

Former Rohm & Hass facility in Lower Gwynedd receives redevelopment funds
Developers were approved for a $4 million grant and a $8 million loan through the Business in Our Sites (BOS) program to assist with the redevelopment of the former Rohn & Haas Spring House facility. Developer MRA Group of Horsham purchased the property in March and has rebranded the site as the Spring House Innovation Park, or SHIP. The 133-acre campus is less than three minutes north of the Fort Washington exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. BOS funds will be used for infrastructure costs, including roads, a fiber-optic network, underground utilities, an energy-efficient hot and chilled water loop, stormwater basins, sanitary and chemical pump stations, electric infrastructure and parking areas. According to Mike Wojewodka, senior vice president of MRA Group, plans include first-class office and laboratory facilities in a campus environment with a university-affiliated presence. “We are creating a regional center of excellence,” Wojewodka said.
Source: Ambler Gazette; 11/28/2017

Lower Merion officials approve mixed-use development in Ardmore
Lower Merion Township officials have approved a plan for a new mixed-use building on four consolidated parcels at the corner of Ardmore and Lancaster avenues. The building will have a 32,000-square-foot Target Express store on the first two floors, and above that will be 35 apartments. Chris Leswing, the township’s director of building and planning, said 11 of the apartments will be one-bedroom and 24 will be two-bedroom. Eight commissioners voted in support of the project, and four voted against.
Source: Main Line Times; 11/19/2017

No tax increase in Upper Pottsgrove budget
The $4 million Upper Pottsgrove Township budget, now available for public inspection, will not raise property taxes in 2018. If adopted without change, the township property tax bill for a home assessed at the township median of $128,000 would remain at about $552. Click here to review the 2018 budget.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 11/28/2017

Philadelphia

Affordable housing bill on hold
City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez agreed to hold a bill mandating set-asides for affordable housing in Philadelphia after a recent hearing revealed deep divisions about the best way to create low-cost units for the city’s poor and moderate-income residents. The bill has undergone substantial changes since it was first introduced in the spring. The first draft would have allowed developers to build bigger structures city-wide in exchange for setting aside 10 percent of their living spaces at reduced prices for residents earning less than the median household income, which is about $41,000. After neighborhood groups voiced concerns about the bill’s impact on traditionally low-rise rowhouse neighborhoods, it was scaled back to cover just Center City’s existing high-density zones. Then Center City developers complained that the added cost of providing subsidized units would make most construction unaffordable. The bill proposes a housing set-aside known as “inclusionary zoning” that has been used in dozens of other cities to create affordable housing in overheated markets. Philadelphia’s boom has been limited geographically and some housing advocates believe the city would be better off creating an impact fee, rather than mandate inclusionary zoning. That fee would go into the city’s Housing Trust Fund and would help support grants and loans for repairs to the city’s current, aging housing stock. The current bill allows developers to contribute to the housing trust fund “in lieu” of incorporating subsidized housing into their buildings, but the proposed fees are high. The discussions over the coming week are expected to revolve around city-wide impact fees that would apply to both residential and commercial construction. Quinones-Sanchez would like to have a version of the affordable housing bill passed by the end of the year.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/28/2017

Final West District Plan public meeting scheduled for Dec. 5
The third and final public meeting for the Philadelphia2035 West District will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 5, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at West Philadelphia High School, 4901 Chestnut St. Attendees will provide feedback on the draft of the Philadelphia2035 Plan for West Philadelphia, which addresses topics like:

  • Housing
  • Neighborhood businesses and shopping areas
  • Zoning (regulates what and where you can build)
  • Transportation
  • Recreation centers and parks
  • Protecting historic buildings and more

Anyone who is unable to attend can provide feedback on the draft plan online after Dec. 5 via a link on the Philadelphia2035 West District website.
Source: Philadelphia Planning Commission; 11/21/2017


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