Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
Biden administration extends forbearance and foreclosure protections
Big developments move forward in Bucks
Phoenixville to consider repeal of per capita tax
Media’s open space, parks and recreation survey closes soon
Lower Merion ranked among best places to live and work from home
‘Once-in-a-generation’ anti-poverty plan sends $4.5M to community groups
Realtors® unveil updated research on Fannie, Freddie utility proposal
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) hosted a virtual event focused on fine-tuning the trade association's ongoing proposal to transform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into mortgage market utilities. "As market utilities, Fannie and Freddie would strike a balance between utilizing private capital to protect taxpayers, incorporating market incentives and innovation, and fulfilling their charter mission to American consumers," said NAR president Charlie Oppler. "While the enterprises have operated safely, effectively and efficiently since the Great Recession, NAR's plan locks down this structure for the future in a way that improves access to mortgage while maintaining market stability.” In 2019, NAR joined financial market experts Wachter and Cooperstein to propose transitioning the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) into market utilities. NAR has since worked to promote and refine its utility proposal as the future of the GSEs remains at the forefront of industry discussions. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the GSEs now support nearly 80% of the U.S. residential market. NAR and others argue that the GSEs' somewhat conflicting roles as both shareholder-held and congressionally chartered entities make them perfectly suited for the utility designation. The GSEs continue to receive special treatment from the federal government in order to comply with their mandate to support underserved markets and maintain liquidity at all times, but they also must defend profits while answering to taxpayers and to shareholders who take losses before taxpayers.
Source: Nar.realtor; 1/14/2021
Pa. school districts project $475M increase in charter school costs during pandemic
Pennsylvania school districts are projecting an increase in pandemic-related charter school tuition costs of close to $475 million — with tuition payments to cyber charter schools accounting for $350 million of the total. A survey, conducted by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, found that increased spending for charter schools “was noted by many survey respondents as a top financial concern for next year, followed by assessment appeals and state funding.” PASBO said the pandemic caused new operational, fiscal and staffing challenges for school districts across the state. The report also found that many school districts did not increase property taxes for 2020-2021 but are anticipating the loss of revenue related to the pandemic, including a reduction in earned income tax revenue and property tax collection rates.
Source: Penn Capital-Star; 1/14/2021
Falls halts residential U&O inspections
Falls Township will no longer perform residential resale inspections, after supervisors unanimously approved Ordinance 2020-1, which amended municipal inspection requirements. The township still requires four certificates during a residential property transfer: heating system fireplace/heater; chimney, flue and vent; sewer lateral inspection; and electrical service panel. The improved ordinance is a direct result of advocacy by Suburban Realtors Alliance, the Bucks County Association of Realtors, dozens of Realtors who responded to an SRA survey, and Falls Township officials who were responsive to community input. The ordinance also makes changes to the township's regulations regarding rental properties, including implementing a rental unit inspection program. Read more on the SRA blog.
Falls keeps tax rate steady
Falls Township supervisors recently adopted a 2021 budget that did not increase taxes. Since 2014, the township’s millage rate has been 7.22 — the lowest it has been since 1992, according to finance director Betsy Reukauf. Property owners will continue paying $216 for an average assessment of $30,000.
Source: Falls Township; 12/22/2020
Bristol Borough to demolish vacant homes
Bristol Borough is moving forward with the demolition of a row of boarded-up homes on Elm and Chestnut streets. More than 50 homes located behind the former Mill Run mid-rise and within view of the Grundy Clock Tower will eventually be razed as part of a redevelopment project. The project is the result of a partnership between the borough and the Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County (RDA). The agreement, approved by the borough in November, transferred more than 50 properties the borough acquired to the RDA. The RDA is now negotiating demolition contracts, pursuing acquisition of remaining properties, soliciting developers interested in redeveloping the land and seeking out grants for infrastructure work.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 1/18/2021
Bucks offers COVID-19 economic resources portal
Bucks County continues to update its COVID-19 economic resources portal. Visit the portal for information on the newly reopened Paycheck Protection Program, a Bucks County shopping guide, and links to additional county, state and federal resources.
Source: Bucks County
Brandywine Conservancy acquires 577 acres along Octoraro Creek
The Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art, in partnership with the Oxford Area Foundation, has acquired 577 acres of land in southern Chester County. Glenroy Farm, situated along the Octoraro Creek in Lower Oxford and West Nottingham townships, will be owned and managed by the Oxford Area Foundation for use as a publicly accessible nature preserve. The acquisition means that 30% of land in Chester County is now preserved, larger than the size of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh combined. The land consists of open meadows, arable cropland, mature and successional woodlands, numerous streams and ponds, floodplains and wetlands, and five miles of trails. The agreement also includes a 16-acre access easement area to an adjacent, nearly three-mile strip of land situated at the top of the east bank of the Octoraro Creek and extending to the centerline of the creek. The acquisition was funded by grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Chester County Preservation Partnership Program, the Oxford Area Foundation and the Brandywine Conservancy.
Source: Daily Local; 1/14/2021
Coatesville gets $1M for train station parking project
The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Coatesville will receive $1 million in state funding for the planned Coatesville Train Station Parking Facility at Fleetwood Street and Fourth Avenue. The 175,000-square-foot multimodal parking facility will support access to the existing rail system and allow for expanded commuter service. “We’ve been working hard to put the capital together so that when the station is complete, we’ll have adequate parking for commuters,” said Joseph DiScuillo, chair of the redevelopment authority. The parking garage project has already received a grant from the Chester County Commissioners through their Community Revitalization Program, and applications for additional funding have been filed with the state and federal departments of transportation. The facility will also feature bus transportation integration, covered waiting shelters, bike racks, ample lighting, wayfinding signage, and 480 parking spaces to support SEPTA, Amtrak, and Link and Kraft bus transportation services. The redevelopment authority is working with the city to construct the facility to support the new train station, a critical part of the city’s strategic economic development vision.
Source: Daily Local; 1/6/2020
County’s triple-A bond ratings reaffirmed
Chester County government has received notification that all three ratings agencies — Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings — have reaffirmed the county’s AAA rating status for the 12th consecutive year. In confirming the ratings, the agencies cited the county’s healthy financial position, solid financial management and strong reserve levels. Chester County is the only county in Pennsylvania that can claim the distinction of earning three AAA ratings from the leading agencies, placing it in the top 2% of counties across America with such ratings. Triple-A ratings bring the interest rate associated with the cost of borrowing down significantly, giving the county the advantage of producing the lowest cost of debt needed to fund important initiatives.
Source: Chester County; 12/23/2020
Coatesville faces severe financial hardship as students flock to charters
Coatesville Area School District officials may need to make further cuts to programs and staff unless there is a solution to the district's funding battle with Collegium Charter School, school directors said. The school board adopted a resolution calling for a fair charter school funding formula at the state level and authorizing the director of business administration to pay Collegium $2.7 million by Jan. 13, and another $2.7 million no later than March 1. The root of the problem, school officials said, is that school districts are required to pay charter schools based on enrollment. In the past few years, parents have elected to send their children to Collegium and Avon Grove charter schools in droves. Coatesville pays $11,500 per pupil per year for students who opt to attend the two charters. More than 3,000 students from the Coatesville Area School District now attend charters, up from about 1,700 five years ago. In that time, Coatesvillle's payments to charters have increased by $33 million, to about $54 million per year. School districts are limited by the state in how much they can raise taxes in any given year. Even at the highest allowed tax increase, the amount of revenue Coatesville would receive is far short of what it needs to cover increases in charter payments and other expenses.
Source: Southern Chester County Weeklies; 1/14/2021
Judges to PUC: Reject DELCORA sale to Aqua
Two administrative law judges have recommended that the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) reject the proposed $276.5 million sale of the Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA) to Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater Inc. Judges Angela T. Jones and F. Joseph Brady found the company was seeking a “hypothetical recommendation” based on incomplete information, with several issues still to be resolved by court cases. The recommendation is nonbinding, but Delaware County solicitor Bill Martin said such decisions normally carry “significant weight” with the PUC. DELCORA and Aqua agreed to the sale in September 2019, which would use sale proceeds to pay off outstanding debt and fund a trust to be used as a “rate-stabilization plan” that keeps increases pegged at 3% annually until the fund is exhausted, estimated at about 10 years. Common Pleas Court Judge Barry Dozor recently ruled that the purchase agreement was allowed under the Municipalities Authorities Act, though it is still subject to approval by the PUC. The county, which is seeking to stop the sale, may appeal that ruling. The recent recommendation from the administrative law judges included three major findings: that Aqua failed to establish a record by which the commission could determine whether the proposed acquisition “promotes the service, accommodation, convenience and safety of the public in some substantial way;” that outstanding issues regarding DELCORA’s legal ability to transfer its assets “significantly prevent” a reliable determination of the appropriate ratemaking rate base; and that Aqua had failed to attach its rate-stabilization plan as part of its application. Read the full article here.
Source: Daily Local; 1/19/2021
Cannabis ordinances brewing in Chadds Ford
Chadds Ford Township Planning Commission members are likely to consider ordinances regarding marijuana businesses in 2021. The subject came up in general conversation following the reorganization portion of the commission’s Jan. 13 meeting. Commission member Timotha Trigg said he wanted the commission to begin work on an ordinance — or a series of rules — that would cover medical marijuana dispensaries, recreational sales and grow sites. She said neighboring townships have already done so. Pennsylvania’s Municipalities Planning Code requires that all municipalities need to have statutes to accommodate all legal businesses. As medical marijuana is legal, the township can regulate where those businesses may locate. Consideration may also be given to recreational adult marijuana use, which both the governor and lieutenant governor are proposing to legalize.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 1/14/2021
Ridley gets a budget and a new commissioner
The Ridley Township Board of Commissioners approved a no-tax-increase budget for 2021 with total expenditures of $24.2 million and a real estate tax rate of 5.463 mills. The trash removal fee is increasing from $240 to $255 per household, due to the county’s solid waste authority increasing its rate from $53 to $58 a ton. The sewer disposal charge is going up from $375 to $390 per household, due to increases by DELCORA. In another matter, the board appointed Shanin Melasecca as a commissioner representing the Eighth Ward, replacing Nancy Robert, who resigned in November.
Source: Chester Spirit; 1/6/2021
Brookhaven adopts 2021 budget, appoints new secretary
At a special meeting, Brookhaven Borough Council unanimously appointed former Council President John Wilwert Jr. as borough secretary. He takes the reins from Mary Buddle McKinley, who retired after 30 years of borough service. Wilwert had been serving as temporary borough secretary for several months while McKinley was on leave. He has lived in Brookhaven for 60 years and was a member of borough council for 20 years, including as council president. He also served the borough in other capacities, including founder and president of the town watch organization, a member of the fire committee, deputy emergency management coordinator, and member of the technology and historical committees. In other matters, council unanimously adopted the borough’s final 2021 operating budget totaling $5.38 million with no tax increase for residents. Millage was set at 2.72, meaning that a homeowner with a property assessed at $200,000 will pay $544 in borough tax for 2021.
Source: Chester Spirit; 1/6/2021
County maintains AAA bond rating
Montgomery County Commissioners announced Moody’s Investor Services confirmed the county’s AAA bond rating for the third consecutive time. A strong credit rating gives the county the ability to borrow money at the lowest interest rates possible. Additionally, reduced debt service allows the county to continue investing in critical infrastructure and improve services offered to residents. Click here for the county press release.
Source: Montgomery County; 1/12/2021
Crow Creek Trail project begins in Upper Merion
The Crow Creek Trail is a multi-use trail running along the Crow Creek corridor. Upper Merion Township supervisors approved the start of construction on the project on Dec. 2, 2020. Construction will continue through the summer of 2021 and will result in a continuous multi-use pedestrian/bicycle trail linking numerous neighborhoods and community facilities, such as parks and schools. In addition to recreational uses, the trail will help to make walking and bicycling an alternate transportation option for residents. Visit the Crow Creek Trail project page for more information.
Source: Upper Merion Township
Lower Pottsgrove hires county for planning services
Lower Pottsgrove Township has entered into a three-year contract with the Montgomery County Planning Commission for support and assistance in writing or revising proposed laws, providing guidance and advice in reviewing subdivision and land development planning, and other technical expertise. The township will pay $7,350 a year for the service.
Source: Sanatoga Post; 1/9/2021
Whitpain to host first of Mermaid Lake master plan meetings
Whitpain Township will host a virtual public meeting to discuss the master plan for Mermaid Lake on Monday, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m. All community members are invited to participate in creating a vision for the new park by sharing ideas on potential facilities and improvements. This is the first in a series of four public meetings concerning Mermaid Lake that will occur in 2021. Click here for access information.
Source: Whitpain Township
Philadelphia aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050
Sounding optimistic after four years of battling climate change with little help from the federal government under the Trump administration, Mayor Jim Kenney said Philadelphia will aim to become carbon neutral by 2050. The ambitious goal to tackle global warming aligns with targets set by President-elect Joe Biden. To reach its goal, the city will likely have to employ offsets, or actions that would mitigate burning fossil fuels, such as planting trees or carbon sequestration and removal. “Climate does not exist just in one department,” Philadelphia’s sustainability director, Christine Knapp, said. “It’s not just the work of the [Environmental Protection Agency]. It’s not just the work of the Department of Energy. It has to live in all of the various agencies and be a top-line priority across the board. And so we are already seeing in transportation and housing that climate is going to be something that is going to be looked at across the entire administration.”
Source: Plan Philly; 1/15/2021