Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
Fannie, Freddie loan limits announced for 2021; NAR urges access to safe, affordable financing
Weeks left for Bucks COVID-19 Mortgage Assistance Program
Chester County Recorder’s office temporarily closed, but services continue
Recorder of Deeds system disrupted by hack
SEPTA maintains commitment to King of Prussia Rail project
Philly is set to create a new construction tax and cut a big property tax break
$440 million shortfall in state revenue for May
New figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue show the state’s tax revenues dropped 17% below official estimates in May. Half of the roughly $440 million shortfall was due to the economic slowdown caused by efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak. The remaining shortfall can be attributed to delayed revenues due to the extension of several tax deadlines. The state expects to see an increase in those revenues later in the summer. The uncertainty about how the state’s bottom line will be affected prompted state lawmakers to pass a stopgap budget that provides five months of flat funding for most state agencies, and school funding for a full year. An estimated $78 billion came into the state through various programs in the federal CARES Act — a move that has temporarily cushioned the blow to state tax revenues. However, according to Matthew Knittel, director of the state’s Independent Fiscal Office, it might have also created a “temporary bubble” in the economy that could burst when many of the federal relief efforts expire late in the summer.
Source: Spotlight PA via Bucks County Courier Times; 6/1/2020
NAR president issues statement on death of George Floyd
National Association of Realtors® (NAR) president Vince Malta issued the following statement to members on June 2: “The shocking, senseless death of George Floyd is tragic. Our deepest sympathies are with the Floyd family and other families who understand and feel this pain and grief. Our neighbors in the communities where we work and live across America should feel safe and free from discrimination. As longtime champions of fair housing, equality and inclusion are among NAR’s most cherished values. NAR is committed to leading the way on policies that address racial injustice and that build safe and inclusive communities. Building the future begins with equal access to housing and opportunity for all. We appreciate all you do as REALTORS® to listen, learn, and work with others to be a part of the solution. As leaders in your communities, America’s 1.4 million REALTORS® are active participants in promoting equality, inclusion, and acceptance. We welcome your input and thoughts on how we can improve our communities together.” Visit NAR’s Fair Housing webpage for more information.
Source: National Association of Realtors®; 6/2/2020
Threat of unforeseen school tax hike due to casino shutdowns averted
An unforeseen hike in school tax bills across Pennsylvania is no longer a concern. The General Assembly on Thursday amended a budget bill to allow the state to use federal coronavirus relief aid to offset a loss of $300 million in the fund that provides homestead exemptions for relief from school property taxes. The state depends on gaming revenue to replenish the fund each year, and the pandemic-related casino shutdown depleted the amount of available money. Without the reliance on federal aid, the homestead exemption fund would have been cut by half compared to what school districts had expected for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which starts July 1. The lack of funding would have reduced the amount of homestead exemptions by at least half, driving up residents’ school tax bills as a result. Click here for the full article.
Source: GoErie.com; 5/29/2020
County offers guidelines for return to work and activities in yellow phase
As Bucks County moves into the Yellow Phase of gradual reopening, the county has posted information and guidelines for businesses and residents. Visit the Community Services page on the Bucks County website for information related to business reopening and guidelines for faith-based organizations, outdoor seating, summer camps and more.
Penndel to consider Transportation Overlay District amendments
Penndel Borough Council intends to adopt a zoning ordinance amending “Transit-Oriented Development Overlay District Uses” (TOD) at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, June 15, at 7:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at Borough Hall, 300 Bellevue Ave. or by a virtual method, depending on the state of the COVID-19 crisis. The proposed ordinance enlarges the boundaries of the TOD District. A full-size map reflecting the new boundaries is available at Borough Hall. New uses are also being added, including: brewery, winery or distillery; outdoor eating areas; accessory brewing; and cultural and entertainment. The ordinance amendment also includes a reference to “the 2019 Downtown Penndel: A Blueprint for the Future” plan, which was developed with the Bucks County Planning Commission, and a reference to the Sustainable SITES Initiative. A copy of the proposed ordinance and revised zoning map are available here. Visit the Penndel Borough website for the most up-to-date meeting information.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 5/20/2020
Richland notes decline in Earned Income Tax revenue
Earned Income Tax (EIT) revenue for Richland Township in the first quarter of 2020 was similar to the previous year, but figures for EIT revenue for April 2020 are down to 60% of what was collected in April 2019. Township Manager Paul Stepanoff made the EIT announcement during the livestreamed May 11 public board of supervisors meeting. The township provided data to Bucks County on the local economic effect of the pandemic. Stepanoff said the county “hired the ESI Group to do a municipality-by-municipality analysis of how the townships’ EIT and Transfer Tax revenues may be impacted for 2020 due to COVID-19.” The analysis is expected to be completed in June. Richland supervisor Tim Ritter also reported that close to 12% of the township’s working population had filed unemployment claims.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 5/28/2020
Springfield Township supervisor resigns
Springfield Township Supervisor Robert Zisko submitted his resignation on May 26. Zisko, who served 18 years on the board, told board members in a letter that he wanted to spend more time with his family and regretfully didn’t have “the necessary time to dedicate to Springfield Township.” The board will accept applications for the vacancy until June 16 and plans to make a selection at its Tuesday, June 23, meeting. Zisko’s term expires in December 2021. The resignation is the second in six months for Springfield — Dave Long resigned his supervisor position last October.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 5/28/2020
West Bradford to adopt comprehensive plan
West Bradford Township supervisors will hold a public hearing to discuss and possibly adopt a new comprehensive plan update. A copy of the plan (PDF) is available for review online. The purpose of the document is to update the 2009 Comprehensive Plan and to provide a vision for West Bradford Township through the year 2030. The focus continues to be on preserving natural features that define the land in the community, while accommodating future growth needs. The public hearing will be held Tuesday, June 9, at 7 p.m. Visit the township website for meeting information.
Source: Daily Local; 6/2/2020
Three multi-million-dollar proposals under consideration for developing 22-acre tract in Coatesville
The City of Coatesville’s Redevelopment Authority (RDA) has selected Competitive Communities LLC, a private economic development consulting company, to vet three proposals submitted for the development of a 22-acre tract known as “The Flats.” The property is located at the northwest corner of the intersection of First Avenue and Lincoln Highway, which formerly served as an industrial site. It is the largest commercial property available in the city’s Qualified Opportunity Zone. “The RDA determined that a project of this magnitude, which will make a lasting imprint on the city’s future, was worthy of bringing in an independent professional to evaluate all three project proposals,” says Redevelopment Authority Chairman Joseph DiSciullo. “We are confident in our selection of Dave Sciocchetti, founder of Competitive Communities LLC, who has deep experience in analyzing complex development projects.” The three proposals each range from $30 million to $60 million. The RDA anticipates a report from Competitive Communities at its public meeting on Monday, June 15. Following that, the RDA board will deliberate and vote, in a public meeting, to select the final proposal and make its recommendation to city council, which can accept or deny RDA’s selection.
Source: Daily Local; 5/28/2020
County outlines plans for reopening
Twelve weeks after moving to essential services-only, Chester County government and courts are preparing to open the doors once again of county facilities on Market Street and Westtown Road, as well as the magisterial district courts throughout the county. But limitations and restrictions will be in place to ensure the safety of staff and the public, as the county continues to try to control the impact of the coronavirus. Starting Friday morning, June 5, all county government staff that are not able to work from home to provide county programs and services will return to work. All staff that can work from home will continue to do so. Residents needing to interact in-person with county departments are encouraged to call ahead or visit the website for details and understand requirements prior to arriving.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 5/31/2020
Conservancy developing preservation plan
The Brandywine Conservancy continues to develop a plan for the preservation and use of Birmingham Hill, the 113-acre Odell property between Wylie and Meetinghouse roads at Birmingham Road in Birmingham Township. The property was the site of large troop movements during the 1777 Battle of Brandywine during the War of Independence. The conservancy bought the first 100 acres in 2007 and the last 13 acres two years ago. On May 27, Sheila Fleming, the conservancy’s municipal liaison, said that because of the hallowed nature due to the number of troops who fought and died there, picnicking and dog walking would not be allowed. The current plan calls for the preservation of both the natural and historic features located on the property. A draft plan for public review is expected by September. Read more here.
Source:Chadds Ford Live; 5/28/2020
Malvern to codify separation of borough manager, treasurer jobs
Malvern Borough Council will conduct a public hearing to consider an ordinance amending Chapter 25 of its municipal code, “to preclude the borough manager or assistant borough manager from holding the office of borough treasurer.” The public hearing will be held via Zoom on Tuesday, June 16, at 7:30 p.m. Visit the borough website for meeting information.
Source: Daily Local; 6/2/2020
As DELCORA seeks legal intervention, county council pulls the plug
The Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA) has filed a petition to enjoin a proposed county council ordinance that would terminate the authority and transfer its assets to the county. “In short, the enforcement of the ordinance would blatantly violate existing law and needlessly create a nightmare scenario of irreparable harm that jeopardizes wastewater conveyance and treatment services for the citizens of Delaware County and beyond,” the petition claims. DELCORA called on county council to postpone a June 3 vote to dissolve the authority, but the vote proceeded as planned. Delaware County Council voted 4-0 to terminate DELCORA, meaning all of its funds, assets, operations and liabilities will transfer to county responsibility. The move also halts the authority from taking any action or spending any money. Pending new court action, it also ends DELCORA's effort to be absorbed by Aqua America.
Source: Daily Times; 6/2/2020 and 6/4/2020
Bringing Back Delco Task Force formed
The Delaware County Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Delaware County Council and the Delaware County Commerce Center to create the Bringing Back DELCO initiative. The goal of the new initiative is to simplify and share government orders to county businesses and answer questions. “We are not creating the regulations, but working to find you answers and solutions, so you can do business!” the Bringing Back Delco website says. The site includes information about doing business in the yellow phase, downloadable signs, and resources to find personal protective equipment.
Source: Delaware County Chamber of Commerce; 6/2020
Prospect Park to use eminent domain for storm sewer
Prospect Park Borough intends to adopt an ordinance to move forward with seizing a piece of property through eminent domain for the purpose of building a storm sewer. The ordinance would authorize the condemnation “of certain property in fee simple … consisting of a certain 20’ wide portion of an existing alleyway bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue, 15th avenue and 16th avenue, for the purposes of constructing a storm sewer.” The draft ordinance will be considered at a public meeting to be held on Tuesday, June 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the municipal building, 720 Maryland Ave. Copies of the ordinance are available at the borough building during business hours.
Source: Daily Times; 6/2/2020
DELCORA to host meeting on plan to reduce sewer overflow
The Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA) will hold a public meeting to review several final additions to its Combined Sewer Overflow Long-Term Control Plan Update. Attendees will learn about the combined sewer system and the proposed final strategy for significantly reducing combined sewer overflows to local rivers and streams. Public feedback is welcome. The virtual meeting will be held on the Zoom platform on Tuesday, June 9, at 6 p.m. Registration is required via the website. For more information visit the DELCORA website.
Source: Daily Times; 6/3/2020
County offers yellow-phase reopening guidance
Montgomery County officials have posted guidance for the gradual reopening of the county under the Yellow Phase. Click here for information about moving from Red to Yellow in Montgomery County, and guidelines for: community/family gatherings; entertainment/travel; health care; occupations; physical activity; and transportation.
Spring-Ford considers tax increase
At a May 18 work session, members of the Spring-Ford Area School Board initially settled on a tax increase of 2.6 or 2.7%. However, by the May 26 school board meeting, the majority of the board had settled on not creating any new positions and keeping a tax increase between 1% and 1.5%. Superintendent David Goodin said in order to drop the tax increase lower, current positions will have to be cut. A special meeting was to be held June 1 to review the impacts of particular cuts. The board also must decide whether to change the penalty for paying property taxes late, and whether to allow a fourth installment payment to ease the financial burden on taxpayers. Those decisions, along with the adoption of a final budget, are all set to be made at a special public meeting set for Monday, June 8, at 7:30 p.m. at the high school. The final budget must, by law, be passed by June 30. Visit the Spring-Ford Area School District website for meeting information and agendas.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 5/30/2020
Lansdale to reopen Borough Hall on June 8
With Montgomery County moving from the red phase to the yellow phase, Lansdale Borough announced that its Borough Hall will reopen on Monday, June 8, with limited hours and several restrictions in place. The building will be open from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from noon to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with the midday closure for staff to sanitize all areas where the public has access. Masks will be required for anyone entering the building, and all restrooms will be closed to the public. A hand sanitizer station will be in place once visitors arrive, and customers will be directed up the stairs to the borough's customer service area on designated sides of the stair well. After finishing their transactions, arrows will direct customers back down the stairs and out of the building. Public meetings will still be held online. For more information or meeting details, visit the borough website or follow @LansdalePA on Twitter.
Source: The Reporter; 6/1/2020
Marlborough discusses financial impact of coronavirus
Marlborough Township Secretary/Treasurer Marybeth Cody recently urged township supervisors to prepare now for a revenue shortfall related to the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown. Cody stated that the township's financial situation "looks good" at present, closely mirroring 2019's revenues. However, she expects a decline in Earned Income Tax (EIT) revenues. Marlborough collected $400,000 of EIT revenue in 2019. A 30% drop in the EIT would cost the township $120,000. Cody also reported that Real Estate Transfer Tax revenue is already down significantly — in April 2019 the borough collected $6,000, and this April's total was $1,900.
Source: Town & Country News; 5/20/2020
Landlords resist laws to freeze rents and ban evictions
Landlord advocacy groups oppose a set of proposed new laws that would extend a ban on evictions for Philadelphia tenants who lost their jobs because of the pandemic and create other new protections for vulnerable renters. The original package of six bills proposed by councilmembers Helen Gym, Kendra Brooks and Jamie Gauthier would extend the ban, freeze rents for affected tenants through mid-2021, prohibit late fees, and crack down on illegal lockouts. But changes were announced Friday meant to address landlords’ concerns. The eviction ban would end August 31 and the rent freeze and late-fee ban would last for just nine months after that date, instead of a full year as previously proposed. The protections would only be available for tenants who provide documentation of the financial impact they have suffered because of the COVID-19 emergency. The package, called the Emergency Housing Protection Act, would also require landlords to enter into payment agreements for past-due rent and mandate mediation sessions before evictions of eligible renters could proceed. Attorney Paul Cohen, representing the Homeowners Association of Philadelphia (HAPCO), said he still opposes much of the package. Cohen argued the laws would give landlords no way to compel many tenants to pay their rent, leaving them without revenues to pay for mortgages and upkeep. Click here for more.
Source: WHYY.org; 5/29/2020
Kenney scraps proposed tax increase
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney recently informed city council that a 4% tax increase in his proposed budget is no longer necessary. Kenney proposed raising $49 million in additional property taxes as part of a budget that tries to fill a $650 million revenue shortage due to the coronavirus pandemic. Kenney wrote that the city school district will receive “higher than anticipated funding” in the $25 billion budget approved this week by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Tax increases on parking and nonresident wages remain on the table, along with 400 city employee layoffs and significant cuts in spending for programs and services. Click here for more.
Source: NBC10 & WHYY.org; 5/28/2020