Stay up to date on current News & Issues.
State sets school district tax increase limits for 2020-2021
County awarded $1.56M grant for lead abatement
Parking, accessibility improvements coming to Parkesburg Train Station
Upper Darby raises taxes, trash and sewer fees
Lower Salford plans for steady taxes
Tax-exempt property in Philadelphia has a total worth of $29.6 billion
Courts reject appeal to invalidate new voting map
The U.S. Supreme Court and a federal district court both declined requests from Republicans to overturn the revised Pennsylvania congressional map. The decisions came down a day before congressional candidates needed to turn in their nominating petitions to qualify for the May 15 primary. The map, designed by the state Supreme Court, was created after the previous map was found to be gerrymandered to the point of being unconstitutional. “I'm sure we'll review options, but I think we're accepting the decision," said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34) who filed the U.S. District Court challenge along with others. Changes in the new map include:
An interactive map depicting the new districts is available here.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; 3/19/2018
Call to Action: Support the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program
The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® urges all members to contact their state legislators and ask them to support House Bill 1981, which would establish the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program. The program would allow Pennsylvanians to save money toward the purchase of a home, and the money saved would qualify as a tax deduction for their state income tax return. Parents and grandparents would be eligible to save for children and grandchildren as well. To take action, visit www.firsthomepa.com.
Bensalem seeking court-ordered cleanup of property
Bensalem Township recently filed a complaint in Bucks County Court over the condition of a property on Blanche Road. The filing alleges township firefighters and emergency personnel would have a difficult time accessing the property in an emergency due to accumulated piles of trash. Officials say the property poses a fire hazard and a “significant and serious threat” to nearby township residents’ health, welfare and safety. Two notices of violation were issued to the property owners by township code enforcement officers. One notice alleged the property was unfit for human occupancy, had trash and debris, and lacked permits for gas tanks, building, electrical and plumbing work. The other notice accused the owners of unlawfully housing pigs, and building garage and accessory structures on the property. The complaint alleges these are “unlawful dwelling units” and leaked raw sewage on the property. The township does not have a use and occupancy permit for the property, and any tenants would be ordered to vacate until a permit is acquired. The property is in a light industrial district but close to a residential area. Bensalem officials are asking a county judge to grant a preliminary injunction, which would require the property owners to fix a number of on-site zoning code violations within 30 days. If the code violations are not fixed in the allotted time, Bensalem officials would have access to the property to allow for the township to clean it up. The owners of the property would be billed for the cleanup.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 3/20/2018
Northampton Comprehensive Plan Update 2018 public hearing
Northampton Township supervisors have set Wednesday, April 25, at 7:30 p.m. as a public hearing date to consider the adoption of the Northampton Township Comprehensive Plan Update 2018, including the Richboro Master Plan. The hearing will be held at the township building, 55 Township Road, Richboro. Prior to this public hearing, the township planning commission will review the plan for a final time at its meeting on Tuesday, April 10, at 7 p.m. at the township building. Click here for more information and a link to the comprehensive plan.
Source: Northampton Township; 3/12/2018
Doylestown Township breaks ground on new municipal building
Doylestown Township broke ground March 6 on a new municipal building. The new building at 425 Wells Road will be approximately 26,000 square feet and will house township administrative offices, the codes office and the township police. According to Township Manager Stephanie Mason, construction of the new building, along with the completed demolition of the old building, will cost about $11 million. Supervisor Chairman Ken Snyder called the groundbreaking a “significant day” and the culmination of a “facilities project that began over three years ago” with a team tasked with identifying future needs and providing the best alternatives.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 3/15/2018
Council Rock School Board posts vacancy
Council Rock School Board is accepting applications from Northampton Township residents interested in filling a seat vacated by Wendi Thomas. Thomas resigned to focus more energy on a run for state representative in the 178th District. To be considered, a candidate must: be an elector of Council Rock School District‘s Region 4 (Voting Districts 2, 6, 7 and 12); be eligible to serve pursuant to Sections 3-322 and 3-323 of Public School Code 1949, as amended; and submit a letter of interest by U.S. mail, personal delivery or email, to Dr. Robert Fraser, Council Rock Superintendent of Schools, The Chancellor Center, 30 N. Chancellor St., Newtown 18940 or RFraser@CRSD.org. Letters of interest and any supporting documentation may be distributed to the public and should not include information the applicant considers confidential. Letters of interest must be received by Dr. Fraser by Tuesday, April 3, at 5 p.m. The board will schedule public meeting(s) April 3 to 19 to interview candidates. It will then review applications with the intent of appointing a new board member at its public meeting on Thursday, April 19.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 3/21/2018
Annual survey finds homelessness decreasing in county
A report compiled by the Chester County Department of Community Development and the Decade to Doorways partnership found that 555 people were experiencing homelessness in Chester County in the early hours of Jan. 25. The number reflects a decrease from the past three years — in 2017, the number was 570, and in 2016, it was 682. Of the 555 individuals, 213 were veterans. Thirteen of the individuals were unsheltered. The one-night survey in Chester County was performed as part of a national “Point in Time Count” aimed at determining how many people are experiencing homelessness. Full details of the report will be presented at the county’s Decade to Doorways Partnership meeting on Thursday, April 5, at the Chester County Government Services Center, 601 Westtown Road, West Chester.
Source: Chester County; 3/20/2018
Honey Brook Borough, township to partner on comprehensive plan
Honey Brook Borough Council is planning a public hearing to consider whether to enact an ordinance that would amend Chapter 1, “Administration and Government,” of the borough code. The amendment would authorize the borough to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Honey Brook Township to adopt and administer a multi-municipal comprehensive plan. The public hearing will be held Monday, April 2, at 7 p.m. at Borough Hall, 71 Pequea Ave, and a vote is expected to follow immediately afterward at the regular council meeting.
Source: Daily Local News; 3/19/2018
Connecting 15 Upper Uwchlan homes to public sewer will cost $1.1M
The Upper Uwchlan Township Municipal Authority is accepting public comment on a plan to construct a sanitary sewer extension — the Byers Road Sanitary Sewer Extension — to 15 properties on Byers and Eagle Farm roads that currently have on-lot disposal systems. The plan would also reconnect one property already connected to the public system. The engineer has estimated the construction cost to be $1.1 million, which would be paid for by the authority, with costs recouped through the established tapping fee and user rate structures. The plan is available for review at the Upper Uwchlan Township offices, 140 Pottstown Pike, Chester Springs, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Comments may be addressed in writing to Matthew Brown, Authority Administrator.
Source: Daily Local News; 3/16/2018
Sunoco Pipeline violated noise law in East Goshen
Sunoco Pipeline faces fines after being found guilty March 13 in district court of exceeding allowable noise levels during pipeline construction on multiple occasions last fall. District Judge Thomas Tartaglio, of District Court 15-1-02, found Sunoco guilty of exceeding permissible noise levels in a residential community on seven instances between Oct. 11 and Dec. 15, 2017. He found in favor of Sunoco on two other dates. According to a study commissioned by East Goshen Township, Sunoco exceeded the 60 dBA limit between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. at the drilling site near the Hershey’s Mill subdivision. The company has been fined $1,000 plus costs for each violation. Sunoco has attempted to dampen the noise with sound barriers at the site construction but declined to comment on the violations.
Source: Daily Local News; 3/20/2018
Marple buys a swim club
Marple Township recently purchased Marple Newtown Swim Club, including about 12 acres off Sunset Boulevard, for $300,000. As the swim club is a new asset for the township, the board of commissioners is requesting ideas and considerations for the facility or concessions that will allow the club to thrive into the future. The commissioners are encouraging proposals for the annual operation of the swim club that include opportunities to renovate the existing facilities and/or partner with the township to establish potential new uses, structures and revenue sources on the property in conjunction with club operations. Request-for-proposal packets are available in the office of the township manager, 227 S. Sproul Road, Broomall, or by calling 610-356-4040. Proposals are due by Friday, April 6, at 5 p.m.
Source: Daily Times; 3/19/2018
Chester City, CWA agree to negotiations amid turmoil
Chester City Council and the Chester Water Authority (CWA) have agreed to negotiations to resolve disagreements between the parties that have grown since May 2017, when Aqua Pennsylvania offered to purchase CWA for $250 million. The offer, which was rejected, generated questions about how the unsolicited bid came about, who had the authority to approve sale of the CWA, and how proceeds would be distributed. “Because the city was the incorporator of the Chester Water Authority, the city can unilaterally terminate the authority’s existence and/or unilaterally acquire any project of the authority,” the city said in a resolution. The CWA has countered that the authority is no longer an asset of the city, but rather of its ratepayers. The authority serves 18 municipalities in Delaware County and 16 municipalities in Chester County. The two entities will begin negotiations immediately with the goal of reaching an agreement by a Dec. 31 deadline, unless both sides agree to an extension.
Source: Daily Times; 3/19/2018
Media approves new police contract
After what one council member described as “a lot of effort,” Media Borough Council approved a five-year contract for its police officers that includes average pay increases of 3.4 percent. Officers will have an “opt out” option for benefits, and those who exercise it will receive 50 percent of the cost consideration, which is an increase from 25 percent in the previous contract. The agreement also offers a deferred retirement plan, allowing officers to choose to schedule requirement pensions or potentially opt for a lump sum payment. The department has 15 full-time officers, with a base salary of $86,756 that officers reach in the fourth year of employment. New hires begin at 70 percent of the base salary and gain 10 percent each year.
Source: Daily Times; 3/21/2018
Panel looks at impact of charter schools in Delco
A panel discussion held at Penn Wood High School in Lansdowne examined the growth of charter schools in the Philadelphia suburbs, and the effects of charter enrollment on students and taxpayers, specifically in Delaware County. The discussion focused on a report produced by Public Citizens for Children and Youth that concluded half of suburban brick-and-mortar charter schools score lower on state standardized tests than their school district counterparts with similar shares for disadvantaged students (special education, low-income or English as a second language). The report also noted that cyber charter schools consistently perform worse than suburban districts with similar shares of disadvantaged students. The panel was comprised of a high school junior, a school superintendent, a former school board member, state legislators, and representatives of Public Citizens for Children and Youth. Approximately 5,700 students in Delaware County, or 7.7 percent of the student population, are enrolled in charter schools at a cost to the county’s 15 school districts of $79 million. Approximately 320 students in the county are added to the rolls each year. “The promise of charter schools is greater efficiency and higher levels of student achievement,” said Upper Darby School District Superintendent Daniel Nerelli. “We’re seeing neither in Delaware County or neighboring counties.” State Rep. Jamie Santora (R-163) said that the funding formula is still an issue and a cap needs to be placed on charter school funding.
Source: Daily Times; 3/17/2018
State reps join growing call to keep Pottstown YMCA open
State Reps. Tim Hennessey (R-26) and Tom Quigley (R-146), both of whom represent Pottstown in Harrisburg, have joined the growing call to keep the YMCA on North Adams Street open. The Pottstown School Board also adopted a resolution rejecting the closure. The state representatives issued a joint statement saying, “We know the Pottstown Y struggles financially each year to help the community, but the larger YMCA should help to subsidize our Y as part of its stated social mission.” Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA CEO Shaun Elliot cites the expense of replacing an aging boiler as being among the primary financial reasons for closing the Pottstown facility. However, when the Pottstown Y merged with Phoenixville in 2007, there was an outlay of $1.8 million to make various upgrades and repairs, and the aging boiler was on that list, said columnist Thomas Hylton in a paid advertisement in The Mercury. James Konnick, who was the president of the Pottstown YMCA at the time of the merger, confirmed the accuracy of Hylton’s statement and said he has documents that indicate the merger would expand programs and improve, not close, facilities. Elliot said he has no “firsthand knowledge about decisions made 10 years ago” and that the Pottstown building needs $11.5 million in repairs and upgrades. Elliot also said the larger organization has been providing $5 million a year to subsidize the operation and capital expenses at the Pottstown building. A group of residents has started an online petition calling for a reversal of the closure decision. Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA is currently building a new $30 million facility in Upper Moreland Township, where median household income is about $108,000. Census data puts Pottstown’s median household income in 2016 at about $45,000. The Pottstown School Board’s unanimous resolution reads, “The YMCA officials have stated that profits from their highly successful facilities in suburban area allow the YMCA to fulfill its mission of offering programs to all residents regardless of their ability to pay.” Click here for the full resolution.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 3/20/2018
Commissioners presented with new transportation grant program
Montgomery County Commissioners were recently presented with an overview of the newly established County Transportation Grant Program. The initiative is a competitive reimbursement program designed to improve infrastructure across the county’s 62 municipalities, according to Matt Edmond, a transportation planner with the county. The new grant program uses revenues from the $5 county vehicle registration fee to expand the reach of transportation investment and achieve the goals of the county’s comprehensive plan, titled “Montco 2040: A Shared Vision.” Approximately $1 million will be available each year to fund transportation projects throughout the county. The 2018 round of grants will assist municipalities in matching PennDOT’s Green Light - Go program funding. Commissioners Chairwoman Val Arkoosh said the program sounded like “a meaningful infusion of dollars coming into our municipalities” and said she looked forward to seeing what projects would receive awards this year. Commissioner Joe Gale, who voted against the $5 registration fee, expressed doubt that the program would put a significant dent into alleviating the problem of dilapidated roads and bridges and expressed a preference for prevailing wage reform to be implemented as a cost-cutting measure. Click here for more information.
Source: Times Herald; 3/20/2018
Lower Merion updates temporary parking plan for downtown Ardmore
Lower Merion recently released an update to the downtown Ardmore temporary parking plan. Effective March 5, the temporary kiosk lot located on Cricket Avenue closed and a limited number of permit spaces on the upper block of Trolley Way were removed. The Ardmore Initiative encourages visitors to Ardmore to take advantage of a metered lot on Cricket Terrace. Click here for the parking map.
Source: Main Line Times; 3/14/2018
Pottstown posts school board vacancy
Pottstown School Board member Ron Williams tendered his resignation at the March 19 meeting, citing “personal reasons” that have nothing to do with the board or community, said Pottstown Schools Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez. Williams’ term expires in 2019. The school board will accept applications to fill the vacancy until Wednesday, April 4, and has tentatively set Tuesday, April 10, as the date for public interviews, to be followed by appointment on Monday, April 16. Click here for the school district website.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 3/20/2018
Kenney gets 18 additional candidates for school board consideration
Mayor Kenney has an additional 18 candidates to consider for the fledgling Philadelphia School Board. The nominating panel Friday officially delivered the names of 18 additional prospects to the mayor at a public meeting in City Hall. Mayor Kenney asked the nominating panel that had presented him with 27 candidates for seats on the new school board to send him additional names, saying he needs a wider pool from which to choose the Philadelphia School District’s governing body. Kenney, in a letter to the 13-member panel Thursday, said he wants to consider a more diverse group of candidates, with more parents and educators among them. The total number of candidates is now 45, from which Kenney will choose nine people to assume control of the Philadelphia School District when the School Reform Commission ceases to exist on June 30. Click here to see the new candidates.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 3/16/2018