NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Gov. Wolf reopens real estate by executive order

Bucks County
Back to Work grant applications accepted May 26 only

Chester County
Lawmakers call on Wolf to move Chester County to 'yellow'

Delaware County
Chester Upland ordered to open its doors to charters

Montgomery County
Pottstown gets $300K EPA cleanup grant

Philadelphia County
Philadelphia area homes sold quickly in April

 

News Briefs Archive May 11, 2020

 

General News

PAR issues best practices, new forms as real estate resumes in 24 counties
PAR has issued new tools to assist Realtors® as Pennsylvania begins its phased reopening of 24 “yellow” counties beginning May 8. They include Real Estate in the Age of COVID-19: Suggested Best Practices, which was developed by a task force appointed by PAR President Bill Festa. The PAR Standard Forms Committee has also developed two new forms for use during the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Property Access Notice (Form COVID-PAN) provides some general warnings about COVID-19 and outlines several of the best practices regarding hygiene and access rules. The COVID-19 Health Screening Acknowledgment (Form COVID-HSA), which has five questions designed to identify some of the most common risk factors for contracting COVID-19, isn’t legally required, but PAR recommends that Realtors® use the form for anyone who accesses a property. While 24 counties have been moved to “yellow” status in Gov. Wolf’s three-phase reopening plan, the Philadelphia region remains in the most restricted, “red” status. Read more about these new tools on PAR’s website.
Source: PAR JustListed; 5/6/2020

State tax revenue plummets
Pennsylvania’s tax revenue fell $2.2 billion for April, according to figures released by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. The majority of the shortfall is due to the three-month extension of the deadline for filing personal income taxes. Of that amount, roughly $400 million can be attributed to the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak, said Revenue Secretary C. Daniel Hassell. General fund tax revenue, including cigarette, malt beverage, liquor and gaming taxes, totaled $11.4 million for the month, coming in $43.2 million below estimate. Realty transfer tax revenue for April totaled $26.6 million, coming in $23 million below estimate.
Source: Spotlight PA & The Reporter; 5/1/2020

Schools feeling budget crunch from coronavirus crisis
Twelve years after schools endured a wave of deep spending cuts caused by the Great Recession, they’re once again facing an economic disaster. According to a recent study by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic means school districts could see a combined loss of more than $1 billion in local revenues for the 2020-2021 school year. If the economy bounces back quickly, those losses might be around $850 million. "In an economic downturn we know that unemployment goes up, thereby reducing our local income tax revenue, and we know that the real estate market will be affected resulting in a reduction of our real estate transfer tax," said Dr. Timothy J. Shrom, PASBO director of research. "We also know that our taxpayers will need more time to pay, thus reducing property tax revenues, and with the significant cuts in the rates, interest earnings will take a hit as well," he said. The PASBO report includes an interactive map of Pennsylvania school districts, showing how much money each stands to lose.
Source: The Reporter; 5/3/2020

Regional housing authorities receive federal funding
Public housing authorities in Pennsylvania will receive more than $8.1 million in new funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Choice Voucher program as a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. According to a statement from U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), grant recipients will include:

  • $265,000 for Chester Housing Authority (Delaware County)
  • $425,700 for Delaware County Housing Authority
  • $383,600 for Montgomery County Housing Authority
  • $294,900 for Housing Authority of the County of Chester
  • $469,500 for Bucks County Housing Authority

Source: Office of Sen. Casey; 4/30/2020

Americans can now access their credit reports free each week
The three major U.S. credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – now offer consumers free weekly credit reports through April 2021. The reports, available via the website AnnualCreditReport.com, are being made available to offer protection as Americans face financial hardship due to the coronavirus. The website was created by federal law and is overseen by the Federal Trade Commission. Before the recent change, people could get one free copy of their credit report every 12 months from each credit bureau. Read more here.
Source: U.S. News & World Report; 4/23/2020

Coronavirus takes steam out of home buying season but sales, prices should rebound
Home sales will likely plunge this spring in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, then bounce back by the end of next year, according to a new forecast from Zillow. Sales will likely plummet by up to 60%, as stay-at-home mandates and overall worries about the economy take the steam out of what was previously expected to be a robust spring home-buying season. Zillow expects prices to drop no more than 3% by the end of this year, and then creep back up throughout 2021. Home sales should also increase by roughly 10% a month through 2021, according to the forecast. “Much uncertainty still exists, particularly with some states beginning to reopen and experts warning of a possible second wave of the coronavirus in the fall,'' according to Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s chief economist. "However, housing fundamentals are strong, much more so than they were leading into the Great Recession, and that bodes well for housing in general.”
Source: USA Today; 5/4/2020

Increase in sewer blockages reported since stay-at-home order
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) warned recently that residents should only flush toilet paper and human waste. DEP officials said there has been an increase in reports of sewage treatment facilities dealing with non-flushable materials like disinfecting wipes, “flushable” wipes, PPEs, kitty litter, toilet brushes and more, clogging filters and their equipment since the beginning of the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in March. Locally, the Lower Bucks County Joint Municipal Authority said they recently experienced a sanitary sewer main blocked entirely by “flushable” wipes. “Flushing things that aren’t meant to be flushed can damage your own sewer pipes as well as the sewer treatment facilities that we all depend on,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. DEP is also urging residents not to rinse food waste, fat, oil and grease down the drains because that can also lead to clogged pipes.
Source: LevittownNow.com; 5/3/2020

Bucks County

Bucks County officials urge Governor Wolf to be flexible with reopening metrics
Bucks County Commissioners sent a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf urging flexibility in the reduced COVID-19 infection rate he will require before the county can reopen. “[W]e are submitting this letter as one of appeal as we endeavor to decrease the specific reliance on the incidence rate of COVID-19, per capita, as a major contributing factor to reopening,” they wrote in the letter, dated April 29. The commissioners request a dialogue on the subject with Wolf, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine or a member of Wolf’s staff as soon as possible. According to Gov. Wolf’s website, a target goal for reopening has been set at having fewer than 50 new confirmed cases per 100,000 population reported to the department in the previous 14 days. For Bucks County, that would amount to 320 new cases over a two-week span, or an average of 23 per day. The county has not had that few cases since March 26, when there were 18, and has exceeded 100 new cases per day on more than half of the days over the past three weeks. Click here to read the press release with context for the commissioners’ letter. During a news briefing May 5, Wolf said his administration likely will not separate positive cases and deaths in long-term care facilities and congregate areas likes prisons when deciding which counties can reopen. “We have not made a decision to remove long-term care facilities or prisons from the statistics of the region, but we certainly take that into account in a subjective way when we weigh the opportunity to reopen, or stay in the red or go to the yellow phase,” Wolf said, adding there is no schedule to determine which counties will reopen next.
Source: Bucks County; 5/5/2020 & Bucks County Courier Times; 5/6/2020

SRA, BCAR host ‘State of Bucks County: An Update for Realtors®’ webinar
The Suburban Realtors® Alliance and the Bucks County Association of Realtors® hosted a webinar on May 1 titled “State of Bucks County: An Update for Realtors®.” A recording of the webinar can be viewed on the SRA website. Commissioners Chair Diane Ellis-Marseglia, Vice-Chair Robert J. Harvie Jr. and Gene DiGirolamo spoke about the county’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Recorder of Deeds Robin Robinson also spoke and underscored that her office is “ready to help.” Robinson reported that more deeds were recorded in March and April of 2020 than in March and April of the years 2017-2019. Robinson also discussed the Bucks County Fraud Alert System that will alert residents and businesses if a document is recorded in their names. Visit the Bucks County Fraud Alert System webpage for more information.

Plumstead to consider sewer lateral ordinance
Plumstead Township supervisors will consider for adoption an ordinance to amend application procedures for public sanitary sewer connections; to prohibit the discharge of stormwater into the sanitary sewer system; to provide standards to prevent such discharge; to provide for sewer lateral inspections by the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority; to require repairs to defective laterals by property owners; to establish maintenance standards; and to require grease interceptors where grease-laden waste is generated and to prohibit any discharges which interfere with the operation of the sanitary sewer system.  Click here for the proposed ordinance (PDF). The proposed ordinance amendments will be considered at the May 12, 2020 meeting of the Plumstead Township Board of Supervisors at 7:30 PM by audio and video conferencing. The public is invited to log on or phone in to the virtual meeting. Public comment will be taken by email during and before the meeting, by phone during the meeting, or as part of the video conferencing. Interested parties who wish to participate in the meeting via video conferencing can find more information here.

State lawmakers seek more aid for Morrisville School District, cite formula error
State lawmakers are requesting Gov. Tom Wolf provide Morrisville School District more aid to prevent drastic budget cuts and to fund online learning for students. In a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf, state Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-10) and Reps. Perry Warren (D-31) and John Galloway (D-140) requested the state Department of Education reexamine its funding formula while also providing immediate aid to the district to offset proposed cuts in the 2020-2021 school year budget. Santarsiero said he and the other lawmakers believe there is an “error in the way that both the existing and new funding formulas are calculated for Morrisville.” For the 2020-2021 school year, the formula projects a five-year residential household income of roughly $75,000 in Morrisville — comparable to neighboring 19067 area ZIP code municipalities Lower Makefield and Yardley. However, Morrisville’s actual median income is about $53,000. “As a consequence of this apparent error, Morrisville School District has been unfairly underfunded for a number of years,” Santarsiero said. The letter also asks the state to provide Morrisville with a grant so it can adequately provide mandated continuity learning for students during the pandemic after the district was denied funding that would have partially paid for 650 Chromebooks. Of the district’s 1,046 total students, 520 of its 868 on-campus students do not have access to a computer or internet at home, said Superintendent Jason Harris. In the meantime, Morrisville students will use 300 Chromebooks recently donated by the Bucks County Technical High School in Bristol Township and community members. Read more about the troubles facing the Morrisville School District here.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 5/1/2020

Centennial opens superintendent survey
The Centennial School Board, with assistance from the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, is entering into a search for a new superintendent of schools. The school board is conducting an online survey to learn what the community thinks is important in the search for the next superintendent. The survey takes roughly five minutes to complete, and will be open through May 11. The link to the survey can be found on the home page of the Centennial School District website.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 4/30/2020

Chester County 

Grant program offers up to $25K for small businesses and agriculture enterprises
Chester County Main Street Preservation, a grant program created by the Chester County Commissioners, will provide funding for small businesses and agricultural enterprises that were unable to take advantage of state and federal coronavirus relief funding. The county has set aside $5 million for the program, with grants of up to $25,000 available to eligible businesses. The application and award process will be overseen by the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC). Applications must be submitted on Monday, May 11, between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. More information can be found on the CCEDC website.
Source: Daily Local News; 5/6/2020

East Marlborough seeks supervisor candidates
East Marlborough Township is seeking candidates to replace one of the township supervisors who submitted a letter of resignation. The board of supervisors will entertain applications from township residents who are registered electors who have continuously resided in the township for at least one year. The vacant term runs through Jan. 4, 2022. Residents interested in the seat must submit a letter of interest and a resume by Friday, May 22, at 4 p.m. Submissions may be mailed to 721 Unionville Road, Kennett Square, PA, 19348, or emailed to nlovekin@eastmarlborough.org, to the attention of Neil Lovekin, Township Manager. Interviews will be conducted remotely/virtually during the June 1 public meeting of the board of supervisors.
Source: East Marlborough Township; 5/3/2020

Coronavirus business task force formed in Chester County
Chester County officials have created a COVID-19 Business Task Force comprised of industry leaders from throughout the county. Its mission is three-fold. First, provide input into business re-opening mitigation strategies developed by the commonwealth, ensuring that those strategies are realistic, relevant and will be adhered to by Chester County businesses. Second, assist in distributing information and updates regarding re-opening and the sector-specific mitigation strategies that will come with re-opening. Third, participate in and guide the development of Chester County’s economic recovery plan. “Now that we find ourselves in the early phases of a COVID-19 response, this is the time to begin the development of an economic recovery plan,” said County Commissioner Michelle Kichline. “We see the new plan as a stepped approach to reshaping and restoring Chester County’s robust economy in a post-COVID-19 world.” Membership of the task force core team is being established, and the group will begin meeting in early May.
Source: Daily Local News; 4/30/2020

Kennett Township initiates civil lawsuit against former township manager
Kennett Township officials filed a civil action against former Township Manager Lisa Moore and her boyfriend, Brian Gore. Moore is already facing criminal charges filed in December 2019 by the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, alleging she embezzled $3.2 million in taxpayer funds. Moore’s boyfriend is involved because, according to former District Attorney Tom Hogan, she created a phony marriage to receive medical benefits for him in excess of $50,000. “In terms of recovery, the township is exploring all options to recover as much money as possible," said Richad Leff, chairman of the township supervisors. "However, the first stop remains the former manager.”
Source: Southern Chester County Weeklies; 4/30/2020

Delaware County

Delaware County commits to second round of grant funding
Delaware County Council has committed to a second round of funding to help struggling businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. There has already been $1.75 million in grants allocated to a “Delco Strong” small business support program, and the county is currently defining the parameters of the second round. Those looking to apply for a grant from the initial pool of money can visit the Delco Strong website for details and to submit an application. Grants are capped at $7,500 per business entity. “We get that the small businesses in Delaware County are the backbone of our community and that if we want to see the recovery of our county as a whole it has to be on the heels of the recovery of our businesses,” said County Councilwoman Elaine Paul Schaefer.
Source: Delco Times; 5/5/2020

Chadds Ford polling location up in the air
Chadds Ford Township voters will not be voting at Calvary Chapel for the June 2 primary election, due to concerns about COVID-19. Township Supervisors' Vice Chairman Samantha Reiner said at the May 6 supervisors meeting that Delaware County is actively looking for a new facility for the primary. She noted the change is only for the June 2 election, and that Calvary is willing to be the township's polling place for the general election in November.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 5/6/2020

Radnor prepares for phased reopening of township building
Radnor Township has begun a phased reopening of the township’s administration building, with staff returning and limited public access. According to Township Manager Bill White, the primary reason Radnor decided to open its administration building was Gov. Tom Wolf’s order that construction companies could resume work on May 1. “That being the case, we need our codes and engineering departments to be ramped up and here in the building in order to respond and help those construction companies,” White said. Under revised safety protocols, the public will only be permitted in the lobby area and all department gates will be closed.
Source: Main Line Media News; 4/30/2020

Montgomery County

Upper Frederick to adopt 2015 IPMC
Upper Frederick Township supervisors intend to consider an ordinance amending Article II of Chapter 194 of the municipal code to repeal the current text, and to adopt the 2015 Edition of the International Property Maintenance Code. To view the ordinance, contact the township manager at 610-754-6436. A public hearing will be held during a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, May 14, at 7 p.m. The meeting will be held via teleconference. Click here for more information.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 4/30/2020

County municipalities offer tax relief
Montgomery County officials revealed a majority of the county’s 62 municipalities have accepted recommendations to extend deadlines for property tax payments or to remove late penalties during the COVID-19 pandemic. County officials have compiled a list of the municipalities (PDF). Some municipalities have not made any changes to their tax deadlines, including: Hatfield Borough, North Wales, Royersford and Telford. The county did not hear back from Rockledge Borough. Commissioner Joe Gale said if residents have additional questions, they should contact their local municipal tax collectors.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 4/30/2020

Pottsgrove School District looks to hold taxes steady
The Pottsgrove School Board voted unanimously to adopt a proposed final $68.7 million budget for the 2020-2021 school year that will maintain the tax rate at 38.102 mills. The preliminary budget projects a revenue loss of $1.6 million. The district has a combined total reserve of $12.4 million, according to the preliminary budget. The school board will face tough budget decisions for the coming year, including the possibility that revenues for the current year may drop off due to the pandemic's economic impacts, such as a reduction of local earned income taxes due to job losses. The school district will finalize the budget before June 30. Click here for Pottsgrove School District budget information.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 5/3/2020

MCPC website identifies local streets for recreation
With trails in the county being heavily used and social distancing measures being tested, the Montgomery County Planning Commission has created an interactive website to help residents find exercise opportunities in their neighborhoods. The site features an interactive map that highlights the thousands of miles of local streets throughout the county that are considered “low-stress” and can be used comfortably by bicyclists and pedestrians alike. Click here for the website.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 5/5/2020

Philadelphia

Advocates and city officials prepare for wave of evictions
With courts still closed because of the pandemic, legal evictions in Philadelphia are on hold. About 1,700 evictions were scheduled before the pandemic and thousands more are likely waiting to be filed. About 1,500 evictions are scheduled each month in Philadelphia, where almost half of residents are renters. Once courts reopen, housing advocates predict “an avalanche of evictions” if city officials don’t act. Policy recommendations include tenant access to legal resources and financial counseling, an eviction diversion program modeled off the city’s successful foreclosure prevention program, and stipulations that, if the city provides rental assistance, evictions be resolved in a way that protects tenants’ ability to find new housing. Those ideas come from the Reinvestment Fund, a Philadelphia-based redevelopment nonprofit that released a report last week based on conversations with tenants, landlords, and their attorneys, and the review of more than 2,000 agreements between landlords and tenants. Click here for the article.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 5/5/2020

Near record valuation for sale of Independence Blue Cross Tower
The owner of Independence Blue Cross’ Market Street headquarters tower has reached an agreement to sell the 801,000-square-foot office building for $360 million. At $450 a square foot, the price for 1901 Market St. would be among the highest paid for a Center City office building — last year the BNY Mellon Center at 1735 Market St. sold for $350 a square foot. In 2014, Comcast Corp. paid $463 a square foot to buy out the majority owner of its headquarters tower. The valuation is also less than the $648 a foot that the University of Pennsylvania Health System paid last year for the 800 Walnut St. medical tower.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 5/4/2020

 
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