NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

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 November 5, 2018

 

General News

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6
The 2018 general election is Tuesday, Nov. 6. The Pennsylvania Realtors® Political Action Committee (RPAC) is engaged in numerous state legislative races and recently launched an Election Guide where you can see which candidates RPAC is supporting in your legislative districts. For more information about voting, visit www.votespa.com 

How much does it cost — or save — workers to commute across state lines?
More than 324,000 people who live in Delaware, Pennsylvania or New Jersey work in one of the two other states. The Philadelphia Inquirer did an overview of when and why it costs workers extra tax dollars to work across state lines — and who might save money with an interstate commute. Those who travel into Delaware pay the most, while high-income Pennsylvanians who work in New Jersey are getting a deal by avoiding the Garden State's income tax. Pennsylvania and New Jersey have had a reciprocal agreement since 1977, when both states agreed that they would not charge income tax to workers who commuted from the other state. The arrangement is advantageous to high-income Pennsylvanians who work in New Jersey and middle-class New Jersey residents who work in Pennsylvania. It affects nearly 250,000 people; about 125,000 Pennsylvania residents work in New Jersey, and almost the same number of New Jersey residents work in Pennsylvania, according to U.S. Census data. Read more here.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/29/2018

Bucks County

Quarry litigation may increase taxes in East Rockhill
At a recent work session, East Rockhill Township Manager Marianne Morano told the board of supervisors that continuing litigation over the Rockhill Quarry may lead to a tax increase in 2019. The draft version of the budget shows $115,000 budgeted for legal fees and no tax increase, but the budgeted amount is expected to only cover the fees through March. If the case continues, as is likely, East Rockhill’s legal expenses are expected to exceed $300,000. Morano reported that the township had budgeted $38,000 for legal fees for 2018 and has spent a total of $116,000 through the end of September. The 2018 budget was completed before the quarry battle began. The current property tax rate in East Rockhill is 10.235 mills, with a home assessed at the township average of $40,000 paying a $409 municipal property tax bill. If the township’s legal fees increase to the projected $300,000, Morano said it would take a 3 mill tax increase to cover the fees, amounting to about $120 more in taxes for the average homeowner.
Source: The Reporter; 10/30/2018 

Lower Makefield to update property maintenance code
The Lower Makefield Township Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing during its meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the township building, 1100 Edgewood Road, Yardley, to consider for enactment an ordinance which enacts the 2018 International Property Maintenance Code. The ordinance would repeal and replace Chapter 153 of the municipal code pertaining to the property maintenance code version. Furthermore, the ordinance repeals chapters 87 (Building Construction), 101 (Electrical Standards), 104 (Energy Conservation), and 132 (Mechanical Standards) in light of obsolescence pursuant to the township’s prior adoption of Pennsylvania’s Uniform Construction Code. The full text of the proposed ordinance may be examined at the township building during normal business hours.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 10/29/2018 

No tax increase in Nockamixon
Nockamixon Township supervisors authorized the 2019 budget to be advertised for public hearing. If passed without change, it will mark the ninth consecutive year without a tax increase for the township. Treasurer Keith DeLuca said that there is little change in the 2019 budget and that the real estate tax rate remains at 6 mills. The proposed budget is available for public inspection at the Nockamixon Township Building, located at 589 Lake Warren Road in Upper Black Eddy, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The proposed 2019 budget will be presented for adoption at a public hearing during the regularly scheduled meeting of the Nockamixon Township Board of Supervisors on Thursday, Dec. 20, at 7:30 p.m.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/25/2018 

New Hope approves Cintra Mansion development
New Hope Borough Council has approved development plans for the Cintra Mansion across from New Hope-Solebury High School. The final land development application for the mansion at 181 W. Bridge St. includes three buildings to be constructed on the property with a total of 29 living units. The amended plan includes a cottage for use as an outdoor recreation space for the residential units, with the upper floors of the mansion retained. The original ice house will be used as a community cabana. The plan also includes open-air carport-style parking for 58 vehicles.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/25/2018 

Check out Silverdale Borough’s fall newsletter
Silverdale Borough’s fall 2018 newsletter is ready to view. The issue includes dates of community events, a guide to what can and can’t be poured down the drain, recycling information, leaf removal schedules and other information. Visit the borough website to see the newsletter.
Source: Borough of Silverdale; 10/23/2018

Chester County 

Chester County keeping taxes level
Chester County announced that the 2019 preliminary budget includes no increase in county real estate taxes and keeps the level of service in county departments — including human services, public safety and the courts — at approximately the same level as this year. “This was a struggle going through,” county Chief Financial Officer Julie Bookheimer told the audience at the commissioners’ sunshine work session. “But overall the tax rate will not be going up, and that looks good for the county.” Bookheimer said that under the county’s proposed budget, the general fund would increase to $475.9 million, up from $471 million. The total budget would rise to $539 million, including a steady $63.4 million capital budget. Taxes, paid for by county property owners, would stay stable at 4.369 mills, with the median county property owner paying about $731, an increase over 2018 rates of $1.71, Bookheimer said. A mill is worth $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. The proposed budget will be presented to the public at an open session scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 7 p.m. Tentative adoption of the budget by the commissioners is set for Wednesday, Dec. 12.
Source: Daily Local; 10/31/2018 

Chester Valley Trail West meeting scheduled
The Chester County Planning Commission will conduct a public meeting about the Chester Valley Trail West study on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at Gateway Church, 160 Cowan Road, Parkesburg. There will be an open house from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. where attendees can view and comment on materials from the plan, and at 7:30 p.m. the planning commission will present the highlights of its draft plan and recommendations. The goal of the project is to connect the Chester Valley Trail with the future 29-mile multi-use Enola Low Grade Trail located just outside of Atglen in Lancaster County. Register for the meeting here. Find more information about the plan here.
Source: Chester County Planning Commission; 10/23/2018 

East Whiteland to consider changes to EIT
East Whiteland Township intends to increase the Earned Income Tax from its current rate of half of 1 percent (0.50%) to three-quarters of 1 percent (0.75%) for township residents and nonresidents working in the township. The proposed increase is necessary for general revenue purposes, including funding essential services, operating and capital expenditures, wages, benefits, pensions, retirement health costs, and debt service costs. The township estimates that approximately $2.78 million in revenue will be derived from the Earned Income Tax, as increased, for the 2019 tax year. The board of supervisors will consider an ordinance with these tax changes on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. at the East Whiteland Township Municipal Building located at 209 Conestoga Road, Frazer.
Source: Daily Local; 10/17/2018 

Atglen to discuss comprehensive plan and revitalization
Atglen Borough will hold an informational meeting for the public on the Atglen Borough Comprehensive and Revitalization Plan. The plan is the borough’s blueprint for the future, containing maps and plans that depict borough-wide resources, areas, landscapes and land use plans. Borough council may adopt the plan by resolution immediately after the meeting. The public hearing will take place on Monday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. in Borough Hall, 120 Main St., Atglen.
Source: Daily Local; 10/19/2018 

West Chester looks to increase EIT
West Chester Borough Council will consider adopting an ordinance raising the earned income tax rate for borough residents from 1 percent to 1.25 percent. Borough council intends to increase the tax rate in order to raise revenue to assist in reducing the borough’s unfunded pension liability. The amount of revenue estimated to be derived from this tax for fiscal year 2019 is approximately $1.67 million.  The council will consider the adoption of this ordinance on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m. at the Borough of West Chester’s temporary administrative offices located at 829 Paoli Pike, West Chester.
Source: Daily Local; 10/24/2018

Delaware County

Radnor’s 2019 draft budget avoids tax hike
Radnor Township officials presented the suggested 2019 budget that shows $34.5 million in revenue and a $340,000 deficit. Township Manager Robert Zienkowski and William White, finance director, said a real estate tax increase will not be needed to close the gap. However, there will be a 10 percent sewer rent fee increase, which the board of commissioners had voted for in 2017 with staggered annual increases for three years starting in 2018. While the sewer fee is going up, much work is still needed on the aging township sanitary sewer system, and the township board of commissioners will need to decide how to fund the fixes needed for that infrastructure, White said. At a previous meeting, the commissioners nixed the idea of selling the sewer system to an outside entity. The stormwater fee will also remain unchanged. There will be a hearing on Monday, Nov. 19, to iron out details before the scheduled budget adoption on Monday, Dec. 10.
Source: Daily Times; 10/29/2018 

Upper Darby to hold budget meeting
Upper Darby Township Council will review the 2019 budget at two public meetings in November. The meetings will take place after the regular meetings at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, Nov. 7 and 14, in the Council Meeting Room #202, 100 Garrett Road.
Source: Daily Times; 10/24/2018 

Valleybrook group to pay $31K in disabled complaint
The Village of Valleybrook Homeowners Association in Chester Heights will pay more than $31,000 to settle claims that it violated disability provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act by failing to install handicapped parking spaces for four residents, according to a release from the Housing Equality Center of Pennsylvania. “A housing provider’s refusal to allow reasonable accommodations can have a significant effect on the lives of people with disabilities,” said HECP Executive Director Rachel Wentworth in the release. “The denial of an individual’s rights to a reserved handicapped parking space can result in increased day-to-day physical pain and worsening of the symptoms of their disabilities as they are forced to walk longer distances. A reserved parking space is a relatively simple accommodation to provide and courts have established that it is the housing provider’s responsibility to bear the cost of installing a reserved parking space as a reasonable accommodation.” The Chester Heights community has admitted no wrongdoing, but did sign a conciliation agreement resolving the housing discrimination complaints with a roughly $31,000 payment to the four residents and HECP to cover a portion of the costs of litigating the matter, according to the release. Wentworth said the parking spaces residents sought were also provided under the agreement. One of the complainants, who asked to remain anonymous, urged others in similar situations to stand up for their rights in the release. “Fair housing and disability rights are important tenets of our society and they must be respected and upheld,” the resident said.
Source: Daily Times; 10/27/2018 

Penn Medicine breaks ground on $200M Radnor facility
Penn Medicine recently broke ground on a state-of-the-art, four-story, 250,000-square-foot multispecialty outpatient facility in Radnor that will expand options for patients to receive advanced care close to home. Set to open in spring 2020, the site will be home to the new Penn Medicine Radnor, replacing its current facility in the township which has operated since 1997 on King of Prussia Road. The new location will provide comprehensive cancer care, including newly available radiation oncology services and chemotherapy provided by the Abramson Cancer Center, as well as primary care, heart and vascular, orthopedic and neuroscience care. Additional services will include same-day surgery, with six operating rooms and four endoscopy suites, along with full radiology and laboratory services. Patients will also have access to cutting-edge Penn Medicine clinical trials, expanding access to more patients without having to travel into Philadelphia. Officials also announced that Brandywine Realty Trust has entered into an agreement with University of Pennsylvania Health System to purchase and serve as the designated developer and manager of two premier sites in Radnor where the new outpatient facility will take shape — 145 King of Prussia Road and 250 King of Prussia Road. Brandywine will transform the buildings — including adding new office space and a hotel — and will serve as the development manager of the medical office building.
Source: Daily Times; 10/31/2018

Montgomery County

Pottstown water rates up 5 percent for the next three years
The Pottstown Borough Authority Board voted unanimously to increase water rates about 5 percent each year for the next three years. In 2019, the quarterly base rate for borough customers will increase from $41 to $43, and for customers in outlying Montgomery County townships from $43 to $45 per quarter. The base rate is the fee that is paid for water service no matter how much water is used. An additional usage rate is applied to the actual water usage as read by water meters. Pottstown Finance Director Janice Lee reported that the usage or consumption fee will be raised by 15 cents which will bring the usage rate from $3.05 to $3.20 for every 748 gallons of water used. Additionally, the authority will impose identical increases to the water rates, both base and usage, for 2020 and 2021. The revenue from the increased rates will go directly into the authority’s capital improvement fund for improving the water system.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 10/18/2018 

Hatfield passes backyard beekeeping ordinance
Hatfield Borough Council recently voted to approve an ordinance regulating backyard beekeeping. The unanimous decision ended a summer-long dispute over a borough resident who maintained 14 beehives on his property. Neighbors close to the property began complaining to Hatfield Borough in early summer about stings and swarms of bees. The approved ordinance limits the number of hives on borough properties to two per 2,000 square feet; requires beekeepers to register their hives annually; requires seasonal access to food and water supplies for the bees; and gives borough staff the right to inspect wherever bees, wax or hives are stored. Any violation of the ordinance comes with a $1,000 fine. The borough resident will be permitted to maintain eight hives on his property and has the option to put additional hives on other properties, with the written consent of the property owner.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/18/2018 

North Penn approves borrowing $10M for school renovations
The North Penn School Board unanimously approved a $10 million bond to fund renovations to Knapp Elementary School. Knapp has been on the board’s radar since the fall of 2016 when parents from Knapp, Gwyn Nor and Oak Park elementary schools raised concerns about high temperatures due to lack of air conditioning in the buildings. Air conditioning was installed at Gwyn Nor and Oak Park, but Knapp was not included in that bid due to larger issues with the building. District staff and the school board are planning a special facilities forum on Tuesday, Nov. 13, to give the public an update on upcoming capital projects including Knapp. Visit www.NPenn.org for up-to-date meeting agendas and materials.
Source: The Reporter; 10/30/2018 

Whitpain to amend peddling and soliciting regulations
The Whitpain Township Board of Supervisors will consider an ordinance amending Chapter 110 of the township code, Peddling and Soliciting. The supervisors will hold a public hearing during their regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 7, after 8 p.m. at the Whitpain Township Building, 960 Wentz Road, Blue Bell. The amendments include: changing the hours of permitted peddling to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; prohibiting peddling at properties with a “No Solicitors” sign; and creating a list of residences in the township who wish to prohibit peddling. A copy of the full text of the ordinance is available at the township building during normal business hours.
Source: Times Herald; 10/29/2018

Philadelphia

After reassessment, Philadelphia tax appeals hit five-year high
Months after the city issued new assessments to homeowners that will lead to sizable tax hikes for many, 7,700 property owners have filed appeals of their 2019 market values. The number of appeals filed to the city's Board of Revision of Taxes is the largest since 2014, when the city implemented a new system of assessing properties at their actual market value. An even larger number of homeowners — more than 20,000 — filed informal appeals this year, nearly quadrupling the number of such requests received last year. And more than half of those 20,000 owners had not received the result of the so-called first-level reviews by Oct. 1, the deadline for filing an official appeal to the Board of Revision of Taxes. The spike in review and appeal filings comes after the city released new market values for all of its 461,000 residential properties, increasing the median assessment of single-family homes by 10.5 percent. The updated values drew criticism from homeowners — many of whom received substantial increases and wondered how they would afford their tax bills — and city council members, who rejected Mayor Kenney's proposal for a property tax increase. City council also hired a Massachusetts-based firm to audit the Office of Property Assessment; that work is expected to be completed in the coming weeks. Unlike other counties in Pennsylvania, reassessments in Philadelphia do not need to be revenue-neutral, which allows the city to earn more revenue as property assessments increase. Assuming perfect tax collections, the city and school district would receive an additional $191 million in property levies as a result of the residential reassessment, as well as expiring 10-year tax abatements, new construction and other factors, according to an Inquirer and Daily News analysis of property records.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/30/2018 

City releases decades of property records
Philadelphia released a data set that puts all recent property transaction records in one searchable place. The new tool is searchable by address and searchers can find the types of documents associated with a property, as well as the name of the person or group that granted a document, the name of the grantees, the monetary values associated with the property, and the dates of the transactions. The data set currently goes back to 1999 and includes 3.7 million records. The data has its limits — full deed information or any other document still must be viewed at City Hall or through an online subscription from the city’s records department’s PhilaDox service. Click here to view the new tool.
Source: Curbed Philadelphia; 10/26/2018

Council considers property tax freeze for more seniors
A bill brought forward by City Council President Darrell Clarke and Council Member Kenyatta Johnson proposes amending a current city program that freezes property tax increases for homeowners over the age of 65. The current program applies only to single people who make less than $23,500 a year and couples who make less than $31,500 a year. The proposed bill would increase the caps to $27,500 and $35,500, respectively. “Expanding the senior property tax freeze program also will help older residents to age in place, helping them preserve what might be the most valuable asset they own, which they may then sell or pass down to family as they wish,” Johnson said in a statement.
Source: Curbed Philadelphia; 10/26/2018

 


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