NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Fannie, Freddie loan limits announced for 2021; NAR urges access to safe, affordable financing

Bucks County
Weeks left for Bucks COVID-19 Mortgage Assistance Program

Chester County
Chester County Recorder’s office temporarily closed, but services continue

Delaware County
Recorder of Deeds system disrupted by hack

Montgomery County
SEPTA maintains commitment to King of Prussia Rail project

Philadelphia County
Philly is set to create a new construction tax and cut a big property tax break

 

News Briefs Archive November 9, 2020

 

General News

Tax headaches could hit firms and employees who work from home
Because of the pandemic, many businesses have sent employees home to work. Depending on how long such practices continue, employers and employees may be facing some local tax problems. For employees, it’s about the length of time they’ve been working from home and where their company is located. Pennsylvania and New Jersey have reciprocity agreements that eliminate wage sourcing issues, meaning they will not additionally tax the wages of a resident of the other state. Although guidance has been limited, Cynthia Ragan, a certified public accountant and tax manager at Isdaner & Company in Bala Cynwyd, assumes that the states are going to “want their money” from residents. “You can probably get credits and refunds,” she says. “But I don’t think most people are going to know what to do.” Speaking of refunds, there is some good news for nonresident employees of Philadelphia companies who were paying the full wage tax but who have been mostly working from home outside of the city. According to Ragan, those employees could apply to the city for a refund of those taxes, as long as their employers approve. Read more here.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/27/2020 

State paid out $29.8 billion in unemployment benefits
Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak said the department has paid out about $29.8 billion in unemployment benefits since the COVID-19 began to spread in March. Thousands of Pennsylvanians found themselves suddenly jobless, laid off or temporarily furloughed because of the crisis and Gov. Wolf’s stay-at-home order. Department of Labor staff have communicated with about 3 million Pennsylvanians through email, phone calls and online chats. For months after the pandemic set in, the department was the focus of frustration and complaints. Many across the state reported waiting weeks or even months to receive their payments, and claimed reaching someone at the department was next to impossible. The department has increased the size of its staff to 2,022, making it 160% bigger than it was pre-pandemic. As a result, 97% of claims have either been paid or deemed ineligible to receive payment.
Source: Daily Local; 10/28/2020 

Low-income energy assistance applications now available
The application process is now open for Pennsylvania's annual Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps low-income residents stay warm and safe during the winter. Assistance is available for renters and homeowners. The application period ends April 9. The minimum cash benefit that can be received is $200, and the maximum is $1,000. The crisis maximum — the benefit for people who meet the poverty limits and are in jeopardy of their heating utility service being terminated — has been raised to $800, from last year’s $600. The income limit for the program is 150% of the federal poverty limit. For a household of three, this would be $32,580 gross income per year. For a household of four, it would be $39,300. Pennsylvanians do not need to know their eligibility in order to apply. Those who applied and were denied previously but have experienced a change in circumstances can reapply. Pennsylvanians can apply for LIHEAP and other public assistance programs on the state website. Those who prefer to submit paper applications can print from the website or request an application by phone at 1-800-692-7462.
Source: Times Herald; 10/30/2020

Bucks County

New grant will cover delinquent mortgages related to COVID-19
Credit Counseling Center has received a grant from the Bucks County Department of Housing and Community Development to help individuals and families who are struggling with mortgage payments because of the pandemic. The grant will support the center’s foreclosure counseling program, which helps people who meet eligibility requirements to pay delinquent mortgage amounts. Contact the Credit Counseling Center at 215-348-8003 for more information about the program or for other housing-related assistance. The center also released a new publication, “COVID-19 Guide for Personal Financial Relief & Recovery,” which outlines available resources.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/29/2020 

Billion-dollar development plans unveiled in Falls
Industrial developer NorthPoint Development recently unveiled its plans for the bulk of the massive U.S. Steel site in Falls Township. NorthPoint plans to purchase about 1,800 acres of the U.S. Steel site and Keystone Industrial Port Complex, which includes the deep-water international port and terminal operated by Kinder Morgan. Called the Keystone Trade Center, large portions of the site would be turned into logistic facilities with the potential to add 5,000 to 10,000 jobs and 15 million square feet of new warehouse space.  The developer plans to come before Falls Township in the coming weeks with a plan for several buildings totaling 1.5 million square feet, with more plans in the works for the future. Jed Momot, chief strategy officer for the firm, said their vision is to “create a Class-A industrial park and completely redevelop what is out there today.” Total development cost is expected to be about $1.5 billion.
Source: LevittownNow.com; 10/28/2020 

Warminster replaces township manager
Warminster supervisors held a special meeting to replace Township Manager Gregg Schuster. It was not immediately clear if Schuster resigned or was fired. The supervisors cited “uncontrolled deficit spending” over the past four years that have led to a dire financial situation for the township. The supervisors appointed William J. McCauley III as interim township manager. McCauley was formerly the manager of Bristol Township and had been hired by Warminster earlier this year to review the township’s budget in an effort to cut the township millage rate from 19 to 14 mills.
Source: Warminster Patch; 10/30/2020 

Food pantry is open in Tullytown
With many food pantries closed during the pandemic, Mary’s Cupboard in Tullytown wants to get the word out about its services. The pantry is open Mondays from 1 to 3:30 p.m., and Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Clients must make an appointment by calling 215-949-1991 during office hours. Click here for more information.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 10/28/2020

Chester County 

Proposed Chester County 2021 budget includes tax increase
A preliminary 2021 budget for Chester County government includes a possible real estate tax increase to address deficits caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as requests for additional library and parks funding. The $604.3 million budget — including $513.2 million in operating expenses and $91.1 million in capital costs — suggests a 4.2% millage increase from the current 4.369 up to 4.551. According to figures provided by Julie Bookheimer, the county’s chief financial officer, the proposed rate would equal a $734 tax bill on an average single-family home with a market value of $357,000. Bookheimer said the need for additional revenue for the county parks department is due to a drop in revenue from Hibernia Park rental income, as well as a decrease in the amount the county collects through the regional hotel tax, both caused by the coronavirus pandemic restrictions and totaling about $700,000. The budget does anticipate a bit of belt-tightening, including the loss of 133 county employee positions because of attrition and vacancies, and $502,000 reduction in salaries because of retirements and adjustments. The county also has allocated $400,000 in direct costs because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which accounts for building cleaning and mitigation efforts not covered by the federal CARES Act funding.
Source: Daily Local; 10/28/2020 

West Chester BID looks to the future
West Chester Borough Council unanimously endorsed the five-year plan of the West Chester Business Improvement District (BID), which calls for a safe, clean and green downtown that is sustainable for future generations. “Our goal is to increase our marketing budget to drive more customers to our town and to increase the funding for events, beautification efforts and artwork to help add to the ambience of West Chester,” said John O’Brien, BID executive director. “Our commercial property owners pay into the BID each year through the annual assessment, and they deserve to see value in their investment.” The council is expected to vote to reauthorize the BID at its December meeting. Some of the goals in BID’s five-year plan are:

  • Place new bike racks in the district.
  • Place murals throughout the district and expand the banner program.
  • Install cages to protect small street trees.
  • Add information kiosks at locations like Chestnut Street Garage, so visitors can find shops and restaurants.
  • Consider having members of community service programs pick up trash. Possibly add new trash cans and dress up Big Belly cans not already decoratively wrapped. Add cigarette butt receptacles.

Visit the BID website for more information.
Source: Daily Local; 10/25/2020 

New Garden community considers St. Anthony’s property plans
New Garden Township is working to create a new community park at the 137-acre St. Anthony’s in the Hills property, which township supervisors agreed to purchase in December 2018 for $1.5 million. Township Manager Ramsey Reiner said 660 people responded to an opinion survey on the future of the property. Reiner said the survey results showed the most support for adding for public use an amphitheater, a pool or a miniature golf course. There is already a miniature golf course, swimming pool, large amphitheater, many picnic pavilions and other amenities in disrepair on-site. The renovation will require significant investment to rehabilitate the property for public use. New Garden has hired a team of consultants to review the landscape, provide recommendations regarding the feasibility of rehabilitating key features, and develop a master plan for the property as a public park. Reiner said the master plan for the park likely will be done in 2021. For more information, visit the township website.
Source: Daily Local; 10/26/2020 

Uwchlan Township to consider comprehensive plan
Uwchlan supervisors will hold a public hearing on the township’s comprehensive plan and official map, drafts of which are available by contacting the township office. The virtual hearing will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. All residents and taxpayers in attendance will have an opportunity to address the board of supervisors at no cost. Anyone who is permitted to become a party to the hearing may do so by completing an appearance form supplied by the board and paying a $20 fee.
Source: Daily Local; 10/27/2020 

East Nottingham drafts budget
The proposed 2021 budget for East Nottingham Township is available for inspection at the township office, 158 Election Road, Oxford, Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., or by calling township secretary Kelli Karlton for an appointment at 610-932-8494.
Source: Daily Local; 10/27/2020

Delaware County

Prospect Park to consider earned income tax
Prospect Park Borough Council will consider adopting an ordinance establishing a 1% tax on all earned income and net profits earned by residents and nonresidents starting in 2021. The tax would provide revenue for capital and operational funding for services, such as police and fire safety, emergency services vehicles, equipment, sewer construction and maintenance, repaving of streets, personnel, and materials. The tax would generate an estimated $750,000 in annual revenue. The ordinance will be considered at a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 7:30 p.m. at the municipal building, located at 720 Maryland Avenue.
Source: Daily Times; 10/27/2020 

Delco Strong offers third round of grants to assist businesses
Delco Strong 3 grant applications went live on Nov. 2. The first phase of the county grant program saw 1,252 businesses and 73 nonprofit organizations receive almost $14 million in grants using funds provided by the federal CARES Act. In the second round, 770 businesses who applied in the first round received a $1.9 million boost to their initial funding. Businesses and nonprofits are now able to apply for a third round of funding on the Delco Strong website. Businesses stand to gain up to $20,000 in assistance and must apply by Friday, Nov. 6, at 5 p.m. Nonprofit organizations can receive up to $50,000 and must submit their applications by Friday, Nov. 13, at 5 p.m. Up to $3.5 million is expected to be distributed in the third round. Eligible businesses must have a physical location in Delaware County and cannot have revenues exceeding $9 million annually. They must be able to demonstrate income loss related to the pandemic. Delco Strong funds can be used to cover capital costs impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions and can also be used for the purchase of items needed to operate a business safely, such as masks, barriers and signage. They cannot be used for the owner’s salary. 
Source: Daily Times; 10/30/2020

Upper Darby budget presentation
Upper Darby’s proposed budget for 2021 is available on the township website, along with a video recording of a recent township council budget presentation.
Source: Upper Darby; 10/14/2020

Citizen Corps to hold virtual training on Nov. 12
The Citizen Corps of Delaware County (CCDC) will hold a training session on Thursday, Nov. 12, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. via the Microsoft Teams virtual platform. The mission of CCDC is to provide education, training and volunteer opportunities to engage all citizens in making the community safer, stronger, and better prepared for emergencies and disasters. The CCDC works to improve preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery efforts for circumstances including threats of terrorism, crime, public health emergencies, and natural, man-made and technological disasters. View the event flyer (PDF) for more information on the training seminar.
Source: Delcopa.gov; 10/28/2020 

Aston to recodify ordinances
The Aston Township Board of Commissioners will consider an ordinance to recodify existing ordinances. The public hearing will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. in the Aston Township Municipal Building, 5021 Pennell Road.
Source: Daily Times; 11/3/2020

Montgomery County

North Wales draft budget includes tax increase
The first draft of the 2021 budget for North Wales Borough includes a proposed tax increase that would be the first increase in four years. The draft plan proposes a 0.25-mill increase for the general fund and another 0.25-mill increase for the debt service fund. The general fund increase would be used to keep up with rising personnel costs and flat revenue growth. The debt service increase would be used to pay back $2 million of borrowing approved in September to address projects in the town’s North Wales 2040 Comprehensive Plan (PDF). The proposed increase to the current 5.001 mill tax rate would amount to an additional $40 to $60 on the average assessed property valued at $120,000, according to Borough Manager Christine Hart. The first draft of the budget will be updated as incomplete data is refined. Another discussion is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 10, with a possible vote for public advertisement on Nov. 24 and final adoption on Dec. 8, or Dec. 22 if necessary. Visit the North Wales Borough website for meeting information.
Source: The Reporter; 11/2/2020 

Montco debuts first online sheriff’s sale in the state
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office conducted the first-ever online sheriff’s sale in Pennsylvania. According to Sheriff Sean Kilkenny, the online sale attracted a wider pool of real estate investors interested in purchasing and renovating foreclosed properties in the county, with the overall participation rate about 10 times that of a conventional sheriff’s sale. The sales rate quadrupled, according to Bid4Assets, the online auction site that ran the sale for the county. “We have been honored to work with Montgomery County to pioneer Pennsylvania’s first online sheriff’s sale,” said Bid4Assets CEO Jesse Loomis. “Together we kept bidders and attorneys safely at home, while dramatically increasing the number of participants and third-party sales, all at no cost to the county.”
Source: The Reporter; 11/2/2020 

Upper Frederick comprehensive plan hearing rescheduled for Nov. 12
Upper Frederick Township supervisors will hold a public hearing on the proposed comprehensive plan update on Thursday, Nov. 12, at 7:15 p.m. The manner in which the hearing will be held, and the way that the public can participate, will be posted on the Upper Frederick Township website. The comprehensive plan update addresses the following topics: introduction and history; resource protection; parks, recreation and open space; land use; economic development; housing; community infrastructure; transportation; evaluation of county and abutting municipal plans; and implementation. A complete copy of the comprehensive plan update is available for inspection at the township building, 3205 Big Road, Obelisk.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 10/30/2020 

Mask up in Narberth
Narberth Borough Council passed a new ordinance that mandates mask-wearing in certain public settings. Face masks are required in business districts and on any borough-owned property, such as parks. The ordinance specifies that it does not apply to private dwellings, interactions between relatives living in the same home, or portions of businesses or locations with no public interaction. The ordinance also includes several mask mandate exceptions, including for people inside a personal vehicle, people with a disability or medical or mental health condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, children under two years of age, and anyone with religious beliefs that prevent them from wearing masks. Individuals not in compliance with the mask ordinance will receive a verbal warning for the first offense and $15 fines each time afterward. People responsible for a business who fail to comply will also receive a warning for the first offense, a $50 fine for a second offense and $100 fines for any additional violations. The ordinance takes effect immediately and will remain in place until the borough council terminates it.
Source: Main Line Suburban Life; 10/22/2020

Philadelphia

Callowhill GoPuff site relocated
The GoPuff food-delivery service has boomed over the past three years in Philadelphia, however the staging site in the Callowhill area of north Philadelphia annoyed neighbors with traffic and late-night noise. GoPuff recently announced it will close the hub and GoBeer center on North 12th Street between Hamilton and Noble streets, but it has not announced the new location. The shift comes as GoPuff’s home delivery service has continued to expand nationally and become one of the most richly valued companies in Philadelphia. GoPuff delivers many items of a convenience store to homes for a $1.95 fee plus tips. In the Philadelphia area, that includes La Colombe coffee, Federal Donuts, beer, cleaning agents, over-the-counter drugs, groceries and baby products. Staging sites include University City (at 38th and Chestnut, facing Penn president Amy Gutmann’s official residence) as well as centers in Port Richmond, Somerton, Queen Village, Manayunk, Germantown and West Chester, as well as in Newark, Delaware, and Cherry Hill, among others.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 11/3/2020

 

 
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