NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Senate GOP halts fixes for Pa.’s troubled rent relief program, surprising even their own

Bucks County
Falls Township issues new U&O fact sheet, but process remains too burdensome

Chester County
Chester County initiative will support families and child care providers

Delaware County
Middletown to consider update to the comprehensive plan

Montgomery County
No tax hike in Upper Pottsgrove budget draft

Philadelphia County
City council proposes 1% construction tax, but also a delay in reducing property tax abatement

 

News Briefs

 

General News

Senate GOP halts fixes for Pa.’s troubled rent relief program, surprising even their own
Republican leaders in the state Senate on Wednesday blocked legislation to fix Pennsylvania’s ailing COVID-19 rent relief program that would have expanded financial relief to landlords and families on the financial brink. The move surprised even House Republicans, who had joined with Democrats in unanimous support of the bill that would have raised the $750 cap on monthly rents, reduced application paperwork and delayed the deadline to Nov. 13. By state law, the program’s funding must be distributed by the end of November. At the end of September, only $10 million of the $150 million in federal had been paid out, meaning the program may end with money left over, despite widespread need. Senate Republicans said recent changes made to the program by the governor “negated the need” for the legislation. Lawmakers in both parties, as well as tenant and landlord groups, disagreed. “We all thought everyone was in agreement,” said Rep. Sue Helm (R-104), the sponsor of the House bill and chair of the Urban Affairs Committee. “We were so hopeful that the bill would go through.” An estimated 15% of Pennsylvania renters will face eviction in January 2021, according to a study of census data commissioned by the National Council of State Housing Agencies. Read more at Spotlight PA.
Source: Spotlight PA; 10/22/2020

Supreme Court rules to stop census counts on Oct. 15
The U.S. Supreme Court ordered that the Census Bureau must stop all census counts by Oct. 15, ruling in favor of the Trump administration after weeks of ongoing litigation on this issue. In late September, many advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the Commerce Department seeking an injunction to prevent census counts from ending on Sept. 30. A California federal court granted the injunction and ordered the Commerce Department to continue counts through Oct. 31 and to disregard the Dec. 31 deadline for when the total enumeration is due to the president. The Trump administration appealed and filed an emergency request, asking the Supreme Court to rule on the issue. Per the Supreme Court decision, the Census Bureau accordingly ended counts on Oct. 15 and now must meet the Dec. 31 statutory deadline. There are many concerns regarding the accuracy and integrity of the data collected by the bureau given the time constraints and pandemic-related impacts to its field operations. The National Association of Realtors® supports the Census Deadline Extension Act, which is bipartisan legislation to extend the statutory deadline for when the Census Bureau must provide the total apportionment count to the president, Congress and states.
Source: Nar.realtor; 10/16/2020 

Realtors® believe fairness is worth fighting for
The National Association of Realtors’ new digital video spot for the 2020 consumer advertising campaign reminds consumers that when it comes to housing, Realtors® believe fairness is worth fighting for. Realtors® recognize the significance of the Fair Housing Act, and reconfirm their commitment to upholding fair housing law as well as to offering equal professional service to all people in their search for real property. NAR’s Fair Housing Action Plan, known as ACT, emphasizes accountability, culture change and training in order to ensure America’s 1.4 million Realtors® are doing everything possible to protect housing rights in America.
Source: Nar.realtor; 10/14/2020 

Cyber charter schools are growing, public districts are paying for it
Cyber charter schools, which draw students from across Pennsylvania, have seen enrollment spike amid the pandemic. The state’s 14 cyber charters reported 62,000 students — or 3.5% of total public school enrollment — as of Oct. 1, up from 38,000 the year prior, according to state education officials. In Pennsylvania, public school districts pay cyber charters the same amount of taxpayer money per child as brick-and-mortar charters, which districts say is unnecessary. Cyber charters consistently produce poor academic results, frustrating district leaders who see cybers as failing students while draining public school resources. A recent Moody’s Investor Service report warned the enrollment swells at cyber charters may pose a credit risk to Pennsylvania school districts, “because the resulting tuition outflows reduce their ability to maintain balanced financial operations.” The report noted that while districts lose funding when students leave for charters, that doesn’t always correlate to needing fewer teachers or having lower facilities costs.
Source: Inquirer; 10/19/2020

Bucks County

Falls Township issues new U&O fact sheet, but process remains too burdensome
Falls Township released a new fact sheet (PDF) for the use & occupancy (U&O) process. The document includes instructions for applying for a U&O permit, including how to submit documents and video. It provides inspection checklists for exterior, interior and electrical, and gives details on the three certifications required: heating system; heating and fireplace flues/chimneys/vents; and sewer lateral. “Falls Township has one of the most complex U&O inspection processes in southeastern Pennsylvania, which can lead to delays, higher costs and much frustration for Realtors and their clients,” said SRA CEO Jamie Ridge. “While clearer instructions for meeting these requirements is helpful, it doesn’t change the fact that Falls is placing too much burden on residents who want or need to sell their home in the township.” To view the new fact sheet and other U&O documents visit the Falls Township documents webpage

Middletown considers $5.8M budget wish list amid COVID revenue hit
Middletown Township supervisors heard $5.8 million worth of 2021 budget requests from department heads at a recent meeting. Among the items on the wish list were $1 million for road repaving, $575,000 for lighting upgrades and drainage improvements at Twin Oaks Park, $404,000 for new public works vehicles, and $291,000 for new police vehicles. Many of the requests were originally slated for 2020 but deferred due to the financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic. "Fortunately, the financial impact of COVID-19 on our township, while certainly significant, has not been as bad as we feared," Supervisors Chairman Mike Ksiazek said. "If the positive trends continue, most if not all of those deferred 2020 projects should find their way on to the 2021 capital plan.” Township Manager Teoli Kuhls said 2020 revenue will end up about $3.1 million short of what was budgeted, including $1.2 million in lost amusement tax from the Sesame Place. Township officials are looking to grants to cover some 2021 capital expenses. The supervisors will hold a budget workshop meeting on Monday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. For information on how to join virtually, check the township website on the day of the meeting.
Source: Courier Times; 10/13/2020 

Springfield to amend sewer pumping regulations
Springfield Township supervisors will consider a proposed ordinance amending the sewage management ordinance, Chapter 51 of the township municipal code. The ordinance would provide for certain limited exceptions to the three-year pumping requirement concerning on-lot sewage facility systems. The limited exceptions apply to the following properties: properties with no occupants; properties that become vacant; and properties where the principle structure is demolished. In addition, properties that have at least a 1,000-gallon tank and are not inhabited by more than two persons would have a five-year pumping period, instead of the current three-year period. A virtual public hearing on the proposed ordinance will be held Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m. The Zoom meeting ID is 833 5943 0950. People can also participate via telephone at 929-205-6099 using access code 1027. Public comments can be submitted to manager@springfieldbucks.org.
Source: Intelligencer; 10/20/2020 

Plumstead Township to consider omnibus zoning, land development amendment
Plumstead Township supervisors are considering a proposed omnibus zoning and subdivision and land development (SALDO) ordinance. The wide-ranging ordinance would: limit the number of chickens allowed on lots under three acres; amend setback requirements for solar arrays; provide a maximum duration of stays at hotels and inns; create a new Event Venue Use allowed as a conditional use on certain residential properties over 10 acres; prohibit detached garages from encroaching on required yards; require subdivision and land development applicants to provide a narrative relating to consistency of their plan with the township comprehensive plan; set minimum width and thickness of sidewalks; and make other changes. A marked-up version of the proposed ordinance can be found in the Oct. 13 supervisors meeting packet. The proposed ordinance will be considered during a virtual public hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 7:30 p.m. A registration link to participate in the hearing will be provided on the township’s website on Friday, Nov. 6. Public comments can be emailed to abenner@plumstead.gov.  
Source: Intelligencer; 10/20/2020 

Townships host budget meetings
Several municipalities will hold meetings to discuss next year’s budgets.

  • Durham Township supervisors will hold a special public meeting to discuss the 2021 budget on Monday, Nov. 2, at 9:30 a.m., at the municipal office, 215 Old Furnace Road.
  • Bridgeton Township supervisors will hold a special meeting to prepare the proposed 2021 budget on Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 6 p.m., at the municipal building, 1370 Bridgeton Hill Road, Upper Black Eddy.
  • Lower Makefield supervisors will hold a special virtual meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 6:30 p.m. for the presentation of the manager's 2021 recommended budget. Information on how to view and participate will be posted prior to the meeting on the township website.
  • Warwick Township supervisors will consider adoption of the draft 2021 budget at a hearing on Monday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. at the township building, 1733 Township Greene, Jamison. The proposed 2021 budget is available for review on the township website. Written comments may be sent no later than Nov. 9 to kseckinger@warwick-township.org.
  • The proposed 2021 budget for Nockamixon Township is available for inspection at the township building, 589 Lake Warren Road, Upper Black Eddy. The proposed budget will be presented for adoption at a public hearing during the regular supervisors meeting on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 7:30 p.m.

The Newtown Township Finance Committee will hold a special meeting on Saturday, Oct. 31, at 9:30 a.m. to discuss township finances and the 2021 budget. Pre-registration is required by Wednesday, Oct. 28, by emailing Olivia Kivenko at oliviak@newtownpa.gov.  

Chester County 

Chester County initiative will support families and child care providers
Chester County Commissioners announced two significant grant programs to provide financial relief both to families requiring childcare services and to childcare providers who have incurred costs related to COVID-19 protection measures. Funds totaling $10 million have been approved for childcare subsidies for low- and moderate-income families, and $5 million has been apportioned for childcare provider needs. “This fund will make a tremendous difference to families in Chester County who have had to find money to pay for childcare services that they may never have needed, were it not for COVID-19,” said Commissioners Chair Marian Moskowitz. Eligibility is open to families with children from birth to age 12. Children with disabilities may be eligible through age 21. The funding deadline is Dec. 30, or while funds last. For more information, visit the website of the Chester County Intermediate Unit, which is helping to disburse COVID-19 relief funding, or call 484-753-4305.
Source: Daily Local; 10/15/2020 

East Whiteland Township plans budget workshop
East Whiteland Township will hold a 2021 budget workshop on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 9 a.m. at the municipal building, 209 Conestoga Road, Frazer. Masks must be worn and temperatures will be checked before admittance to the building. Limited seating is available due to social distancing. In August, township supervisors discussed the possibility of hiring a full-time code enforcement officer for property maintenance issues. Currently, those duties are the responsibility of the zoning officer. East Whiteland Township enforces the 2009 International Property Maintenance Code, which regulates the upkeep and maintenance of the exterior and interior of the properties, so basic livability and safety standards are met. The system of enforcement is complaint-driven, but the township intends to make property maintenance a priority.
Source: Daily Local News; 10/18/2020 and East Whiteland Township; 10/14/2020 and 8/12/2020 

East Marlborough partners with agency to enhance water quality
East Marlborough Township supervisors unanimously approved a program to achieve water quality compliance mandates from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The township has entered into a public-private partnership with the Revolving Water Fund, subject to DEP approval. “The Revolving Water Fund allows the township to cost-effectively incorporate green infrastructure solutions, such as agricultural buffers and terraces, alongside engineered solutions such as stormwater basins, to better address the full spectrum of water quality issues in our community,” said Cuyler Walker, a member of the township’s planning commission and environmental advisory council.
Source: Daily Local; 10/16/2020 

Coatesville budget meetings
The City of Coatesville will hold a special meeting and 2021 budget workshop on Thursday, Oct. 29, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be live streamed on YouTube.
Source: Daily Local; 10/15/2020 

West Fallowfield budget meetings
West Fallowfield Township supervisors will meet on Mondays, Oct. 26, Nov. 9 and Nov. 23, at 3:30 p.m. in the township meeting room, 3095 Limestone Road, Cochranville, to prepare the 2021 budgets.
Source: Daily Local; 10/15/2020

Upper Oxford Township budget meeting
The Upper Oxford Township Board of Supervisors will hold a work session on Monday, Oct. 26, at 6 p.m. at the township building, 1185 Limestone Road, Russellville, to begin preparation of the 2021 budget.
Source: Daily Local;10/15/2020

Delaware County

Middletown to consider update to the comprehensive plan
Middletown Township Council will hold a public hearing to consider an update to its comprehensive plan, which will assess township conditions, provide short and long-range development goals, and recommend actions to achieve those goals. The council is expected to take on the plan after the public hearing. The hearing will be held virtually via Zoom on Monday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. Relevant documents are posted on the township website.
Source: Daily Times; 10/16/2020 

Gift card program helps small businesses in Haverford
The Haverford Partnership for Economic Development (HPED) has a community-based digital gift card to help small businesses. Starting Nov. 1, residents can purchase the “Discover Haverford Keep it Local” gift card, which shoppers can send with a personal message to family and friends via email, text or hardcopy. The card is good at 20 participating merchants in Haverford Township. Jeanne Angell, executive director of HPED, said, “Residents want our businesses to survive this difficult time. My hope is that every township resident purchases one or more ‘Keep it Local’ gift cards during this holiday season, which could quickly infuse over a million dollars into the community.” To learn more about cards, visit the Discover Haverford website.
Source: Daily Times; 10/20/2020

Upper Darby School District faces resistance on building plans
Upper Darby Superintendent Dr. Daniel McGarry recently told the school board that the challenges of re-opening schools in person have been made more difficult by the limits of the district’s outdated school buildings, and that some members of the community are making it worse with their resistance to school improvements. The district intends to invest $5 million each year in improvements to ease overcrowding and has secured a $30 million low-interest bond at 2% for 30 years. However, McGarry said the projects and the low interest rate are threatened by community resistance and misinformation. The bond would support the Aronimink Elementary School expansion and renovation project, which a small number of nearby residents have contested in the courts. McGarry said the delay will most likely necessitate that the school district rebid the project, potentially raising its cost. The second project facing resistance is the new middle school planned for the Clifton athletic field. School district officials said Clifton Heights officials are using ordinances passed after the district submitted its plans to deny the district the ability to build the middle school on district property. Borough leaders have said the proposed school project is the largest in the history of the borough and will increase the daily population by 20% and add more than 1,000 daily vehicle trips to a highly populated neighborhood, increasing the need for borough resources like police protection.
Source: Daily Times; 10/20/2020 

Delaware County finalizes 32 ballot box locations
The Delaware County Bureau of Elections has finalized the list of 32 ballot drop box locations in municipalities across the county. Each of the boxes are open and accepting ballots from Delaware County residents as of Tuesday, Oct. 20. Each of the ballot drop boxes is safely secured in place, locked and sealed, and under constant video surveillance. Completed ballots will be retrieved daily by county election personnel. The list of locations is available on the Delco Votes website. The Delaware County Election Hotline (610-891-VOTE) is available weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Hotline staff can answer questions about the upcoming election, including voter registration, mail-in ballots, vote-by-mail applications, polling place locations, ballot boxes, and deadlines.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 10/21/2020

Montgomery County

No tax hike in Upper Pottsgrove budget draft
The Upper Pottsgrove Township Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a draft $3.6 million 2021 budget that does not raise taxes. If left unchanged, the tax rate would remain at 4 mills — 3.4 mills for the general fund and 0.6 mills for the fire tax — marking the ninth budget in 10 years that does not raise taxes. Despite cuts to expenses, the proposed budget includes a deficit in the general fund, the sewer fund and the liquid fuels fund. Commissioners Chairman Trace Slinkerd said there are adequate reserves to cover the deficits and noted that the township's pension funds are in better shape than they were the year before. Commissioner Martin Schreiber said the board was "cowardly" and lacked "transparency" in its move to reduce the township’s contribution to Pottstown Regional Public Library.
Source: Mercury; 10/21/2020 

Montco prothonotary opens landlord/tenant office to handle eviction appeals
Montgomery County Noah Marlier has opened a satellite office with the specific purpose of assisting residents with landlord/tenant appeals. As most filers and litigants — including renters and landlords — are still restricted from entering the county courthouse due to pandemic restrictions, Marlier said his office needed to increase access to landlords and tenants for filing of appeals. The special office opened this week in One Montgomery Plaza, 425 Swede St., Norristown, across the street from the Montgomery County Courthouse. “It was so important to open this office, as we have seen an increase in the last few weeks in landlord-tenant appeals from local district judges. This increase came just weeks after the moratorium on evictions here in Pennsylvania was lifted,” said Marlier, explaining between 23,000 and 47,000 county households could face eviction. “We are facing an eviction crisis and potentially a homelessness crisis. Tens of thousands of residents, right here in Montgomery County, could be facing eviction in the coming months.” The Prothonotary’s Landlord/Tenant Office will be open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information about the resources available regarding landlord/tenant appeals and supplemental eviction instructions, residents can visit the prothonotary website or contact the office at 610-278-3361.
Source: Mercury; 10/21/2020 

Aqua PA gets $3.9M in state funds for PFAS treatment in Montgomery County
Aqua Pennsylvania Inc. is getting a $3.9 million state-funded loan for equipment related to ongoing PFAS chemical remediation in Montgomery County. The loan comes through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST). Part of a statewide effort, the project in Montgomery County includes upgrading a chemical treatment system and installing other equipment to address "potential health hazards in the raw water supply" testing under a federal limit for the unregulated chemicals. The contamination of local water supplies by hazardous PFAS chemicals has been linked to firefighting foams used for decades at nearby former and active military bases.
Source: Courier Times; 10/21/2020 

Bridge, trail extension projects coming together in Royersford
The effort to restore a former railroad bridge into a link between Royersford and the Schuylkill River Trail has received a $428,000 boost from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The state funding will be used for the development of the trail, including rehabilitation of the Royersford Trestle Bridge, ADA access, landscaping, project signage and other related site improvements. The 1919 bridge is approximately 1,020 feet long and requires extensive repairs. According to Royersford Borough Council President Anil Dham, more than $1.5 million has been received for the project, which will connect walkers, bikers and runners to the Schuylkill River Trail and downtown Royersford. Work is expected to begin next year. Dham noted other projects are underway to make Royersford more walkable, including signal improvements and a trail extension from the boat dock on 1st Avenue and Arch Street to the borough line.
Source: Mercury; 10/20/2020 

Hatboro hosts budget workshop
Hatboro Borough Council will hold a special budget workshop on Monday, Nov. 2, at 6 p.m. to discuss the 2021 operating budget. Members of the public wishing to listen/participate in the virtual meeting should visit the borough website for instructions.
Source: Intelligencer; 10/16/2020 

Upper Providence to host budget workshops
Upper Providence Township supervisors will hold public meeting workshops to review the 2021 preliminary budget on Monday, Oct. 26, and Thursday, Oct. 29, both at 6 p.m. The preliminary budget presentation by the township manager to the supervisors will be held Monday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m., after which time it will be available for review on the township website. The supervisors have scheduled a final adoption vote for Monday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m. The public is invited to attend all meetings and workshops, and to comment on the proposed budget. Public attendance at the meetings and workshops will be via a virtual meeting platform. For more information, visit the Upper Providence website.
Source: Mercury; 10/17/2020

Philadelphia

City council proposes 1% construction tax, but also a delay in reducing property tax abatement
Philadelphia City Council will once again consider changes to the 10-year tax abatement and a 1% tax on construction. The dynamics have shifted this year: the council has become more progressive; the coronavirus pandemic set off an economic crisis and strained the city budget; and council and Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration are working to confront systemic racism and help poor communities of color. The changes increase the sense of urgency on all sides of some of the toughest policy battles in recent years and set up a fight over whether the city can increase revenue and fight poverty without suffocating the construction industry. City council members introduced legislation to delay planned reductions to the 10-year tax abatement until 2024, along with a bill that would implement a 1% tax on construction to fund affordable-housing programs. Some construction-industry leaders said that pairing the two bills represents a trade-off they can support, and Council President Darrell L. Clarke said Kenney supports the plan. But progressive activists and council members are likely to fight delays to the abatement reduction. Clarke, who sponsored the construction-tax bill, projects that it would generate at least $20 million annually to fund a $400 million bond for affordable housing, eviction prevention, rental assistance, investments in neighborhood commercial corridors and other programs. The changes, which are currently set to take effect in January, would offer a 100% tax break on new residential properties for the first year after construction is complete, followed by a 10% decrease in the benefit for each of the following nine years. Councilmember Bobby Henon introduced the bill that would move implementation to 2024.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 10/15/2020

 
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