NEWS BRIEFS

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General News
Letter to the Editor: Is Mortgage-Interest Deduction the Best Way?

Bucks County
Centennial eyes 3.09 percent tax increase 

Chester County
Grants available for farmland preservation 

Delaware County
First State National Historical Park poised to expand 

Montgomery County
Proposed building projects advance in Norristown 

Philadelphia County
Council proposal would allow property tax debt deferral 
 

 



 

News Briefs

 

General News

Letter to the Editor: Is Mortgage-Interest Deduction the Best Way?
Regarding the Wall Street Journal’s editorial “Houses of Lobbyists” (May 6): Buying a home isn’t the only way to build a nest egg, but middle-class families can’t get a $200,000 bank loan to invest in stocks. They can, however, get a loan to buy a house. Unfortunately, eviscerating the mortgage-interest deduction (MID) would undermine households that have taken this step. Household ownership in real estate currently stands at $23.1 trillion, and even a 5% drop in home values could destroy $1 trillion in household wealth. What’s more, the National Association of Realtors commissioned research that examines a tax system like the one the Journal promotes. The research found that homeowners with household income between $50,000 and $200,000 would see an average tax increase of $815 immediately following enactment. The MID supports the middle class. On average 70% of homeowners with a mortgage claim this deduction, and 90% of all mortgage interest paid gets deducted, according to the National Association of Home Builders. The deduction has been around for generations in part because homeownership is essential to wealth-building. Today, the net worth of average homeowners far outpaces that of non-owners, and a home represents millions of families’ largest asset. That sounds like a “productive” investment to us, and it’s worth defending.
Source: Nar.realtor; 5/17/2017         

PA Realtors® recognized for lifetime RPAC investments
Three Pennsylvania Realtors® were inducted into NAR’s Realtors® Political Action Committee Hall of Fame during NAR’s Realtors® Legislative Meetings in Washington, D.C. last week. Kit Anstey (SWRA), Dominic Cardone (SWRA) and Bob Ramagli (BCAR) are new inductees who were honored for making lifetime investments of more than $25,000 to RPAC. For a full list of RPAC Hall of Fame members by state, click here.
Source: PARJustListed; 5/22/2017

Alliance office closed May 29
The Suburban Realtors Alliance will be closed Monday, May 29, in observance of Memorial Day. Members seeking assistance are encouraged to use the Suburban REALTORS Alliance website.

Bucks County

Centennial eyes 3.09 percent tax increase
The Centennial School Board approved a proposed 2017-18 final budget at its May 2 meeting. The $115.2 million spending plan includes a 3.09 percent tax increase. If finalized, the owner of a home assessed at the district average of $26,400 would see a $105 tax increase. The district millage rate would rise from 132.7 mills to 136.7 mills, with a mill equal to $1 in tax for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. Centennial applied for exceptions from the state that would allow a property tax increase over the 2.5 percent Act 1 index. Exceptions allow school districts to surpass the state mandated Act 1 index for reasons that include special education and pension contribution costs. The budget is scheduled to be finalized at a June 13 meeting. Visit the Centennial School District website here.
Source: Montgomery News; 5/18/2017

New Britain Township to consider zoning changes
New Britain Township supervisors will consider zoning ordinance amendments at a public hearing to be held during the regular meeting on Monday, June 5, at 7 p.m. at the New Britain Township Municipal Building, 207 Park Avenue. Among other items, the ordinance proposes: revising occupancy requirements; revising regulations for development signs and exempt signs; revising C.O. requirements; and revising references to building coverage and impervious surface requirements. Copies of the full text of the zoning amendment are available for inspection at the township building, the Intelligencer newspaper offices or the Bucks County Law Library during normal business hours. The Alliance has reviewed the ordinance amendment. Visit www.newbritaintownship.org for up-to-date meeting information.
Source: The Intelligencer; 5/8/2017

No tax increase proposed in Pennridge
The proposed 2017-18 Pennridge School District budget does not include a tax increase. The $133 million spending plan will be balanced with revenues of $132.7 million and $337,654 from the district’s fund balance. If passed, it will be the third time in seven years that the district will have not raised taxes. The proposed millage rate remains at 135.2555, so a property assessed at the district average of $30,769 would expect a property tax bill of $4,161. The budget is scheduled to be finalized at a June 19 meeting. Copies of the proposed budget and details for the upcoming meeting are available on the district website.
Source: Perkasie News-Herald; 5/22/2017 

Council Rock mulls elementary closure choices
At a recent Master Capital Planning Committee meeting, Council Rock School District Superintendent Robert Fraser recommended the closure of either Wrightstown or Rolling Hills Elementary School, and the expansion of other schools that would absorb the displaced students. Closing either school without the classroom additions is not viable because Council Rock’s other elementary schools do not have the available classroom space to absorb students from a closed school, Fraser said. Meetings to discuss and gather public input on possible school closures are scheduled for June 5 at Wrightstown Elementary, June 6 at Richboro Elementary, and June 7 at Rolling Hills Elementary. School board members could reach a consensus by the final meeting of the Master Capital Planning Committee, scheduled for June 12. Meeting information, presentations and information from the committee’s meetings can be viewed on the school district website at www.crsd.org.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 5/23/2017

Chester County 

Grants available for farmland preservation
Chester County Agricultural Land Preservation Board is accepting applications for two competitive programs funded by the Chester County Commissioners: the Commonwealth/County Program and the Chester County Challenge Grant Program. Both programs offer funds to qualifying Chester County farm owners who are interested in preserving their farms. The county pays farm owners for their development rights in exchange for a permanent agricultural conservation easement on their land. To date, 460 farms totaling 37,270 acres have been preserved in Chester County through these programs. “Even if land is enrolled in an Agricultural Security Area (ASA) or Act 319 (Clean and Green), farmers are still eligible to receive additional funds to preserve their farms. Farmers still own the land and can sell it or pass it on to the next generation as long as it remains in agriculture,” said Bill Gladden, Director of Chester County’s Department of Open Space Preservation. Farms with 10 acres or more are eligible for both programs if they are adjacent to other permanently preserved land. For farms not adjacent to permanently preserved land, the acreage minimums are 50 acres for the Commonwealth/County Program and 25 acres for the Challenge Grant Program. The application deadline for both programs is Tuesday, Aug. 1. For more information, including applications and program guidelines, visit www.chesco.org/openspace or call Geoff Shellington at 610-344-6504.
Source: Daily Local; 5/22/2017 

Taxes up 1 percent for Oxford schools
Oxford Area residents will see a 1 percent increase when their property tax bills arrive in a few weeks. At its May 16 meeting, the Oxford Area School Board unanimously approved the final 2017-18 budget in the amount of $68.5 million. The new tax rate will be 31.1484 mills. For property owners who are eligible for the homestead/farmstead tax reduction, the maximum credit on this year’s bill will be $270.37. Money for this reduction is given to the school districts by the state, out of a fund derived from gambling tax proceeds. The Oxford Area School District has 5,629 eligible homesteads and 186 farmsteads.
Source: Daily Local; 5/22/2017 

Chester Water Authority board rejects $250M offer from Aqua
The board of the Chester Water Authority unanimously rejected an acquisition offer from Aqua America Thursday while approving a study to determine if the sale of the system would be in the best interest of its 42,000 customers. On May 8, the board received an unsolicited, hand-delivered eight-page letter from Aqua that outlined its proposal to purchase the authority’s 656 miles of pipeline and customer base for a net of $250 million. Chester Water Authority serves more than 42,000 customers in parts of Delaware and Chester counties and the city of Chester. Aqua America serves about 3 million people in eight states and has become the second largest publicly traded American water company. The Chester Water Authority agreed to do an analysis of potential sale and its impact on customers within the next 60 to 90 days.
Source: Daily Times; 5/19/2017 

Housing Partnership of Chester County gets $100K in funding
State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19th) announced that the Housing Partnership of Chester County (HPCC) will receive $100,000 in state funding to provide home access modifications to residents in need. “These funds can go a long way in helping those with disabilities make accessibility and mobility improvements in their homes,” Dinniman said. The funds, which come through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Keystone Communities Program, are designed to encourage the creation of partnerships between the public and private sectors, support local initiatives that grow and stabilize neighborhoods and communities, ensure social and economic diversity, and enhance the overall quality of life for residents. In Chester County, the funds will support HPCC’s Home Modification Program, which provides assistance to low- and moderate-income residents with disabilities in making their current homes more accessible. The program, which is open to eligible renters and homeowners, assists with a wide range of adaptive modifications and upgrades, including ramps, lifts, widening of doors and hallways, kitchen and bathroom modifications, visual doorbells, audio phones and visual phone signalers.
Source: Daily Local; 5/22/2017 

No tax hike proposed in Spring-Ford
The Spring-Ford School Board recently reviewed the proposed 2017-18 budget of $157.7 million, which calls for no change in the tax rate. The district anticipates an estimated $151 million in revenue, leaving a budget deficit of approximately $6 million. According to Chief Financial Officer James Fink, the district will close the gap with a fund balance appropriation of $4 million, an $860,000 transfer of committed retirement funds from reserve and approximately $1.5 million from reserves. If approved, this would be the first time in over 15 years that there has not been a tax increase in Spring-Ford Area School District. The budget is scheduled to be adopted at a June 26 meeting. Click here for budget information.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 5/22/2017

Delaware County

First State National Historical Park poised to expand
Opened four years ago, First State National Historical Park is already poised to expand, thanks to land-preservation tax incentives and deals with the heirs of two deep-rooted Brandywine Valley industrial families. The park is comprised of colonial sites in four Delaware towns. Its largest property spans 1,100 acres of woodlands and creek-side meadows east of Brandywine Creek in Chadds Ford Township, Pa., and the Brandywine Hundred area of Delaware. The planned expansion will add 270 acres on Beaver Valley Road by Concord Township. In 2013, Mt. Cuba Center, a nonprofit botanical garden, paid $20.8 million to Woodlawn Trustees for the 1,100 acres, or around $19,000 an acre. In the current deal, Mt. Cuba Center and its partners will pay more than $29,000 per acre.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 5/15/2017 

Chester Water Authority board rejects $250M offer from Aqua
The board of the Chester Water Authority unanimously rejected an acquisition offer from Aqua America Thursday while approving a study to determine if the sale of the system would be in the best interest of its 42,000 customers. On May 8, the board received an unsolicited, hand-delivered eight-page letter from Aqua that outlined its proposal to purchase the authority’s 656 miles of pipeline and customer base for a net of $250 million. Chester Water Authority serves more than 42,000 customers in parts of Delaware and Chester counties and the city of Chester. Aqua America serves about 3 million people in eight states and has become the second largest publicly traded American water company. The Chester Water Authority agreed to do an analysis of potential sale and its impact on customers within the next 60 to 90 days.
Source: Daily Times; 5/19/2017

Rose Tree Media’s new budget raises taxes almost 3 percent
After considering the comments of more the 500 homeowners who attended the taxpayer forums, Rose Tree Media School Board members approved the 2017-2108 proposed final budget of $95.9 million and a corresponding 2.98 percent tax hike. The increase will set the new rate at 25.1 mills. Based on the average assessment of $208,300 for homes within the district, the typical tax bill will be $5,227, or an additional $173. The homestead exclusion for those who qualify will provide an anticipated $220 property tax reduction. The proposed increase represents the district’s Act 1 index of 2.5 percent, as set by the state, and an additional .48 retirement referendum exception. The board had not previously made a request for an exception since the 2008-2009 budget, when taxes were raised 4.8 percent.
Source: Daily Times; 5/22/2017

Haverford schools budget hikes taxes 2.5 percent
Haverford School District directors voted unanimously at a recent meeting to adopt a $117.6 million proposed final budget, touting the 2.5 percent tax rate increase it contains as “the lowest increase in many years.” Slated for final adoption on June 1, the budget would raise rates from 30.2964 mills to 31.0538 mills, adding an additional $2.2 million in revenue. For the average residential property assessment of $165,000, taxes would increase $125. The 2.5 percent increase complies with this year’s Act 1 index and does not require exceptions.
Source: Daily Times; 5/19/2017

Montgomery County

Proposed building projects advance in Norristown
New development was the main topic at a recent Norristown Municipal Council meeting. Representatives for three proposed projects sought approval for resolutions to allow their projects to move forward. Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution granting preliminary/final land development approval to developer David Sereny for a building at 219 and 221 W. Main St., which has been vacant for more than a decade. The project would renovate the existing structure into nine upscale apartments and two store-fronts. The second project was a request from Progressive Housing Ventures for the preliminary land development of 34 townhouses at 1529 DeKalb St. Council voted in favor of the land development approval and will review two requests for waivers regarding an aerial view of the site and top soil removal. The third item approved was a local economic revitalization tax assistance (LERTA) application submitted by Elon Development Co. for the first phase of the Montgomery Park Senior Housing complex. That project will be located at the former Montgomery Hospital site and will feature 50 units of affordable senior housing.
Source: Times Herald; 5/22/2017 

Lower Merion revisits recreation space ordinance
About ten years ago, Lower Merion passed an ordinance mandating that any developer who constructs a multi-family housing project with more than three units either had to set aside 15 percent of the space for recreation space for its residents or pay a one-time fee of $2,500 per unit to the township. Township officials have revisited the ordinance because they say some developers are violating the spirit of the law. Instead of the outdoor recreation facilities the township defined, developers are claiming facilities like gyms that would have been included anyway. As a result, Lower Merion officials added language to the ordinance that “clarifies that it’s land and not an area inside the building – not gyms, card rooms, yoga areas,” said Chris Leswing, assistant director for planning in the township. A new section of the ordinance was also added that says the recreational facilities must be in addition to facilities already required by the township, and they must be outdoors and not under a roof. The commissioners unanimously voted to approve the updated ordinance.
Source: Main Line Times; 5/21/2017 

‘Conversations with Commissioners’ town hall meetings scheduled
Montgomery County commissioners are going on the road with their annual “Conversations with Commissioners” town hall meetings. Constituents are encouraged to attend one of the events to discuss issues important in their communities. Meeting dates are: Tuesday, May 30, in Conshohocken; Wednesday, May 31, in Ambler; Monday, June 5, in Pennsburg; and Monday, June 12, in Pottstown. All meetings begin at 7 p.m. Click here for the full schedule and locations.
Source: Montgomery County Commissioners e-mail; 5/22/2017 

No tax hike proposed in Spring-Ford
The Spring-Ford School Board recently reviewed the proposed 2017-18 budget of $157.7 million, which calls for no change in the tax rate. The district anticipates an estimated $151 million in revenue, leaving a budget deficit of approximately $6 million. According to Chief Financial Officer James Fink, the district will close the gap with a fund balance appropriation of $4 million, an $860,000 transfer of committed retirement funds from reserve and approximately $1.5 million from reserves. If approved, this would be the first time in over 15 years that there has not been a tax increase in Spring-Ford Area School District. The budget is scheduled to be adopted at the June 26 meeting. Click here for budget information.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 5/22/2017

Philadelphia

Council proposal would allow property tax debt deferral
City Council President Darrell L. Clarke has proposed a plan that would give Philadelphia homeowners at risk of foreclosure over past-due property taxes a break. Clarke said the city has grown too aggressive in foreclosing on residents, pointing to a 1,200 percent increase in foreclosure petitions filed by the city from 2010 to 2016. The Tax Foreclosure Diversion Program would provide homeowners at risk of foreclosure over past-due property taxes free housing counseling and debt deferment. Mike Dunn, a spokesman for Mayor Jim Kenney, said the city’s Revenue Department takes seriously its “responsibility to protect the vulnerable of our population.” He said the city offers payment plans for overdue taxes starting at $25 per month and provides information about housing counselors to residents who are delinquent. According to data compiled by Clarke’s office, the city sent 813 tax foreclosure petitions in 2010, about 4,500 in 2012, about 12,400 in 2014, and around 10,600 in each of the past two years. Mayor Kenney’s office, which was not included in the drafting of Clarke’s proposal, said there was a substantial tax-amnesty program in 2010 that contributed to few foreclosure petitions being filed that year.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 5/19/2017 

Development boom results in loss of public parking
Places to park in Philadelphia are dwindling as garages and lots are being developed for other uses. Parking in Philadelphia has historically been scarce, and the problem is poised to get much worse as the city’s development boom continues. The issue is on the radar of businesses and organizations where this development is concentrated. Between 2010 and 2016, there was a loss of 3,623 spaces, according to a parking inventory report compiled by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. In the two years since that report was completed, more than 1,700 additional parking spots have disappeared. It is projected that over the next five years, the city’s inventory of 46,400 spaces will drop by another 10 percent as additional projects come out of the ground.
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 5/19/2017 



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