NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
State sets school district tax increase limits for 2020-2021

Bucks County
County awarded $1.56M grant for lead abatement

Chester County
Parking, accessibility improvements coming to Parkesburg Train Station

Delaware County
Upper Darby raises taxes, trash and sewer fees

Montgomery County
Lower Salford plans for steady taxes

Philadelphia County
Tax-exempt property in Philadelphia has a total worth of $29.6 billion

 

News Briefs

 

General News

State sets Act 1 school district tax increase limits for 2020-2021
Pennsylvania school districts will be allowed to raise real estate taxes at a higher rate for the 2020-2021 school year than in recent years. The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) released the Act 1 indices for approximately 500 districts, which are used to determine the maximum tax increase percentage a district can levy. The 2020-2021 base index of 2.6% is the highest since 2.9% in 2010-2011. The base index is calculated by averaging the percent increases in the Pennsylvania statewide average weekly wage and the federal employment cost index for elementary/secondary schools. All districts have an index of at least the base of 2.6%, and some districts are higher. Districts have free rein to raise taxes any amount up to their index, but if a school board wants to raise taxes above its index, it must hold a referendum on the May election primary ballots or request referendum exceptions from the PDE. Expenditures that are eligible for exceptions include covering pension costs, special education costs or school construction debt. Filing for a referendum exception with the PDE does not automatically mean a district will raise taxes over its index. Created in 2006, the Act 1 index was signed into law to “ease the financial burden of homeownership by providing school districts the means to lower property taxes to homeowners” by way of gaming revenues.
Source: Daily Times; 10/3/2019

Hispanic population a growing economic influence in Pennsylvania
According to U.S. Census data, the Hispanic population in Pennsylvania in 2017 was nearly 875,000 — more than double the 2000 Census number of 394,000. Experts say the growing Hispanic population will have a profound impact on the future economic power of the state and its businesses. Norman Bristol Colon, executive director of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said the Hispanic population has helped keep Pennsylvania’s economy and politics important on a national level, providing more representation in the federal government and providing more workers for an aging population. While the median age of Pennsylvania’s population is 41, Bristol Colon said the state’s Hispanic population has a median age of 26 — and businesses would do well to pay close attention to the younger demographic as well as the purchasing power of the Hispanic community. The Urban Institute, a nonprofit policy research organization, has indicated that Hispanic people will comprise 56% of all new homebuyers by 2030. More than half of the state’s Hispanic population resides in the “222 corridor.” Easton, Bethlehem, Allentown, Reading, Lancaster, York, Lebanon, Harrisburg and Gettysburg all have growing Latino communities.
Source: Central Penn Business Journal; 9/27/2019

Are you signed up for Realtor® Party alerts?
Realtor® Party Mobile Alerts, NAR’s advocacy texting platform, offers Realtors® a way to stay connected directly from their cell phone or tablet. When a national or state legislative call for action is launched, subscribers get a short text message. There are more than 212,000 REALTOR Party Mobile Alert subscribers nationwide. Anyone that signs up for the alerts between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30 will be entered to win a $250 Amazon gift card. Signing up is easy, just text REALTOR to 30644 or go to www.realtorparty.realtor/rpma.
Source: Realtor Party; 10/1/2019

Bucks County

County awarded $1.56M grant for lead abatement
Bucks County was awarded a $1.56 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help launch a countywide program to abate lead in low-income homes. The Bucks County Office of Community and Economic Development will coordinate with the county’s housing services and health departments on a program that will focus on removing lead hazards in the homes of “low- and very low-income families with children.” In a press release, the county said there are more than 111,000 homes in Bucks built prior to 1978. Margaret McKevitt, director of the community and economic development office, said the county failed to win the grant last year, but strengthened this year’s application to reference federal opportunity zones in Bristol Township and Bristol Borough. HUD reports that they are providing $319 million in total funding for lead abatement across the country.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 10/3/2019

County loses bid to overturn $68M damage award
U.S. District Court Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued an order rejecting Bucks County’s petition to reconsider a nearly $68 million punitive damage award and a request for a new trial. In May a federal jury found Bucks County violated the state’s Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA) by disseminating confidential criminal history information and failing to remove outdated or inaccurate information for nearly 68,000 individuals who were processed at the county jail from 1938 to 2013. The law bars non-law-enforcement agencies, including county jails, from sharing criminal records with the public and imposes a mandatory penalty of $1,000 to $10,000 for each violation. The decision clears the way for the case to move to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where the appeal could take one to two years. Bucks County has disputed that it willfully violated CHRIA through “reckless disregard or indifference” to its legal obligation to protect confidential information and says the online tool was created to help victims identify the whereabouts of the defendants accused of crimes against them. The county’s insurance will not cover the award.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 10/8/2019

East Rockhill looks to hold the line on taxes
East Rockhill Township Manager Marianne Morano has been developing the township’s preliminary budget for 2020 and recently announced that municipal property taxes could remain the same next year. Township supervisors increased the property tax rate last year by about 20%. The increase, which amounted to about $80 more per year for the average property, was the first since 2015. Supervisors noted that the tax hike was to fund an ongoing legal battle with Rock Hill Quarry. Although the legal fight with the quarry is still an issue, supervisors and township officials believe a tax increase for 2020 is not necessary. The same may not be true for sewer rates after Pennridge Wastewater Treatment Authority approved a 2020 budget that includes an increase to its members. Morano said a sewer rate hike hasn’t been definitively determined, nor is it known what the possible increase may be. Visit the East Rockhill Township website for meeting information.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/3/2019

Bucks continues to weigh voting machine options as deadline looms
The Pennsylvania Department of State issued a mandate in April 2018 that all counties in the state replace their voting machines with ones that make paper copies of ballots. The new machines must be in place by the November 2020 election. The state department recently announced that nearly 75% of all counties have decided on new voting machines. Bucks County Commissioner Chair Robert Loughery said a vote to advertise a request for proposals was being developed but was uncertain if it would be ready for commissioner approval before the upcoming election. Officials have said the county has been constantly reviewing the issue since the mandate was issued, but several voting rights groups are concerned that the county won’t be taking bidding documents for new machines until after the Nov. 5 election.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 10/8/2019

Grand View Health announces $210M facilities expansion
Grand View Health recently announced a five-year, $210 million facilities expansion plan. Proposed improvements include a 170,000-square-foot, five-floor hospital expansion on Grand View’s existing Sellersville campus that will include a new emergency department, radiology suite, cardiac catheterization lab, operating rooms, intensive care and private inpatient rooms. Construction of a stand-alone cancer center is also planned in Sellersville. An outpatient center in Pennsburg will move to a new space in 2020, and construction of a new outpatient center is planned in Dublin for 2021. In July, Grand View announced construction plans for a new orthopedic center in Hatfield near the SEPTA Colmar Train Station. Grand View Hospital will be the first in Pennsylvania to receive accreditation as a geriatric emergency department, said Jane Ferry, chief medical officer for Grand View Health. Staff will receive specialized training to better diagnose and treat health issues in older patients. The expansion initiative will grow core services to patients in Montgomery and Upper Bucks counties.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/3/2019

Chester County 

Parking, accessibility improvements coming to Parkesburg Train Station
The Parkesburg Train Station will see significant parking, stormwater management and drainage, and accessibility upgrades thanks to a new agreement state Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19) brokered between PennDOT, Amtrak and Parkesburg Borough. “These improvements pave the way for the work ahead to upgrade the Parkesburg Train Station itself and strengthen its connection to the central business district,” said Dinniman. “Parking has always been a challenge at the Parkesburg Train Station, and severe flooding has only made the situation worse. This project aims to resolve those and other issues in advance of major station improvements that will provide an enhanced experience for commuters, rail riders and residents.” The plan calls for:

  • At least 100 additional parking spots. (The station currently has 43.)
  • Significant stormwater management and draining improvements to address flooding issues on Culvert Street.
  • LED lighting and safety upgrades, including a pedestrian walkway, on the Culvert Street rail underpass.
  • ADA-compliant pedestrian accessibility upgrades, including ramps to the westbound train and a new sidewalk on the Culvert Street underpass leading to the parking lot.
  • The repaving of Maple Avenue and other streetscape improvements.

The design work on the $2 million project is expected to take about 15 months, with construction beginning late next year. It will be funded by Act 89, Pennsylvania’s Comprehensive Transportation Funding Plan.
Source: Daily Local; 10/7/2019

Coatesville 4th Avenue Streetscape project starts soon
Work on the Coatesville 4th Avenue Streetscape project, including repaving, sidewalk and drainage upgrades, and other improvements, is slated to begin in two weeks. The project sets the stage for the street to become a gateway to the city in preparation for the new Coatesville Train Station. Last year, work was completed on the 3rd Avenue Streetscape Project. Design work on the new train station, viewed as a linchpin of the city’s revitalization, is now 75% complete. Work on the train station itself is set to begin next year and be completed in about two years.
Source: Daily Local; 10/7/2019

Downingtown Main Street Association dedicates the Armor Alley
The Armor Alley in Downingtown Borough was officially dedicated, marking the space’s transformation from an “eyesore” into a community gathering place. Developer Sarah Peck and designer Michael Wagoner were among those who helped transform an overgrown pocket park into a walkable area connecting to nearby restaurants and shops. Seating, electrical outlets and lights were added along with landscaping, and the space has become a venue for community events like concerts. The second phase of the revitalization effort involves connecting to the Mill Town Square shopping center and upgrading the walkway by placing pavers to match the park.
Source: Daily Local; 10/3/2019

Avondale to consider adoption of 2015 IPMC
Avondale Borough Council will consider the adoption of the 2015 International Property Maintenance Code. A public hearing will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 6 p.m. at Avondale Borough Hall, 110 Pomeroy Ave.
Source: Daily Local; 10/3/2019

Delaware County

Upper Darby raises taxes, trash and sewer fees
Upper Darby’s taxes, trash fees and sewer fees are all going up next year due to increasing costs. Mayor Thomas Micozzie presented the $82.3 million 2020 preliminary budget at township council’s regular meeting this week, noting the increase in real estate, trash and sewer fees. A homeowner with a $108,000 average assessment paying $2,262 this year will pay an additional $147, for a total of $2,309 next year. The proposed budget also includes increases for sewer rental from $205 to $215 and a trash collection fee increase from $190 to $235 per household. “The township administration and department leadership continually monitor township expenses and work to identify opportunities where we can tighten our belt,” Micozzie said. “However, my administration also understands that being cost-conscious can impact the level of services provided to our residents.” Micozzie noted the new start-up and permit fees implemented this year increased revenue. Public hearings on the budget will be Wednesdays, Nov. 6 and 13, with a vote on the final budget set for Wednesday, Dec. 4.
Source: Daily Times; 10/7/2019

Eddystone considers inspection requirement for commercial buildings
The Borough of Eddystone is considering the adoption of Ordinance 669, which would create regulations for commercial properties. Under the new ordinance, registration, inspection and licensing of commercial properties would be required. The ordinance will be considered for adoption on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. at Eddystone Firehouse, 1112 E. 7th St. Eddystone already requires the annual inspection and registration of rental properties.
Source: Daily Times; 10/6/2019

Eddystone considers adopting quality of life ordinance
Eddystone Borough will consider adoption of Ordinance 667, which creates a quality of life ticketing process in the borough. The ordinance will govern violations related to accumulation of rubbish or garbage, animal maintenance and waste clean-up, high weeds, nuisance vehicles, placement of indoor appliances and furniture outdoors, and snow and ice removal from sidewalks. The ordinance will be considered for adoption on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. at Eddystone Firehouse, 1112 E. 7th St.
Source: Daily Times; 10/6/2019

Delaware County allowed to threaten lawsuits against Sherwin-Williams over lead paint
A federal judge has declined Sherwin-Williams’ request to stop Delaware County officials from publicly threatening to sue the paint company to pay for lead paint removal. U.S. District Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted the county’s motion to dismiss Sherwin-Williams’ case seeking a declaration that the county’s statements on suing Sherwin-Williams violates the company’s First Amendment and due process rights. Sherwin-Williams claimed public filings, statements and media reports show that the county has either retained or is in the process of hiring lawyers to potentially sue Sherwin-Williams in multiple courts throughout Pennsylvania to pay for the inspection and abatement of lead paint in or on private housing and publicly-owned buildings and properties, according to Quiñones Alejandro. Delaware County has yet to actually file a lawsuit, Quiñones Alejandro said. Because Sherwin-Williams suffered no injury, the judge dismissed the case. Delaware County is represented by David Senoff of First Law Strategy Group. “This is the right decision on the law and for the taxpayers,” Senoff said in an email. “Lead paint impacts entire communities, and the cost of fixing the problems associated with lead paint should be borne by those who knowingly created the problem by marketing the paint as safe for children, not by the communities whose housing stock is contaminated.”
Source: The Legal Intelligencer; 10/7/2019

Montgomery County

Lower Salford plans for steady taxes
Lower Salford Township Manager Joe Czajkowski recently reported that no tax increase is anticipated in the 2020 budget, though the numbers are still preliminary. The current township property tax rate is 2.689 mills, with 2.034 mills for the general fund, 0.095 mills for the park fund, 0.33 mills for the library fund, 0.18 mills for the fire fund and 0.05 mills for the ambulance fund. In 2019, a home assessed at the township average of about $197,000 paid $530 in township property taxes. The board also decided to end special assessments for street lights and fire hydrants that only a small portion of residents pay. Board Chairman Doug Gifford said the existing assessment system for hydrants and street lights isn’t fair — a statement echoed by other members of the board. A formal vote will need to be taken before the change becomes official. Visit the township website for upcoming budget meeting information.
Source: Souderton Independent; 10/8/2019

Jenkintown posts 2020 budget workshop schedule
Jenkintown Borough will hold its annual public budget workshops beginning on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 6 p.m. The first budget workshop will concentrate on a preliminary review of the general fund. The second will focus on street lighting, fire protection and fire apparatus, and other topics as time permits. The final workshop will review all other funds and may circle back to the general fund. Click here for the full schedule.
Source: Jenkintown Borough; 10/4/2019

Grand View Health announces $210M facilities expansion
Grand View Health recently announced a five-year, $210 million facilities expansion plan. Proposed improvements include a 170,000-square-foot, five-floor hospital expansion on Grand View’s existing Sellersville campus that will include a new emergency department, radiology suite, cardiac catheterization lab, operating rooms, intensive care and private inpatient rooms. Construction of a stand-alone cancer center is also planned in Sellersville. An outpatient center in Pennsburg will move to a new space in 2020, and construction of a new outpatient center is planned in Dublin for 2021. In July, Grand View announced construction plans for a new orthopedic center in Hatfield near the SEPTA Colmar Train Station. Grand View Hospital will be the first in Pennsylvania to receive accreditation as a geriatric emergency department, said Jane Ferry, chief medical officer for Grand View Health. Staff will receive specialized training to better diagnose and treat health issues in older patients. The expansion initiative will grow core services to patients in Montgomery and Upper Bucks counties.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 10/3/2019

State Rep. DeLissio to discuss recreational cannabis at town hall
State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio (D-194) will host a town hall meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. in the Wolcoff Auditorium of the Roxborough Memorial Hospital, 5800 Ridge Ave., Philadelphia. The topic will be adult-use recreational cannabis. “There is no shortage of strong opinions on the topic of recreational cannabis,” said DeLissio. “Whether you are for or against the legalization of recreational marijuana, you are invited to join and participate in our conversation.” More information can be found at www.pahouse.com/DeLissio.
Source: Roxborough Review; 10/8/2019

Philadelphia

Tax-exempt property in Philadelphia has a total worth of $29.6 billion
Nearly 23,000 properties in Philadelphia are exempt from paying property taxes because they are owned by a nonprofit or government institution. According to a Philadelphia Inquirer analysis, the $29.6 billion value of all exempt properties accounts for 17% of the city’s total real estate value, and the combined tax breaks equal about $414 million annually. Adam Langley, who studies tax exemptions at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, said that it isn’t unusual for cities to have a high concentration of universities and hospitals that are exempt. Langley continued that what makes Philadelphia unique is that is does not seek “payment in lieu of taxes” (PILOT) agreements with its largest nonprofit institutions. PILOT programs have enabled other cities to recoup millions in extra revenue. Click here for the full article.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 9/30/2019

State Rep. DeLissio to discuss recreational cannabis at town hall
State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio (D-194) will host a town hall meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. in the Wolcoff Auditorium of the Roxborough Memorial Hospital, 5800 Ridge Ave., Philadelphia. The topic will be adult-use recreational cannabis. “There is no shortage of strong opinions on the topic of recreational cannabis,” said DeLissio. “Whether you are for or against the legalization of recreational marijuana, you are invited to join and participate in our conversation.” More information can be found at www.pahouse.com/DeLissio.
Source: Roxborough Review; 10/8/2019

City revokes business curfew, settles discrimination suit with Chinese restaurateurs
The City of Philadelphia will no longer enforce a 14-year-old ordinance that requires businesses on primarily residential streets to close at 11 p.m. A group of Chinese restaurant owners announced the settlement Friday in a federal discrimination suit against the city, claiming they were unfairly targeted by the law. Attorney Patricia Yan, with the New York-based Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), said a four-year study showed it was enforced not only selectively, but incorrectly. "A quarter of tickets were issued to Chinese restaurants that were not even subject to the ordinance," she added. "It was vague, confusing and discretionary, leading to not only overwhelming selective enforcement against Chinese Americans, but also an alarmingly high error rate."
Source: KYW 1060; 10/4/2019



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