NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Aqua Pennsylvania raises water, sewage rates

Bucks County
Falls moves forward with township building renovation project

Chester County
Coventry Mall changes coming, but details are sketchy

Delaware County
Ridley schools budget proposal expands full-day kindergarten to all elementaries

Montgomery County
Main Line Health shares preliminary plans for St. Charles Borromeo Seminary site

Philadelphia County
Philadelphia controller releases map of 2023 tax assessments

 

News Briefs

General News

Aqua Pennsylvania raises water, sewage rates
Rates for 440,000 Aqua Pennsylvania water customers are set to go up about 10% this week, according to an order posted by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Rates for Aqua’s 40,000 wastewater customers will go up about 51% or more. The precise impact on Aqua customers is not known because the company, a subsidiary of Essential Utilities Inc., has not yet filed its formal tariff that spells out new charges for various rate zones across Pennsylvania. Aqua is required to post the new tariff at least one day ahead of implementing it. A typical Aqua residential customer using 4,000 gallons a month currently pays about $69 for water and $55 for wastewater. Most Aqua customers receive only water service. Read more here.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 5/17/2022

Worried about rising PECO natural gas rates? PUC wants to hear from you
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) will hold two hearings in June to gather public input on a proposed rate increase by PECO’s gas division, which provides natural gas distribution service to approximately 543,000 customers in southeastern Pennsylvania. Under the proposed rate increase, the total average monthly bill of a residential customer using 80 Ccf of natural gas per month would increase from $95.31 to $107.70 (13%). The two hearings will be held via telephone on Wednesday, June 1, at 1 and 6 p.m. People who wish to testify must register with the Office of Consumer Advocate by Friday, May 27, at 3 p.m. For information on how to listen in or register to testify, visit the PUC website.
Source: Daily Times; 5/11/2022

Public database significantly undercounts former drug labs in Pa
The only online federal database that allows people to see whether their home or property was contaminated with toxic chemicals used to make drugs like methamphetamine significantly undercounts the number of sites in Pennsylvania, according to data obtained by Spotlight PA. Similar reporting discrepancies exist in neighboring states, but Pennsylvania is one of several states that do not have laws or guidelines outlining how contaminated properties should be cleaned or when they are safe to live in, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Pennsylvania also does not require sellers or landlords to disclose a former drug lab or dump site to future buyers or tenants. A free public database maintained by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration lists addresses for 51 former drug labs or dump sites in Pennsylvania from 2017 to 2021. Most of those incidents involved meth production, but some labs may have been for other synthetic drugs. However, Pennsylvania State Police records indicate much higher numbers. Read the full story here.
Source: Spotlight PA; 5/12/2022

Bucks County

Falls moves forward with township building renovation project
Falls Township supervisors unanimously approved advertising a request for proposals for architectural services for the renovation of the 60,000-square-foot municipal building. Architectural services include pre-design, schematic design, design development, construction documentation, construction administration and inspections to complete a multi-story facility within the footprint of the existing building. The goal of the renovation is to make the building more suitable for municipal and office functions. Falls supervisors had considered a new municipal complex in 2017, but the price tag was too high. Upgrades to the municipal campus are expected to reach completion by 2024.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 5/12/2022

Yardley seeks bids to elevate three houses
Yardley Borough Council recently voted to advertise for bids on elevating three homes to keep them safe from flooding. Two are on Brown Street and the other is on North Delaware Avenue. The estimated $675,000 cost of the elevations will be covered with a $2 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Borough Manager Paula Johnson said. These will be the first three of eight elevations to be done using the grant money. Homeowners will have to pay for some minor building code items not covered by the grant. It is expected that a contract for the work on the three homes should be awarded sometime this year.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 5/12/2022

Lower Makefield announces special meetings on use of sewer sale proceeds
Lower Makefield supervisors voted to hold special meetings to discuss and take public comment on how to use the net proceeds from the township’s $53 million sale of its sewer system to Aqua Pennsylvania. After paying off major debt on the sewer system and the township-owned Makefield Highlands Golf Club and some other obligations from the sale proceeds, the township is expected to net slightly less than $21 million, Township Manager Kurt Ferguson has said. The meetings will be held on Tuesday, May 31, and Thursday, June 9, both at 7 p.m. Residents can attend one or both meetings in person at the township building, 1100 Edgewood Road, or remotely via Zoom.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 5/12/2022

Third round of Bucks Built Startup Fund opens
Early-stage start-up companies have until June 13 to apply for funding in the Bucks Built Startup Fund’s third round. Funded by the Bucks County Industrial Development Authority and administered in partnership with nonprofit Startup Bucks, the fund will award five promising early-stage startups $25,000 investments. This is the first of two rounds planned for 2022, with $250,000 in funds being awarded annually. Each selected startup receives 12 months of partnered advising, resources, connections and programming from the Bucks Built team and Startup Bucks community, focused on enabling growth and securing follow-on funding. See the full press release here.
Source: Bucks County; 5/11/2022

Officials plan recreational future in Lower Makefield
A broad and detailed study of Lower Makefield Township’s recreational future was presented at the May 4 supervisors meeting. The Play for All presentation was provided by recreational consultant Ann Toole. Toole’s report, tentatively scheduled for adoption in June, outlines a 10-year plan to increase parks and recreation facilities and recreational programming for township residents of all ages. Among her many recommendations are connecting the existing bicycle and walking trails, expanding the community center on Oxford Valley Road, making improvements at Macclesfield Park on River Road, protecting as much open space as possible, and finding 80 to 100 acres within the township for a community park. Toole said robust municipal recreational offerings have several advantages, including increased property values, attracting and retaining businesses, and reducing crime. The presentation worried some residents, who are concerned that a former plan to develop the Snipe’s tract into athletic fields will be revived. Township Parks and Recreation director Monica Tierney said a plan featuring athletic fields for the Snipe’s Tract that was posted on the township website as part of Toole’s draft report was an old plan that has since been removed from the report on the website. She said the process for deciding what goes on the tract will be very public and thorough, and it will include multiple opportunities for residents to weigh in before final decisions are made.
Source: Bucks County Herald; 5/12/2022

Chester County

Coventry Mall changes coming, but details are sketchy
The management at what will soon be the former Coventry Mall has announced that the interior of the mall will soon be closed. “The time has come to make the difficult announcement that the property known as the Coventry Mall will be going through a major redevelopment that will forever change the way the property is presented,” read the statement posted on the Facebook page for the Shoppes at Coventry. “Over the past several months and over the upcoming summer season, there was and will be tenant moves that position the property for the interior portion of the mall to be closed off for redevelopment.” What that means exactly remains unclear. Multiple options are being considered for the interior of the mall, including self-storage units or knocking part of the building down and making it into green space. A township administrator said that no permits or applications had been filed with the township other than those dealing with the renovations on the south-facing facade.
Source: Daily Local; 5/10/2022

Debt service $19M below estimates for Avon Grove high school
Avon Grove School District announced that the district’s debt service for its Comprehensive Facilities Plan is nearly $19 million below original estimates. The plan includes construction of a new Avon Grove High School, slated to open for students in the fall, as well as renovation of the current middle school building for students in grades 6 to 8. When the district approved the borrowing resolutions in November 2018, the projected total gross debt service was $230.8 million over the life of the bonds. After the district’s final bond issuance in March 2022, the actual total gross debt service was $211.8 million, a difference of about $19 million. The difference was due to favorable market conditions and a solid financing strategy. Additional savings will be realized once the final PlanCon reimbursement rates are received from the state. The high school construction project remains under budget and on schedule for opening in the fall.
Source: Daily Local; 5/9/2022

Oxford, West Grove seek planning grant for Baltimore Pike bikeway concept design
Oxford Borough Council approved a resolution for a multi-municipal planning grant to be submitted by the Borough of West Grove to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s Transportation and Community Development Initiative program to support the development of a Baltimore Pike Bikeway Conceptual Design Plan. The bikeway would be intended to make Oxford and Southern Chester County a destination for recreation. Oxford’s council is currently working with the Chester County Planning Commission on a feasibility study for a Southern Chester County Circuit Trail, which includes recommendations for the Baltimore Pike Bikeway. That study also highlights numerous parks and land placed in preservation along the way. The proposed bikeway will ultimately connect cyclists from Pennsylvania to Maryland.
Source: Chester County Press; 5/7/2022

Farmers express concern over Crebilly preservation
Many people hailed the news that Westtown Township entered an agreement to buy a part of Crebilly Farm, but now two working farmers are concerned for their livelihood after learning more about the deal. Toll Brothers is out of the equation for developing Crebilly’s 320 acres, and the township wants to raise enough money through grants to buy 208 of those acres. Natural Lands is writing the grant applications, but those grants are for open space and prohibit agricultural use. Robin McCardell of Exton has been farming Crebilly for years. He pays the Robinson family — the legal owners of Crebilly — to do that, leasing the land for $15,000 per year. He also maintains the perimeter of the property. But he’ll lose some of his income if the grant-funded acquisitions go through without any changes. Randell Spackman, of nearby Thornbury Farm in Thornbury Township, said his crops could be in jeopardy from deer. “With the extra grass there, the deer population would explode, and they’d come eat my crops here,” Spackman said. Westtown needs $20.8 million to buy the 208 acres, and the grants total $19 million. After that, taxes would be raised for the rest and to maintain the property. Kirsten Werner, the communication director at Natural Lands, acknowledged in a telephone interview that the current grants prohibit agricultural use. She said that the state and federal governments don’t want grant money going to commercial enterprises, including farming.
Source: Chadds Ford Live; 5/2/2022

Unionville-Chadds Ford school budget calls for tax hike
The Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board adopted a proposed operating budget for the 2022-2023 school year of $85.4 million, with a tax rate of 30.7 mills for Chester County property owners, and a tax rate of 15.9 mills for property owners in Delaware County. If adopted, average Chester County taxpayers will pay $220 more per year, and average Delaware County taxpayers will pay $247 more per year. A mill represents $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. The difference in rates reflects how Chester and Delaware counties assess property values. Joe Deady, director of finance, told school directors that the numbers “could change favorably” before final adoption. The budget is scheduled to be adopted at a public meeting on June 20.
Source: Daily Local; 5/17/2022

Delaware County

Ridley schools budget proposal expands full-day kindergarten to all elementaries
Full-day kindergarten at all Ridley School District elementary schools will go into effect in the 2022-2023 school year, according to Superintendent Lee Ann Wentzel. Until now, full-day kindergarten was only offered in the Eddystone and Woodlyn elementary schools. It will now be in effect at all seven elementary schools in the district. Wentzel also presented the proposed final 2022-2023 budget of $120.1 million, which represents a $4.7 million increase over the current budget. There will be a proposed millage rate increase of 1.065 for a new total of 24.749 mills. Wentzel cited underestimated collections of tax revenue due to pending tax appeals and the potential sale of Taylor Hospital in Ridley Park that would return the hospital to nonprofit status, removing the property from the tax rolls. Final adoption of the budget will be at the school board’s meeting on Monday, June 6.
Source: Chester Spirit; 5/11/2022

Delaware County offers weekly newsletter
The Delaware County Weekly is a newsletter that launched earlier this year to provide county residents with updates and information covering a wide range of news and events. It includes health department announcements, election notifications, career opportunities, meeting announcements, county park activities and events, COVID-19 guidance, grant program information and more. The newsletter is part of the council’s promise to increase transparency in government. The latest edition included coverage of the recent State of the County presentation. Subscribe and view archives here.
Source: Delaware County; 2022

Unionville-Chadds Ford school budget calls for tax hike
The Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board adopted a proposed operating budget for the 2022-2023 school year of $85.4 million, with a tax rate of 30.7 mills for Chester County property owners, and a tax rate of 15.9 mills for property owners in Delaware County. If adopted, average Chester County taxpayers will pay $220 more per year, and average Delaware County taxpayers will pay $247 more per year. A mill represents $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. The difference in rates reflects how Chester and Delaware counties assess property values. Joe Deady, director of finance, told school directors that the numbers “could change favorably” before final adoption. The budget is scheduled to be adopted at a public meeting on June 20.
Source: Daily Local; 5/17/2022

Upper Darby council discusses releasing some federal American Rescue Plan funds
Upper Darby Township Council members discussed the release of a portion of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) pandemic funds. Council Vice President Laura Wentz said the finance and appropriation committee is preparing an ordinance to release some funds as bonus pay for township employees who worked through the pandemic. Since it involved union contracts, they decided to table the proposal until the township labor council lawyers look into the details. The committee is also looking to get information from local nonprofits that would be interested in receiving ARPA funds. Any committee decision would need sufficient backing from the full council before being enacted. The ARPA discussion takes place amid investigations into the township’s handling of federal funds. Wentz said the finance committee is not willing to release the complete $14 million of ARPA funds all at once. Councilmember Hafiz Tunis asked why funds are being released piecemeal, creating additional red tape. “Because of the investigation we have concerns that not all the funds are there, even though some people think they are, we think there might be some missing,” Wentz said.
Source: Daily Times; 5/10/2022

Montgomery County

Main Line Health shares preliminary plans for St. Charles Borromeo Seminary site
Main Line Health recently shared preliminary plans for a mix of residential, medical and other uses for the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary property in Lower Merion. Main Line Health purchased the 73-acre seminary property in Wynnewood for $43.5 million in 2019. Over the next decade or more, the health system is proposing to build a mix of medical offices, senior housing, apartments, condos and retail, as well as a small hotel. A quick transformation of the site is not expected. The seminary, part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, will continue to operate until the spring of 2024. The existing buildings must remain due to the historic designation, but canon law and the sale agreement require seminary officials to remove all religious images, sacred objects and artifacts from the campus. Main Line Health and its development partner, Hines, have created a website, St. Charles Project, where neighbors of the property can sign up for updates. Read more here.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 5/17/2022

Funding announced for last Montco gap in Schuylkill River Trail
A $397,800 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will be used to close a gap in the Montgomery County section of the Schuylkill River Trail. At 0.9 miles, the small but crucial new bit of trailway will link the section on Industrial Highway with the Route 422 bridge, through land that was obtained by Montgomery County. Only one other gap remains, in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia, and then the trail will connect Center City Philadelphia to Reading with 40 miles of continuous, multi-use trail. Check out the maps in the full article.
Source: Main Line Media News; 5/16/2022

Wissahickon School District proposed final budget includes tax increase
Wissahickon School District adopted its proposed final budget for the 2022-2023 school year with expenditures totaling $114.5 million on May 2. The proposal includes a tax millage rate of 22.45, which is a 3.37% increase. The proposed final budget is available for public inspection on the district’s website. The district intends to adopt the final budget at its board meeting on Monday, June 6.
Source: Times Herald; 5/4/2022

Montco holds household hazardous waste recycling events
Montgomery County-sponsored household hazardous waste collection events began on April 30. The events are by appointment only, and pre-registration is required. No televisions, electronics or appliances are accepted, and businesses and contractors will be turned away. Click here for a list of acceptable and unacceptable items, and safety guidelines. See remaining event dates and register at Montco PA Recycles. The next event will be Saturday, May 21, in Ambler.
Source: Montgomery County; 4/21/2022

Philadelphia

Philadelphia controller releases map of 2023 tax assessments
On May 9, the City of Philadelphia released updated assessed values for all properties in the city. The city has an online mapping tool that shows how assessments changed for the more than 400,000 single-family residential properties in the city. As the first citywide reassessment in three years, the increases to assessed values were significant. Overall, the median increase for single-family residential properties is 31%. But the values for many properties have doubled or even tripled. Residents with questions regarding their property assessment can reach out to the Controller's Office at controller@phila.gov.
Source: Office of the Philadelphia Controller; 5/2022

How to appeal your property assessment in Philadelphia
If you believe your 2023 property assessment is not accurate, you can appeal to try to get it reduced. Residential assessments are rising by 31% citywide, and zip codes like 19140, 19132, 19133, 19121 and 19104 are seeing more than a 50% increase, especially in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. This could mean an increase in property taxes for many homeowners. Usually, the city sends out assessment notices in April and May, but this year is different: You won’t get an official notification about your assessment until September. But even before then, you can start an appeal. Here’s what you need to know:

  • You can start your appeal even before you get your notice of assessment. And it's a good idea to, or you might not be able to get an answer until after your taxes are due.
  • There are two ways to appeal: an informal appeal with the Office of Property Assessment (OPA), and a formal appeal with the Board of Revision of Taxes (BRT).
  • You can apply with both at the same time. If you get a result from one sooner than the other, just withdraw the other application.
  • You can't appeal to the OPA until you get the official notice of your assessment, but you can appeal to the BRT now.

Read more here.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 5/17/2022

City council passes measure that gives city workers affordable housing preference
Certain municipal workers in Philadelphia will now have a competitive advantage when workforce housing units hit the market. Lawmakers passed the bill as the city prepares to build at least 1,000 units of workforce housing under the banner of the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative, the massive bond-backed program initiated by Council President Darrell Clarke. The initiative is an effort to increase the city’s stock of affordable housing, revive commercial corridors, and improve neighborhood infrastructure, among other priorities. The news also comes as Philadelphia continues to contend with an affordable housing crisis and a tight housing market that has kept home prices high. Incomes have failed to keep pace, putting homeownership out of reach for more and more working residents. Read more here.
Source: PlanPhilly; 5/17/2022

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