Here is the latest news for these counties! For more information, feel free to contact one of us!
Northampton to reopen 2014 budget
At a recent reorganization meeting, Northampton supervisors voted to reopen the 2014 budget and approve a new preliminary budget that almost doubles the property tax increase. The new preliminary budget has a property tax increase of 1.785 mills, or $62 for a resident with a property assessed at the township average of $35,600. A budget passed by the old board last month had a 0.948 mill increase, or $34 for the average property owner. Township Manager Robert Pellegrino recommended the new preliminary budget, saying that some township funds were getting too low and the new preliminary budget will, if finalized, make future tax increases less likely. Most of the property tax increase will be offset by a reduction in the trash collection fee for 2014 of $42, meaning that the average property owner will see a $20 net increase in township related fees or taxes. The preliminary budget is set to be finalized at the Jan. 22 regular meeting.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 1/6/2014
Bucks school pension costs skyrocket
A report by Temple University’s Center on Regional Politics found that the cost of Pennsylvania school pension plans increased 42 percent last year. The study found that the overall cost of school retirement plans increased by a combined $12 million in a single year for the 13 school districts in Bucks County. Central Bucks paid out almost $8.3 million in pension contributions for the 2013-13 school year, as compared to $5.7 during the prior school year. Neshaminy School District saw pension costs rise 40 percent in a single year, Bensalem had a 44 percent increase and New Hope-Solebury saw pension costs nearly double from $685,123 in 2012 to just over $1 million in 2013. Pennsylvania’s school pension plans are funded through a mix of employer and employee contributions, with the state government and districts making contributions to keep plans afloat. About 15 years ago, the state and school districts drew back on pension contributions to help balance school budgets. The recession caused a drop in the market value of the pension funds from a high of $67.2 billion in 2007 to a low of $43.1 billion in 2009. At the same time, the number of retirees is growing, putting an ever greater strain on the system.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 1/3/2014
Bedminster budget approved
Bedminster supervisors approved a 2014 budget that, for the first time, eclipsed the $2 million mark. The property tax rate will remain at 7.5 mills. A mill is a tax of $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. Bedminster property owners with a home assessed at the average $35,000 can expect a property tax bill of $262.50.
Source: The Reporter; 1/4/2014
Neshaminy School Board seeks to fill vacancy
The Neshaminy School Board is seeking residents of Region 2 – the Levittown portion of Middletown Township – who are interested in serving on the school board after the resignation of Board President Ritchie Webb in December. Interested residents of Region 2 are invited to forward a resume to Robert L. Copeland, Superintendent of Schools, Neshaminy School District, 2001 Old Lincoln Highway, Langhorne, PA 19047. Officials request that resumes be mailed prior to Jan. 24.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 1/8/2014
West Chester council approves purchase of Barclay grounds
West Chester Borough Council authorized the acquisition of the Barclay grounds property, putting an end to the debate that had carried on at public meetings for months. The borough will purchase the first two High Street lots by June 30, 2014 for $600,000; and the remaining two lots by Dec. 30, 2014, for an additional $600,000. Throughout the next year the borough will fully purchase the 1.38 acre parcel for $1.2 million. Under the terms of the agreement, the borough will submit a deposit of $20,000 on the property which is to come from the Barclay Grounds Preservation Alliance. The dates of the proposed sales are in order for the borough to secure the appropriate grant funding needed to purchase the property. Council made it clear it will not use taxpayer dollars to purchase the property. Should funding not be available, the borough has the option to terminate the agreement of sale before the first two lots are purchased. If the first two are purchased the borough may still terminate the agreement before buying the second two with the option to sell back the first two lots if the grant funding is not available.
Source: Daily Local; 12/31/2013
Coatesville trust fund must be repaid
Over the past eight years the City of Coatesville has borrowed $30 million from its reserve trust fund to balance annual budgets, pay into pension funds and pay off debt. According to City Manager Kirby Hudson, the city has not raised taxes for the past five years, mostly due to the trust fund borrowing. While the trust fund must eventually be repaid, the city’s current expenses still exceed its revenue. “Until the city can level its expense with its revenue, it will have to depend on the trust fund and/or raise taxes,” said City Council President David Collins said. “Relative to repaying the trust fund, I cannot speak to the efforts made by previous council administrations. However, this current council has tried to focus on accountability, improved efficiency and effectiveness by the city administration and the council itself. With such an improved operating base we can then focus on other major issues (i.e., improving the revenue base and repaying the trust fund).”
Source: Daily Local; 12/30/2013
East Caln wins communications award
East Caln has been awarded a second place prize in the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors’ 46th annual township citizen communication awards for its efforts to inform residents through the use of newsletters. The contest recognizes townships for successful communication of programs and activities to the residents. East Caln placed second in a category for newsletters (population of 2,501-5,000 residents), which are sent to residents three times per year. The newsletters were judged on their communication effectiveness as well as overall attractiveness and readability.
Source: Daily Local; 12/30/2013
Oxford council overrules mayor’s veto on tax hike
A veto by Oxford Borough Mayor Geoff Henry was only a temporary stop to the half-mill tax increase that will take effect in 2014, bringing the borough tax rate up from 11.5 mills to 12 mills. At a special meeting council unanimously voted to override Henry’s veto of the tax millage rate ordinance, adopted on Dec. 16. As with all borough ordinances, the mayor has the option of signing, not signing (in which case the ordinance is deemed approved after 10 days) or vetoing. Henry chose to veto the ordinance, bringing his written veto to Borough Manager Betsy Brantner and Council President Ron Hershey on Dec. 23. If the veto-override had failed, the borough would not have been able to spend money or collect revenues during 2014.
Source: Daily Local; 1/2/2013
Elected Royersford council members ineligible
Two of the four candidates elected to Royersford Borough Council in November did not take their seats at the board’s reorganization meeting on Jan. 6. The November election saw a slate of candidates that swept the four seats on the board and shifted the majority from Republican to Democrat. Two of the elected board members, Shawnette Jones and David Stehman, are no longer residents of the borough and therefore, ineligible to take their seats. The two open seats will be declared vacant within 10 days, and borough council has 30 days to interview candidates and make the appointments. Click here for the Royersford Borough website.
Source: Limerick/Royersford Patch; 1/6/2014
Ardmore project proposes more parking and restaurant
During a presentation to the Lower Merion Planning Commission, Dranoff Project Manager Josh Weingram proposed an additional 36 public parking spaces and a “celebrity chef” restaurant for the mixed-use residential and retail development dubbed One Ardmore Place. The development would replace the Cricket Avenue parking lot in Ardmore. Dranoff’s plans have not changed since December, when the state revoked $12 million in grants for the project, stating that the proposed development no longer fits the scope of the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. Township officials still support the use of public funds for One Ardmore Place even though the initial plans to renovate the train station have been delayed. Dranoff and local officials are optimistic that the funding issue will be resolved. A final proposal may come before the planning commission in February or March.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 1/8/2014
North Penn School District tackles 2014-15 budget
North Penn Director of Business Administration Bob Schoch recently presented the board of school directors with a snapshot of the 2014-15 school year budget. Schoch stated that the school district is in “an excellent financial position” and will save about $1.6 million in the coming year due to teacher attrition. However, there are major budget increases on the horizon, including two charter school proposals that could cost the district approximately $4 million if both are approved. The finance committee will review the 2014-15 preliminary budget at the Jan. 27 meeting.
Source: The Reporter; 1/9/2014
Bridgeport council sheds two seats
Bridgeport Borough Council will now be made up of seven members instead of nine. The council membership decrease for 2014 came as a result of a decision made last year to change the ordinance regarding the number of Bridgeport council members, due to the state’s new borough code. The seven member board will be comprised of two representatives from each of the borough’s three wards, and a new, at-large council member. One seat from each ward was eliminated.
Source: Times Herald; 12/22/2013
West Philadelphia will get a ‘Promise Zone’
West Philadelphia has been selected by the White House as one of the nation’s first five “Promise Zones,” a program aimed at cutting unemployment, poverty, and crime, enhancing education, and attracting private-sector investment and jobs. The West Philadelphia section has 35,315 residents in an area where the poverty rate is close to 51 percent and the unemployment rate is at 13.6 percent. The program will be coordinated through the mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity and sets forth 11 goals for the zone, including fighting crime, expanding pre-kindergarten education, increasing homeownership, and attracting businesses and jobs. To achieve these goals the city will encourage the police department, school district, the Philadelphia Housing authority, Drexel University, and several nonprofits to all move in the same direction to work and plan together for a better West Philadelphia.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 1/8/2014
School district received 20 offers on school buildings for sale
The Philadelphia School District, attempting to fill part of its budget gap by selling off empty buildings, received 20 offers on properties after listing them for sale last fall. The district had been seeking offers on the entire portfolio of 28 shuttered schools, or individual bids for one of the seven schools listed for “expedited sales.” The deadline for submitting proposals was Dec. 17. At least $61 million in sales is needed by June 30 to cover the amount the city pledged toward the school district’s budget deficit. Fernando Gallard, a spokesman for the district, said more specific information about the offers could not be disclosed because negotiations are pending.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 1/8/2014