News Brief Headlines

Suburban REALTORS® Alliance

News Brief Headlines

 

General

  • Charter-school bill moving through Pa. legislature
  • Dodd-Frank and the CFPB: The ‘fix’ is in
  • Homeowners warned of rising flood insurance rates

 

  • Bristol Borough may increase taxes
  • Taxes steady in Trumbauersville
  • Sellersville approves tax and fee increases
  • Bristol Township school projects move ahead

 

  • Coatesville approves budget with big tax hike
  • Spring-Ford Area School District, Exelon reach deal on $20 million tax assessment
  • East Goshen spending plan for 2014 approved
  • New legislative district added in county

 

  • Springfield places hard-wired smoke detector requirement on hold
  • County council passes 2014 budget, including a 2.8 percent take hike
  • Morton works on deficit
  • Audit shows Radnor Township School District is in the black

 

  • Developers propose 350 homes on Lindenwold Castle site
  • Act 537 plan update in Worcester
  • Spring-Ford Area School District, Exelon reach deal on $20 million tax assessment
  • Whitpain approves budget

 

  • Battle over city abatement program heats up
  • RCO bill amended, passed out of Committee

 

General

Charter-school bill moving through Pa. legislature
The first major overhaul of Pennsylvania’s charter-school law is making its way through the state legislature. Lawmakers could act in the next few weeks on the controversial bill which sponsors claim would enact needed reforms, and critics warn could speed the decline of traditional public schools, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The law that established charter schools in Pennsylvania was enacted in 1997. There are about 176 charter schools operating in the state, more than half of them in Philadelphia. Nearly 120,000 students attend charters, which are taxpayer-funded but independently operated. Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia have pursued about a half-dozen criminal cases involving charter schools. In one case authorities allege that Dorothy June Brown, a Philadelphia charter school founder, defrauded the city and state of $6.7 million by earning multiple salaries at four schools she ran and taking millions more in “consulting” fees. Authorities say the fraud deprives the perennially-broke Philadelphia School District and Pennsylvania taxpayers of needed education funds.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 12/12/2013 and Associated Press; 12/9/2013

Dodd-Frank and the CFPB: The ‘fix’ is in
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has issued a Final Rule amending RESPA (Regulation X) and the Truth in Lending Act (Regulation Z). The Final Rule sets the stage for implementing some “game changing” policies for residential real estate settlements. Read an analysis by Caldwell and Kearns attorney Brett Woodburn here.
Source: PAR JustListed; 12/10/2013  

Homeowners warned of rising flood insurance rates
Flood insurance customers in Southeastern Pennsylvania, namely Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, are facing some of the most significant rate hikes due to changes in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), according to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D). The Bigger-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act was adopted in 2012 and changes flood insurance rates to “reflect true flood risk (and) make the program more financially stable.” Flood insurance rates could increase for just over 2,000 Bucks County home and business owners and another 1,212 in Montgomery County. Pennsylvania has 73,696 flood insurance policies and about 47 percent of those could see rate hikes. According to Casey, “The numbers make Pennsylvania one of the hardest hit.” Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate on Oct. 29 aims to delay increases in premiums, including the owners of properties built to code and later remapped into flood risk areas. Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-8), has co-sponsored a similar bill, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, that was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in October. Take action to ask Congress to delay implementation of new NFIP regulations.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 12/12/2013

Bucks

Bristol Borough may increase taxes
For the first time in seven years, Bristol Borough residents may see a tax hike. The 2014 preliminary budget proposes a 5-mill increase to the general fund and an additional 1.75-mill increase to the fire fund – for a total increase of 6.75 mills. If approved, the total property tax rate would be 56.64 mills. A property assessed at the borough average of $16,000 would see a property tax increase of about $80 for a total bill of $878. The tax increase will cover an anticipated $616,571 deficit that officials say was caused by poor investment returns.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 12/8/2013

Taxes steady in Trumbauersville
Residents in Trumbauersville can expect taxes to hold steady in 2014. The proposed $410,000 budget keeps the tax rate at 2.5 mills. A mill is equal to a tax of $1 for each $1,000 in assessed property value. A home assessed at the borough average of $30,000 can expect to pay about $75 in borough property taxes. Borough administrator Larry Smock said that there were no major capital projects slated for the new year, which helped to keep the budget steady.
Source: The Intelligencer; 12/5/2013

Sellersville approves tax and fee increases
Sellersville Borough Council approved a 2014 budget that will include fee and property tax increases. The new tax rate increases the millage rate from 17.15 to 18 mills. A home assessed at the borough average of $21,000 will pay $378 in property taxes, an increase of $10.50 over last year. Other fee increases include $5 per quarter rate hikes to both the refuse collection fee and the sewer rates. The refuse fee will rise from $85 to $90 per quarter, and the minimum sewer rate will increase from $45 to $50 per quarter.
Source: Perkasie News Herald; 12/11/2013

Bristol Township school projects move ahead
Bristol Township Council granted final land development approval for a state-of-the-art 1,300-student facility at the site of Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School. However, council only granted preliminary approval for the James Buchanan Elementary School site due to concerns with flooding from a proposed water basin next to six homes in the Kenwood section of Levittown. The elementary school projects are part of a $150-million plan to upgrade the Bristol Township School District’s infrastructure.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 12/6/2013

 

Chester

Coatesville approves budget with big tax hike
Coatesville City Council presented its 2014 preliminary budget during a Nov. 25 meeting, proposing a surprising 37 percent tax increase and an increase of $25 per year in solid waste collection. Following a public hearing on December 9, council approved the preliminary general fund budget, but decided to table approving the solid waste collection fee increase. The 2014 preliminary budget, which indicates a $2.6 million deficit, shows the average assessed taxpayer would expect an increase of about $209.79 in property taxes and an increase to $80 per quarter in solid waste fees to balance the 2014 budget. The average real estate assessment in 2013 is $59,939, and the current property tax rate is 9.415 mills. The average homeowner would see a 3.5-mill increase in property taxes for 2014, a 37 percent increase. After hearing concerns that certain areas in the municipality might have not been billed for trash collection, council members wanted further clarification on which residents have paid their collection fees before passing the increase to avoid another budget mishap. It was brought to council’s attention that more recent developments, such as Cambria Terrace – a single-family home community – and Millview Apartments might not have been billed for solid waste fees, but Eagle Disposal – the city’s solid-waste contractor – might be collecting trash in those areas.  Council members collectively agreed it would be better to table passing the increase until council can further discuss the topic. City Manager Kirby Hudson said city residents have not experienced an increase in property taxes since 2004-05. Since then the city has undergone a drastic cut in city employees.
Source: Daily Local; 12/10/2013

Spring-Ford Area School District, Exelon reach deal on $20 million tax assessment 
The Spring-Ford Area School District has reached a settlement with Exelon Corp. on property taxes for its Limerick Generating Station.  “As the largest taxpayer in the area, the new agreement will help bring consistency and certainty as the district plans for future budgets and expenses,” a release from the district said Tuesday.  In the settlement, which spans from 2014 until 2023, the value of the Exelon property will remain at $20 million.  In addition to property taxes based on that value, Exelon will make a payment to the district’s operating budget of $1.65 million from 2014 through 2016, after which the annual payments will increase to $1.75 million. “We are very pleased with the new terms of the settlement,” said Superintendent David Goodin. “We appreciate all parties’ willingness to an agreement that was fair.”
Source: Daily Local; 12/5/2013

East Goshen spending plan for 2014 approved 
East Goshen Supervisors approved the township’s 2014 budget that calls for no tax increases to residents. With the proposed balanced $9.7 million budget, the township’s real estate tax will remain at a rate of 1.25 mills. A mill is $1 of tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. East Goshen also has an earned income tax of 1 percent, with half of that money dedicated to the school district, making the township’s share 0.5 percent. The township announced it secured a AAA bond rating with a stable outlook in October. According to Kroll Bond Rating Agency, the key rating strengths for the township include strong financial management policies, available fund balance, and access to the employment markets in the area. In addition, the rating agency noted East Goshen has a high level of income per capita at approximately 171 percent of the state and national average in 2012. The key concern cited by the rating agency was the dependency of the township’s general budget fund on earned income taxes. It also pointed out that the funded ratio in its regional police plan was below 75 percent as of January 2013. Supervisors will revisit the budget a final time at their monthly meeting on Dec.17.
Source: Daily Local; 12/6/2013

New legislative district added in county 
Chester County’s population growth has necessitated the formation of a new legislative district being formed in the Downingtown and Coatesville area. The 74th District encompasses Caln, Coatesville, Downingtown, East Caln, East Fallowfield, Modena, Parksburg, South Coatesville, Sadsbury and Valley Township. In the “new” 74th District, there are 19,760 registered Democrats, or 51 percent; 12,500 registered Republicans, or 33 percent; and 6,189 registered as other parties, or 16 percent. The primaries to nominate the party candidates will be in May.
Source: Daily Local; 12/9/2013

Delaware

Springfield places hard-wired smoke detector requirement on hold 
Springfield Township has placed on hold a requirement that rental property owners install “automatic fire alarm systems” in non-owner occupied properties by Dec. 31, 2013. The decision by the township is in response to concerns shared by the Suburban REALTORS® Alliance regarding the legality of the requirement. The requirement, which specifically called for the installation of hard-wired smoke detectors or a “centrally-monitored” alarm system, would exceed both the PA Uniform Construction Code (UCC) and the International Property Maintenance Code for most existing residential properties. Municipalities that wish to exceed the requirements of the UCC must first request an exception to do so from the PA Department of Labor and Industry. If challenged by a property owner, the municipality must establish that “clear and convincing local climatic, geologic, and topographical or public health and safety circumstances or conditions” justify the exception to the UCC.  Alliance staff will continue to work with Springfield to ensure that local requirements introduced by the township are in alignment with current statewide rules and regulations.

County council passes 2014 budget, including a 2.8 percent take hike
Delaware County Council unanimously approved the 2014 budget which includes a 2.8 percent tax hike. The 2014 operating budget is $336 million and calls for a millage rate of 5.604 mills, which is an increase of 0.152 mills, or 2.8 percent. A mill represents $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed property value.  A taxpayer with a home in the county assessed for tax purposes at $134,200 would therefore generate a county property tax of $752.05 – an increase of $20.40 over the prior year.  County Executive Director Marianne Grace called the 2.8 percent tax hike prudent and said it will help cover the gaps in funding for the Fair Acres Geriatric Center in Middletown and 911 emergency services.
Source: Daily Times; 12/11/2013

Morton works on deficit
Morton Borough’s preliminary budget for 2014 shows a deficit of $169,477. Council President Mario Cimino noted, “We are working to whittle down the deficit. We expect some sort of (tax) increase.” There will be no increase in the trash fee and sewer fees, which are based on water usage per gallons per household.  Final adoption of the budget is expected on December 27.
Source: Daily Times; 12/6/2013 

Audit shows Radnor Township School District is in the black
The Radnor Township School Board budget committee heard from the district’s auditor and discussed a draft audit of the 2012-2013 school year finances for the fiscal year that ended June 30. For 2013-2014 the district has an $82.7 million budget and used $988,730 in reserve funds to balance its books, allowing the school board to reduce taxes by .5 mills. For the previous year, actual revenues were 2.82 percent more than budgeted and expenditures were $1.4 million less, resulting in a $3.6 million “net positive variance,” according to the audit report. The final version will be presented to the entire boardDec. 17. The draft audit is now on the district’s website at:http://www.rtsd.org/cms/lib/PA01000218/Centricity/Domain/807/6-30%20audit%20DRAFT.pdf.
Source: Suburban Main Line Times; 12/11/2013

 

Montgomery

Developers propose 350 homes on Lindenwold Castle site
Neighbors and other residents met with developers in Upper Dublin Township to discuss proposed plans for 350 homes on the Mattison Estate, home to the Lindenwold Castle. The proposal includes the preservation of Lindenwold Castle, built by asbestos baron Richard V. Mattison in 1912, and owned by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth since 1936. The proposed development will also preserve two gatehouses, and parts of the formal gardens and lake while building 34 carriage homes, 54 townhouses, 40 condominiums and 250 senior independent-living apartments. Prices could range from $300,000 to $750,000. The development team includes Endeavor Property Group in Devon and two Blue Bell firms, Guidi Homes and the Goldenberg Group. The purchase of the Mattison Estate by the developers is conditional upon a change in the property’s zoning from institutional to residential. No formal plans have been filed in Upper Dublin and if they are, the approval process could take 12 to 18 months before construction begins.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 12/9/2013

Act 537 plan update in Worcester
Worcester Township is proposing a Minor Act 537 Sewage Facilities Plan Update Revision for the Hickory Hill Area Low Pressure Sewer System Extension. The planning module provides for 87 EDUs of sewage flow for connection of mostly residentially zoned properties (known as Hickory Hill area) to a public, low pressure sanitary sewer system to be owned and operated by Worcester Township. Information regarding tapping fees and user fees are included in the plan update. Visit www.worcestertwp.com for the plan update that includes parcel identification maps. Written comments from the public regarding the Sewage Facilities Planning Module will be received by the township until Jan. 7, 2014.
Source: Times Herald; 12/9/2013

Spring-Ford Area School District, Exelon reach deal on $20 million tax assessment 
The Spring-Ford Area School District has reached a settlement with Exelon Corp. on property taxes for its Limerick Generating Station.  “As the largest taxpayer in the area, the new agreement will help bring consistency and certainty as the district plans for future budgets and expenses,” a release from the district said Tuesday.  In the settlement, which spans from 2014 until 2023, the value of the Exelon property will remain at $20 million.  In addition to property taxes based on that value, Exelon will make a payment to the district’s operating budget of $1.65 million from 2014 through 2016, after which the annual payments will increase to $1.75 million. “We are very pleased with the new terms of the settlement,” said Superintendent David Goodin. “We appreciate all parties’ willingness to an agreement that was fair.”
Source: Daily Local; 12/5/2013

Whitpain approves budget
The Whitpain Township Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted the 2014 budget at a Dec. 3 meeting. The budget maintains a property tax rate of 3.2 mills for the fourth straight year. One mill equals $1 in taxes for each $1,000 in assessed property value. A resident with a home assessed at the township average of $226,000 can expect to pay about $723 in township property taxes. Township projects for 2014 include parking lot improvements at the municipal complex, renovations to the administration building, regional water quality enhancements and West Ambler sidewalk improvements and revitalization.
Source: Ambler Gazette; 12/11/2013

Philadelphia

Battle over city abatement program heats up
Philadelphia has long touted its 10-year tax abatement program as a winner. It entices people to build and buy new homes while making Philadelphia an attractive place to do business, the city would say. But Philadelphia Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. says that the tax abatements remove taxpayer dollars that could help the city’s fledgling public school system. Instead, it just helps wealthy developers and rich home buyers, he said. In fact, the city lost more than $1.5 million in tax revenue from the Comcast Center – which could pay for nine teachers and 12 nurses, according to Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS).
Source: Philadelphia Business Journal; 12/6/2013

RCO bill amended, passed out of Committee
City Council’s Committee on Rules recommended approval of an amended bill reorganizing the rules for Registered Community Organizations (RCO), but the bill will not be able to move forward until next year. The bill requires the Planning Commission to provide a written explanation when it denies a group RCO status, allow district Council members to select “joint coordinating RCOs,” and allow for RCOs to register without providing a location at which their meetings routinely take place. Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell is still unhappy with the bill, and thinks RCOs should be purely nonprofit groups, while the amended bill allows Neighborhood Improvement Districts and Special Services Districts to become RCOs. The spread of property owners that must be notified of zoning applications-those on the same block as the property, across the street, and anywhere within 200 feet of the property line-is too small, according to Blackwell. Her previous changes had required the notification of every property owner on the nine surrounding block-faces.
Source: Plan Philly; 12/11/2013

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