News Briefs for Bucks County …

Bucks County

Information obtained from the Suburban Realtor Alliance

Interfaith Housing of Bucks County teetering on collapse
The Interfaith Housing Development Corp. of Bucks County, a private affordable-housing group, is teetering on the verge of financial collapse. The 28-year-old organization has received millions in federal taxpayer dollars and owns nearly 80 rental properties, three of which are in foreclosure and set for a sheriff’s sale in April. According to experts, the housing market crash hobbled many of the nation’s affordable-housing nonprofits, but many were able to adapt to new realities. Interfaith may be the exception to that and recently said it could not operate much longer without a new business plan. The old one relied mostly on a bullish real estate market and banks that would lend to low-income home buyers. During the real estate boom, the group bought houses and rehabbed them. The homes would appreciate in value and many were eventually sold to renters, providing Interfaith with much of its revenue. However, in the past few years, not one Interfaith renter has been able to acquire a loan, and few houses gained equity. Rob Loughery, chairman of the Bucks County Board of Commissioners, said the county had been working with several banks to stabilize Interfaith mortgages, not just the ones in foreclosure. The goal, he said, is to keep low-income renters in all of the homes, even if Interfaith closes. A new housing advisory board will address the county’s lack of affordable housing and Interfaith’s future.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/23/2015

Upper Makefield eyes debt restructuring
According to Upper Makefield Township Supervisor Dan Rattigan, a restructuring of township debt could save the township enough money that another property tax cut could be on the horizon for 2016. Upper Makefield supervisors recently passed a resolution that would allow the refinancing of a $10 million bond issue and $4 million on a bank loan. The bond has an average annual interest rate of 4.34 percent and the loan an annual interest rate of 2.5 percent, said interim township Manager David Nyman. Under the proposed refinancing, the bond and loan would be combined with a projected annual interest rate of 1.94 percent. The estimated savings for the refinancing could be $600,000, but exact numbers won’t be known until the interest rate is locked down. The supervisors had enacted a one-mill property tax cut for 2015, saving $65 a year for the average property owner, and promised to work toward another reduction for 2016.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 2/23/2015

Forum: How to run for school board in Bucks County
“How to run for school board and what to do if you are elected” are two issues that will be explored during a forum at 7 p.m. March 2 at the Free Library of Northampton Township. The event is free and open to the public. “Anyone in Bucks County who is interested in school board elections is encouraged to attend,” said event organizer Amy McIntyre. “I decided to coordinate this event because school districts are your area’s number one source for property values, taxation and our children’s future,” continued McIntyre. “We need people to run for these positions. School board director elections with choices for candidate(s) ensure that the subject of education will be discussed between candidates, within our community and in the media.” A total of 78 seats are up for election in the 15 school districts that lie entirely within Bucks County and partially in eastern Montgomery County. There are six seats up in Bensalem, Pennridge and Pennsbury. There are five seats in: Bristol Borough; Bristol Township; Centennial; Central Bucks; Council Rock; Morrisville; Neshaminy; New Hope-Solebury; Palisades; Quakertown; Souderton and North Penn. The Souderton and North Penn districts, where school board members are elected at-large rather than by region, lie partly in Bucks and partly in Montgomery counties. All but three of the 78 seats carry four-year terms. According to the forum panelists, school board members establish property tax millage in their districts. School property taxes represent the largest percentage of real estate taxes paid by property owners. Other duties of board members include setting standards for educational quality, district boundary determinations and many other responsibilities. To run for school board, a person must be at least 18, have a “good moral character,” and have resided within the school district where he or she is running for at least one year prior to the election, according to state law. The deadline for filing nominating petitions with the election boards is March 10.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 2/24/2015

Water cleanup continues near former military bases
The Navy could be paying upward of $12 million to filter contaminated drinking water around former military bases in Montgomery and Bucks counties. Elevated levels of perfluorinated compounds were found last year in drinking-water wells in Horsham, Warrington and Warminster. The contamination is from compounds widely used in firefighting foams and other industrial products until a decade ago. The Warminster Municipal Authority has signed a $4 million agreement with the Navy to install a “granular activated carbon filtration system” on three contaminated wells. Horsham asked the Navy for a similar system on two wells that tested above the EPA’s threshold and three others that tested just below. Warrington is just beginning a scope of work for its contamination. All three municipalities are currently buying water from neighboring towns until deals can be reached with the Navy for treatment.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/25/2015