Hazleton Council OKs $9.28M Spending Plan

Property taxes will not increase in Hazleton in 2015, according to a tentative $9.28 million spending plan that city council approved Wednesday.

But it will cost more to sell a property.

Council approved on second reading a balanced, $9.28 million budget that eliminates a tax increase that the mayor wanted to implement for awarding raises to a handful of nonunion employees. The budget also scraps a controversial maintenance fee for the stormwater system.

The spending plan approved Wednesday makes up for that lost tax and stormwater revenue by infusing $400,000 from a defunct sewage transmission fee account into other parts of the general fund budget. The city’s share of the real estate transfer tax was also increased by 0.5 percent — to 1 percent — and boosts revenue projections by $150,000.

Read more: http://standardspeaker.com/news/hazleton-council-oks-9-28m-spending-plan-1.1804580

Carbondale Adopts 2015 Budget With Wage Tax Increase

CARBONDALE, PA — City council on Monday unanimously adopted a budget for 2015 that raises the city’s wage tax a notch to cover an anticipated $120,000 deficit.

Council voted 7-0, with Joseph Marzzacco, Kathleen Connor, Jerry Arnese, Francis Lagana, John Masco, John Gigliotti and Walter Martzen all in favor, on both a budget appropriation ordinance and a separate ordinance raising the earned-income tax from 1.6 percent to 1.7 percent.

Increasing the city portion of the earned-income tax from 1.6 percent to 1.7 percent would equate to an extra $24 levied on a resident with the city’s median earnings of $23,893.

With the school wage tax remaining at 0.5 percent, the total wage tax on a Carbondale resident now will increase from the current 2.1 percent to 2.2 percent next year, when the one-tenth-of-1-percent hike is implemented.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/carbondale-adopts-2015-budget-with-wage-tax-increase-1.1803584

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Leighton Gets $150K To Help Balance 2015 Budget

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The mayor asked and the authority board complied.

Mayor Tom Leighton Tuesday asked the members of the city’s Parking Authority for a little help for the city’s coffers. On a 4-1 vote, the authority approved giving the city $75,000 now and another $75,000 after the first of the year.

“This eliminates me from raising property taxes in the city,” Leighton said after the vote.

One authority member, Maryanne King, expressed concerned for the move, noting that auditors recently reported the need to increase revenues and replenish a depleted reserve fund to assure needed capital improvements of authority assets.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/localnews1/50873001/

Wolf Brings Urban Policy Expertise

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s next governor knows all about distressed cities.

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf spent 12 years as president of Better York, a nonprofit bent on revitalizing the city of York. In that role, he worked closely with a nationally prominent urban expert who promotes regional solutions for urban woes.

As he prepares to take office Jan. 20, Wolf said he wants to lead a statewide discussion about how the future of older cities such as Scranton, inner ring suburbs and the surrounding townships are interrelated.

“What I bring to this is a real appreciation for what cities do,” he said in an interview.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/wolf-brings-urban-policy-expertise-1.1803039

Hazleton Council Tables Budget Vote

Hazleton City Council is no closer to finalizing a 2015 budget.

Council voted 4-1 on Thursday to table the spending plan on second reading after voting on a number of amendments that put revenue projections some $619,000 below estimated expenditures.

Council will take another crack at amending the estimated $9.3 million spending plan on Wednesday.

The vote to shelve the budget followed a heated disagreement between Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi and council President Jack Mundie over a stormwater fee that was originally levied by a previous council majority for 2013 only — but is included in next year’s spending plan.

The debate ended with the mayor walking out of the forum during an argument with Mundie.

Read more: http://standardspeaker.com/news/hazleton-council-tables-budget-vote-1.1801694

RRTA, Berks Transit Merger Complete

It is the state’s largest transit merger, and it is now official.

Lancaster County officials and Red Red Rose Transit Authority leaders took a little trip just over the Berks County line Thursday morning to meet with their Berks counterparts — and celebrate a transit consolidation nearly a year in the making.

They have established the new South Central Transit Authority to oversee both the Lancaster-area RRTA and the Berks Area Regional Transit Authority.

The RRTA name and logo on buses, as with BARTA in Berks, will not change, and the public may not notice much of a difference, transit official David Kilmer said Thursday, “We’re on a good track, and ready to move forward,” said Kilmer, who was named executive director of the new SCTA, which will oversee operations of both RRTA and BARTA.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/rrta-berks-transit-merger-complete/article_dc4c0840-817c-11e4-b535-1b031a28a372.html

Tax Baseline Set For Lancaster CRIZ Program

After gathering tax information from business owners this summer, Lancaster now has a starting point for for a program it hopes will jump-start downtown development.

Known as the CRIZ for short, the City Revitalization & Improvement Zone program will allow Lancaster to redirect some state and local tax money toward redevelopment within the zone’s boundaries.

Lancaster identified 736 businesses in its CRIZ. All of them were required to file CRIZ tax reports by June 15.

Just under half did so: 366, to be exact, according to the state Department of Revenue.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/tax-baseline-set-for-lancaster-criz-program/article_adf6ae9c-80c2-11e4-a79f-97b4bba5b725.html

Pittsburgh Council Makes It Official: McLay Named Police Chief

Pittsburgh City Council today approved acting police Chief Cameron McLay to head the city’s police bureau. Chief McLay has been serving as acting chief since September.

The unanimous vote with virtually no discussion came a day after a 2½-hour confirmation hearing for the 56-year-old former Madison, Wis., police captain, who is the first outsider ever hired to lead the department, according to Mayor Bill Peduto’s staff.

Chief McLay will be formally sworn in at 4 p.m. this afternoon in the mayor’s office.

Also today, council passed the mayor’s controversial plan to reorganize the Bureau of Building Inspection into a new Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections.

Read more:  http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/12/09/Pittsburgh-Council-approves-new-police-chief-reorganization-of-building-department/stories/201412090181

Laflin Council Abolishes Police Force

LAFLIN, PA — The meeting of Laflin Borough Council devolved into chaos Monday night as four council members voted to immediately disband the police department and hire a consultant to liquidate the department’s property.

After hearing impassioned public comment against relying solely on state police to enforce the law in Laflin, a council majority voted to do just that, with Councilman Glen Gubitose the lone opposing vote.

The majority defended the move by saying the borough infrastructure is crumbling and in desperate need of repair after years of neglect. But that didn’t satisfy dozens of residents who showed up to voice their opposition to the move. As council members finished the vote, the room erupted in jeers and boos loud enough to drown out council members for the rest of the meeting.

Residents ordered to quiet down challenged council members to call the police.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/laflin-council-abolishes-police-force-1.1799795

Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto Goes Undercover On CBS Reality Show To Air Dec. 21

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has his own prime time reality TV show.

Peduto donned a wig with shoulder-length gray hair and a scraggly, long gray beard to star on an upcoming hourlong episode of the CBS Emmy-winning show “Undercover Boss.” The episode is scheduled to air 8 p.m. Dec. 21.

“It will be the only chance that I ever have in my life to hear what people say about me directly to my face, but not knowing who I am,” he said Thursday.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/7307404-74/peduto-cbs-undercover#ixzz3L5PD3Htz
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Luzerne County Employee Fired After Pay Lapse

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Luzerne County administrators on Monday responded to an error that resulted in about 1,400 employees not being paid on time by firing an employee who was on vacation at the time, according to several sources at the courthouse.

County Council Vice Chairman Edd Brominski confirmed the employee fired Monday was Jason Parrish, who was promoted from clerk to budget and policy analyst in May 2013 with a salary of $35,000.

Reached at home in Kingston on Monday afternoon, Parrish declined to comment at length, although he characterized the pay lapse as an accident. Asked if he thought his firing was justified, Parrish said, “That’s their decision, not mine.”

The decision to fire Parrish drew swift criticism from administration detractors who accused county Manager Robert Lawton of using Parrish as a fall man. Former county controller Walter L. Griffith Jr., who had worked with Parrish in the controller’s office, said Parrish was on approved vacation at the time and that he is being punished because management failed to delegate the task to someone else.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/county-employee-fired-after-pay-lapse-1.1795954

Lawmakers Seek Support For $29 Million Emergency Aid For Atlantic City

New Jersey members of Congress appealed Tuesday to U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to support a $29 million National Emergency Grant request to help workers left unemployed by recent casino closings in Atlantic City.

In a letter sent by Republican U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo and Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Perez was urged to support the “Atlantic City Re-Employment Initiative” proposal to fund employer-driven training programs.

The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development filed the application for the National Emergency Grant late last month to address the needs of 8,000 workers left without jobs after recent closings of Revel, Showboat and Trump Plaza casinos and the earlier closing of the Atlantic Club.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20141203_Lawmakers_seek_support_for__29_million_emergency_aid_for_AC.html#kwupXQI6hZxVI5St.99

Blair County’s Operation Our Town Funds Law Enforcement And Rehab Efforts

In 2006, Michael A. Fiore was talking with a police officer about a shooting — the kind that never happened in Altoona before big-city drug dealers came to town.

The officer said his department didn’t even have bulletproof vests to wear on raids, Mr. Fiore recounted Tuesday. “I said, ‘Go out and get eight of them, and send me the bill.’”

Over the course of a year, that act of generosity morphed into the creation of Operation Our Town, in which Blair County business leaders pledge $10,000 each year to fight drugs.

Last year the organization backed Altoona’s schools, after school programs, youth sports groups, mentoring for first-time mothers and construction of a playground, among other efforts.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/state/2014/12/01/Blair-County-s-Operation-Our-Town-funds-law-enforcement-and-rehab-efforts/stories/201411300093

Boscov ‘Donates’ $700,000 To Scranton To Make Good On Mall Loan

Al Boscov gave Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright a check today for $715,173, to make good on a loan the city had given years ago to The Mall at Steamtown that went unpaid.

Calling the check a “donation” from Boscov’s Department Stores to the city, Mr. Boscov said he felt obligated to pay the loan back even though neither he nor his company is legally on the hook to do so.

The donation check is intended to replace a $612,480 loan that the city gave to the former mall owner in 2001 from federal funds that the city receives, as well as $102,693 in interest.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/boscov-donates-700-000-to-scranton-to-make-good-on-mall-loan-1.1795802

All Hell Breaks Loose In Pottstown Over The Weekend….Again

Pottstown Borough Hall

Pottstown Borough Hall

Apparently, the inmates are running the asylum in good old Pottstown.  Several shootings, one fatal stabbing and a gas leak happened over the weekend. Sounds like your tax dollars are hard at work. Apparently, council is adding $6 million to the budget bringing it to $44 million.  Frankly, that should include a dozen more police officers and somebody should be reaching out to county and state officials for help.  This mess needs cleaned up once and for all.  It’s the same crap, in the same part(s) of town, over and over again.  We all know it’s drug related, gang related or a turf war etc…  Hey, Ma, “Pass the Section 8 housing please.  I want a heapin’ helpin’ so I can smother it in drugs.”  Happy Thanksgiving, Pottstown style.  Who needs mashed potatoes and gravy ;).  We sure know who the turkey is!

If you check out the Mercury, you can read all about it: http://www.pottsmerc.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/pottstown.mercury.

I can tell you people are scared.  They are afraid to take out their trash at night, drive through town at night etc…  The comments on Facebook by residents are upsetting to read.  You can feel the anger, fear, frustration and almost panic in their comments.  Some think it’s hopeless.

So I say to you, pack the council chambers for meetings and express your outrage to the people who hold the purse strings and can actually do something about it.  Pressure them to clean up Pottstown. They will cave in and do something if enough people complain.  But if the same 20 people show up at meetings every month they pass all this off as a few malcontents and naysayers causing problems. They are more interested in speed traps and tourism than public safety.

There is a bigger problem here than the leadership is willing to admit.  The “keep a lid on the powder keg” strategy has been an #epicfail and proactive policing needs to happen.  Stop putting lipstick on a pig and start throwing money at a huge public safety issue!  People are dying, isn’t that enough motivation?????

Luzerne County Stands To Receive Up To $2 Million From Coal Street Project

Cash-strapped Luzerne County has a claim on at least some of the $2 million left from the Coal Street widening project in Wilkes-Barre, but delays finalizing project expenses have prevented the county from receiving its share.

The amount of the county’s share also is unclear because the Wilkes-Barre Area School District may be entitled to some of the fund, officials say.

County Councilman Stephen A. Urban raised the issue during a budget work session last week, questioning why it’s taking years for the county to collect this money.

The $2 million stems from a Tax Incremental Financing plan, or TIF, that diverted tax revenue from new development along Highland Park Boulevard and at the Arena Hub Plaza to fund improvements to Mundy Street, Highland Park Boulevard and Coal Street .

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/50745998/County-could-receive-up-to-$2M-from-Coal-St.

Coatesville School Board President Resigns

Caln Township, PA – Amid speculation that the Chester County District Attorney’s grand jury investigation of two former district administrators is nearing completion, Coatesville Area School Board President Neil Campbell resigned from his post Tuesday.

“This decision was difficult as I enjoyed representing the district as well as members of the community,” Campbell said in his statement addressed to the school board dated Nov. 25. “I truly appreciate those that elected me to serve and it was an honor.”

Campbell’s resignation was announced before the school board meeting commenced. His resignation was effective immediately, according to school district officials.

Read more: http://www.dailylocal.com/general-news/20141126/coatesville-school-board-president-resigns

Work Ongoing At Downingtown Pocket Park

DOWNINGTOWN, PA – The upgrading of fencing is the first step of the Downingtown Main Street Association’s revitalization of the borough’s Armor Alley Pocket Plaza. The borough is cooperating with the Main Street group.

“One of the main goals of the mission of the Main Street Association is to help Downingtown grow and prosper and the pocket plaza upgrading fits with our stated goal,” said Main Street President Adrian Martinez. “Board member Sarah Peck is heading this effort and she is to be commended for her willingness to volunteer many valuable hours to enhance our borough.”

The Armor Alley Pocket Plaza is proposed to be redeveloped into a lively, well lit, beautifully landscaped public plaza at a key spot on Main Street. A canopy of white lights will define the plaza and new landscaping, fencing, walkway lighting and pavers will create an attractive and safe pedestrian link to Main Street from Mill Road, the organization said in a press release.

Read more: http://www.dailylocal.com/general-news/20141125/work-ongoing-at-downingtown-pocket-park

Luzerne County Deficit Increases By $6.4M, Audit Says

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Luzerne County Council heard two unpleasant updates Tuesday: the deficit grew to an estimated $10.1 million at the end of 2013 and repayments have skyrocketed on an inherited 2006 debt refinancing package.

The deficit increased because spending exceeded revenue by $6.4 million last year, said Andrea L. Caladie, a CPA with Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP, during a draft audit summary presentation.

The fund balance is now a negative $10.1 million because the county carried over a $3.7 million deficit from 2012, she said.

The audit was due June 30 under the county’s home rule charter. County Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz has blamed staffing shortages on delays compiling information the outside auditors needed to complete their work.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/50746020/