West Hazleton No Longer In ‘Distressed Municipality’ Status

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WEST HAZLETON — The state has rescinded the borough’s status as a distressed municipality. But while the borough has significantly improved finances since 2003, it’s not out of the woods yet.

State Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary C. Alan Walker determined that West Hazleton’s distressed status would be rescinded after a review of audits and financial data and the record from a public hearing on June 3, Gov. Tom Corbett’s office announced Thursday in a news release.

The hearing officer’s report revealed that in 2013, the borough had a $5,423 budget surplus, that finances were stable, and that the borough has the tools to make the decisions necessary to maintain responsible budgets, meet its obligations to vendors and creditors, and provide essential services to residents.

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Layne Steps Down As Upper Pottsgrove Township Manager

Location of Upper Pottsgrove Township in Montg...

Location of Upper Pottsgrove Township in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UPPER POTTSGROVE — The township’s worst kept secret was finally made public Monday night when it was announced that Township Manager Jack Layne has resigned to take a job as manager of Maple Shade, N.J.

Layne began his work with the township in May, 2006, taking over to fill the void left by the surprise resignation of his predecessor, Michael Cotter.

Layne had himself resigned earlier in the year as manager of Pottstown Borough and the Pottstown Borough Authority, a position he had held since January, 2003 after leaving a post in Ohio.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20131216/layne-steps-down-as-u-pottsgrove-township-manager

Berks School Boards Face More Tough Choices In 2013-14 Budget Process

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s looking like another tough budget season for school districts across Berks County.

Of the 13 local districts that have prepared preliminary budgets, all but one spending plan included significant shortfalls, ranging from about $400,000 to $2.2 million.

Muhlenberg’s budget doesn’t have a gap, but it currently includes a property tax increase larger than the state permits.

Budget gaps among districts can be somewhat hard to compare, because some include tax increases or major cuts in their preliminary budgets while others don’t.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=454915

Pottstown School District Preliminary Budget Has 4.2 Percent Tax Increase

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Image via Wikipedia

The problem with this PSD budget number is that it is above the 2.4 percent increase allowed by the state.  If Mrs. Adams can’t “whittle” down that figure any further, the board will need to ask permission from the state to make an exception and allow a larger tax increase.

The big picture here is that Pottstown Borough Council just passed a budget with a 1.68 percent tax increase.  Pottstown Borough and Pottstown School District occupy the same geographical area and the residents of Pottstown are not just getting one increase, but TWO.  Even if Mrs. Adams can get to the state mandated 2.4 percent increase, taxpayers are on the hook for a 4.08 percent increase.  I am guessing possibly higher.

As Councilor Rhoads has pointed out time and again, most people have a finite amount of money to work with each year.  With the current state of the U.S. economy, finding extra money is very difficult.  Pottstown has a large percentage of senior citizens on fixed incomes.  We also have a large percentage of low-income residents and residents below the poverty level.

People are having to make choices between food, heat, housing and taxes.  This is flat-out wrong.  This spending addiction pissing contest between the Borough of Pottstown and the Pottstown School District is killing the average Pottstown resident.  We are on the edge of the cliff staring down at the bottom of the ravine.  There is no where left to go except down in flames or move out of Pottstown, if that option is even available.  Many people are too financially strapped to even escape.

We do not need four fire companies nor do we need five elementary schools and two annex buildings.  Are we looking at job performance?  If we are not getting enough bang for the buck would outsourcing services make more sense?  We cannot afford all these salaries, benefits and pensions, which make up the lion’s share of both organization’s budgets.  We haven’t even felt the pain of the upcoming pension crisis with the school district. 

The economy is not going to improve fast enough to save the day.  We need long-term financial solutions for both taxing entities in this town.  Frankly, I am not seeing enough effort being made to address these very serious problems that impact 22,377 people by either entity.

A Statement And Upcoming Local Events From Occupy Pottstown

I asked Amy Francis to write a few paragraphs about what Occupy Pottstown’s goals are and what it hopes to achieve.  Amy also talks about the Occupation Movement in general.  If all you know about this movement is what you have seen on television you may want to take a moment and see what this is all about. 

So without further adieu, Amy writes:

The Occupations are a statement against the economic and political systems in this country, which are currently only working only for the most “powerful” (in other words, the richest) 1%. In Pottstown, we have surely seen the trickle down effects from this economic imbalance everywhere: homes going into foreclosure, blight in what were once nice neighborhoods, companies moving out of town or closing, broken-down infrastructure, educational cuts while unfunded mandates continue to increase, skyrocketing taxes, more and more unemployment, etc, etc. What has become painfully clear is that the American Dream has become virtually unattainable for the majority of American people, and certainly for the Pottstown people.

While it is clear is that everyone’s reason why they “occupy” is unique and personal, however, what I perceive to be the common thread of the Occupy Pottstown supporters is a desire to put a spotlight on the inequities that Pottstown bears, along with many other First Suburbs. As history has shown us in Pottstown, ignoring these problems will not make them go away; the Occupy Pottstown group has proven to me to be the people willing to talk openly about the local issues and how they have effected their lives in palpable way; that, I believe, is the only real fist step towards making things better for more people. Simply put; the members of Occupy Pottstown have opened up the discussion and have shown a commitment to do so until change takes hold.

Occupy Pottstown’s first public gathering will be on November 21, 4 – 7 pm at the corner of Hanover Street and College Drive, and all are invited to join us. Occupy Pottstown also wants to increase awareness of the importance of supporting local businesses which, in turn, helps to support our local economy. To initiate this goal, Occupy Pottstown members will be holding our first “Occupy Downtown Pottstown Walk” on November 26th, which is Small Business Saturday; meeting time and place to be announced. Again, all are invited and encouraged to join.

Power to the People (one Pottstown at a time)!