Fulton Bank Starting Temporary Fill-In Of East King Expansion Site

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

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

Fulton Bank is facing another delay to its East King Street expansion project and temporary fill-in of the site.

This time, Mother Nature is the culprit.

“We’re behind due to the extreme weather” this winter, said bank spokesman Laura Wakeley on Tuesday.

In its previous timetable, Fulton planned to start filling in the 23 E. King St. site in January.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/business/local_business/fulton-bank-starting-temporary-fill-in-of-east-king-expansion/article_ca61c3f4-b9db-11e3-80de-0017a43b2370.html

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New Castle County Minimum Wage Workers To See Boost

English: Delaware Counties map

English: Delaware Counties map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Castle County employees who earn minimum wage will soon receive a pay increase to $10.10 an hour under a new plan approved by County Executive Tom Gordon.

Gordon is expected to sign an executive order Tuesday that increases the hourly wage from the current $7.25. Gordon’s move follows President Barack Obama’s executive order last month that increased the minimum wage to $10.10 for thousands of employees who work under federal contracts. Obama is urging Congress to increase the national hourly minimum wage for all Americans to the same level.

Gordon’s executive order will cost the county about $100,000 a year, Chief Administrative Officer David Grimaldi said Monday. At any given time, between 20 and 50 employees in the county’s 1,950-person workforce earn the minimum wage. Many of them are part-time or seasonal workers.

“It’s hard to do anything while earning the minimum wage, let alone raise and feed a family,” Gordon said. “It’s just the least we can do.”

Read more: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/politics/2014/03/03/ncco-minimum-wage-workers-to-see-boost/5997653/

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Stability Spurs More Growth In Pittsburgh

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Slow and steady wins the race: It works for the tortoise, and it seems to be working for Pittsburgh.

The latest annual “Pittsburgh Today and Tomorrow” report by PittsburghTODAY found that Pittsburgh continues to make modest economic progress after years of decline.

PittsburghTODAY is a nonprofit part of the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social & Urban Research that tracks the region’s progress compared with 15 other areas of similar size, geographic and demographic makeups.

Doug Hueck, program director for PittsburghTODAY, highlighted data regarding population growth, unemployment levels and housing appreciation rates as examples of the city’s revival.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/2014/02/22/Stability-spurs-more-growth-here/stories/201402220041#ixzz2u57osImH

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Allegheny County Receives Upgraded Credit Rating

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County

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

Allegheny County’s credit score has gotten another boost.

Financial rating agency Standard & Poor’s issued a news release Monday saying that it was upgrading the county’s long-term rating by one step, from an A+ to AA-.

The upgrade gives Allegheny County its highest rating in nearly 12 years, the county announced today in a news release.

“This is great news for Allegheny County and really reflects that we are heading in the right direction and making headway in improving our financial outlook,” County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said in a statement. “I am really proud of the job we have done in improving the fund balance, having an end-of-year cash balance, reducing reliance on one-time revenues for our budget and working cooperatively to address the issues that have impacted our bottom line.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/2014/01/28/Allegheny-County-receives-upgraded-credit-rating/stories/201401280148#ixzz2rjtZjmzr

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Refinancing Deadline Extended Third Time For Lancaster County Convention Center

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

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

For the third time, the deadline for the refinancing of the Lancaster County Convention Center’s debt has loomed and for the third time the deadline has been extended.

On Thursday, board members of the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority approved a 120-day extension of the terms of the $64 million debt agreement. The September 3 deadline was extended to January 2.

County Commissioner Scott Martin has been negotiating on the authority’s behalf with Wells Fargo, the sole bond holder, on the terms of a subsequent agreement.

“We’re going to need some additional time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s,” authority board chairman Kevin Fry said in announcing the extension.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/886288_Refinancing-deadline-extended-third-time-for-Lancaster-County-Convention-Center.html#ixzz2coPiuDDR

Wilkes-Barre In Better Financial Shape Than Last Year

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA — More than halfway through the fiscal year the city is in better financial shape compared to the same period in 2012, officials said Friday.

Revenues are up by more than $7 million, largely because of a 25-mill property tax increase and the payment of 2012 wage taxes that had been delayed by problems at CENTAX, the former collection company.  As a result, there are no plans to furlough workers to make up for a revenue shortfall.

“There is no manufactured financial crisis by a collection mishap by a third-party vendor,” said Drew McLaughlin, the city’s municipal affairs manager.  “Revenue projections are holding steady so far, so we are very, very cautiously optimistic in terms of our financial position this year.”

Still, he cautioned things could change should the weather bring on an unpredictable expense caused by flooding from a tropical storm or snow in the winter.  “We’re at the mercy of Mother Nature there and we proceed cautiously,” he said.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/759265/Wilkes-Barre-in-better-financial-shape-than-last-year

Senate Committee Votes to Legalize Payday Loans in Pennsylvania

Editor’s note:  Many thanks to PJ McGill for forwarding us this important information!  Two Roy’s Rants thumbs down those Senators who helped move this bill out of committee.

HARRISBURG, PA — In a closely divided 8 to 6 vote today, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved Senate Bill 975 legalizing payday loans with annual percentage rates of upwards of 300%. The bill moves to the Senate floor, despite the opposition of veterans, seniors, faith groups, and a majority of Pennsylvanians.

The Keystone Research Center issued the following statement on behalf of the Coalition to Stop Predatory Payday Loans in Pennsylvania:

“Senate Bill 975 rolls back the state’s longstanding protections against predatory payday loans. Pennsylvania has been recognized by both the Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department  of Defense for having among the strongest laws in the nation to keep out predatory payday lenders. A 2010 Pennsylvania Supreme Court case held that loans made in violation of existing law are illegal, even when made online.

“Senate Bill 975 would undo those protections, harming working families across the state. With this bill comes a higher likelihood of bankruptcies in Pennsylvania, and payday lenders gaining direct access to borrowers’ bank accounts. These are just some of the reasons that the bill faces opposition from a majority of Pennsylvanians.”

The Coalition thanks those Senators who stood with Pennsylvanians to oppose this bill: Senators Michael Stack, Lisa Boscola, Larry Farnese, Anthony Williams, Patricia Vance, and John Rafferty. Democratic Chairman Stack made a passionate plea for the committee to do what veterans and others have asked: to reject this bill and keep our existing, strong consumer protections in place.

We are disappointed in those Senators who stood with payday lenders by voting yes on this bill: Senators Pat Browne, Don White, Mike Brubaker, Kim Ward, Jake Corman, John Eichelberger, Joseph Scarnati, and Jim Brewster.

Richest 7 Percent Got Richer During Recovery, Report Says

English: Map of the United States.

English: Map of the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The richest Americans got richer during the first two years of the economic recovery while average net worth declined for the other 93 percent of U.S. households, says a report released today.

The upper 7 percent of households owned 63 percent of the nation’s total household wealth in 2011, up from 56 percent in 2009, said the report from the Pew Research Center, which analyzed new Census Bureau data released last month.

The main reason for the widening wealth gap is that affluent households typically own stocks and other financial holdings that increased in value, while the less wealthy tend to have more of their assets in their homes, which haven’t rebounded from the plunge in home values, the report said.

Tuesday’s report is the latest to point up financial inequality that has been growing among Americans for decades, a development that helped fuel the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=471710

Luzerne County Officials Take Another Look At Gnat Problem

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

The Luzerne County administration is rethinking plans to cancel participation in a state bug spraying program, sources say.

County management eliminated $75,000 from the 2013 budget for blackfly spraying because the state did not supply documentation showing the program has proven results.  The administration had planned to conduct spraying in-house if problems surfaced.

However, some County Council members and citizens expressed concern about pulling out of the program.

Prior commissioners considered a similar spraying cancellation on the advice of an outside financial recovery consultant in 2010, but they reversed their decision after the state warned the Susquehanna River generates “tremendous numbers of adult gnats that will adversely impact outdoor recreation activities throughout the county.”

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/423374/Officials-take-another-look-at-gnat-problem

State Puts Reading School District On ‘Financial Watch’

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

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

The state has officially labeled the Reading School District as being in “financial watch status,” a step away from state intervention.

The Department of Education announced Friday that the district has hit several financial-difficulty indicators in the Act 141 early warning system. Passed last year, Act 141 is the state’s law to help financially distressed school districts.

Four districts – Harrisburg, Duquesne, Chester-Upland and York – already have been placed in Act 141 financial recovery and have state-appointed recovery officers overseeing their finances, something Reading officials are hoping to avoid.

Dr. Carlinda Purcell, superintendent, said she sees the designation as a positive step toward dealing with the chronic financial struggles.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=460369

New York Parks In Less Affluent Areas Lack Big Gifts

When Frederick J. Kress, who sits on the board of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy, heard about it, he had only one thought: What about us?

Flushing Meadows-Corona, which has been the setting for two World’s Fairs, is considerably larger than Central Park, at 1,225 acres, compared with 843. Last year, its conservancy attracted $5,000 in donations.

The park’s bicycle and walking paths are cracked and pitted, Mr. Kress said, and its natural areas are overgrown with invasive species.  “Central Park is doing pretty well,” said Mr. Kress, who is also president of the Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces, noting that though Mr. Paulson’s home on Fifth Avenue overlooks Central Park, he grew up in Queens.  “I’m not saying he owes anyone anything, but how about you give Central Park $98 million and Flushing Meadows-Corona $2 million?  That two million would have gone so much further in an underappreciated park.”

Read more:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/nyregion/new-york-parks-in-less-affluent-areas-lack-big-gifts.html?hp&_r=0

Retailers, Consumers Take Swipe At Credit Card Surcharge

English: Old Visa logo.

English: Old Visa logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charles Griesemer says there’s no way he would pay a fee to use his credit card at the gas pumps or in checkout lines, calling such a surcharge unfair.

“That would be ripping off the working man,” the Oley Township man said recently while gassing up his pickup truck. “I’d rather go to the bank and get cash.”

For those like Griesemer, who would balk at credit card fees, there is good and bad news.

The bad news is that credit card surcharges of up to 4 percent are now allowed on retail purchases in 40 states, thanks to a settlement retailers reached in July with MasterCard and Visa.

Read more:   http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=453496

Theaters, Playhouses Fear Financial Problems And Technical Demands Will Lower Their Curtains

At Oyster Mill Playhouse, the aging rooftop heating and air conditioning system is threatening to stage a death scene worthy of “King Lear.”

With audiences — and therefore revenues — down, there’s no money for a replacement, so managers of the not-for-profit community theater in East Pennsboro Twp. are hoping the community will donate about $25,000 to keep Oyster Mill going for another year.

“Like many other theaters, we are having our financial problems,” said Howard Hurwitz, vice president of the 91-seat theater’s board of directors. “This year has been kind of a bad year. We just haven’t been getting the attendance. We used to sell out on opening nights, but now we are lucky if we get the theater half-full.”

Oyster Mill is far from alone.

Read more:

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2012/11/oyster_mill_playhouse_theaters.html

City Of Reading Hires Montgomery County Firm For Payroll

At Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer’s request, City Council on Monday awarded data processing giant ADP a $214,100 contract to take over the city’s payroll operations.

The move will get rid of an error-prone, in-house system for which the IRS has fined the city more than $100,000.

“We’re not payroll experts; we’re getting out of the business,” said Christopher Zale, acting director of administrative services.

The IRS fines - $50,400 each for tax years 2007 and 2008 because the city’s W-2 forms weren’t compatible with IRS computers, and weren’t re-filed properly until months after the deadline – were levied in 2010.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=378811

Moody’s Investors Service Reviewing Penn State Bond Rating For Possible Downgrade

More bad news for Happy Valley!

Due to the charges against Jerry Sandusky, a major credit agency is reviewing Penn State’s Aa1 bond rating for a possible downgrade.  Moody’s Investors Service stated on Friday they have put Penn State’s bond rating under review due to the damage of the university’s reputation by the child sexual abuse scandal.

Moody’s will assess things like lawsuits brought against the university, enrollment decline, loss of donations and any change in the university’s status with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Needless to say, this action could negatively impact Penn State and the university’s ability to recover from the scandal.  Penn State is a major employer in Pennsylvania.  According to Wikipedia,”The university is now the largest in Pennsylvania, and in 2003, it was credited with having the second-largest impact on the state economy of any organization, generating an economic effect of over $17 billion on a budget of $2.5 billion.”

HSBC To Slash 30,000 Jobs Worldwide

Banco HSBC

Image via Wikipedia

UK banking giant HSBC is now focusing on fast-growing emerging markets and plans to sell about half of its US Retail Bank Branches (195) to First Niagara for about one billion dollars.  The branches up for sale are mainly in New York and six are in Connecticut.

HSBC lost billions in the financial crisis of 2008; however HSBC reported a 3 percent increase in pretax profits for the first half of 2011.  The increase exceeded forecasted expectations.

HSBC is shifting their focus by expanding in emerging markets and reducing headcount in tougher markets.  A company official failed to give details on specifically where the 30,000 job cuts would be made.

Why Is It Important For Pottstown Residents To Be Informed And Proactive?

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Image via Wikipedia

Code Blue is asking Pottstown Borough residents to make themselves aware of the current issues facing our borough and school district.  We here are Roy’s Rants agree!  The borough and school district occupy the same five square miles.  Therefore, it is crucial that the borough and school district work harmoniously and with the one vision for our community.  Your tax dollars support the borough government and the education of our children.

We believe the school district and borough are working more closely together.  A new spirit of cooperation is evolving since Dr. Lindley has become Superintendent of Schools.  We applaud the effort that the borough and school district are making to this end.  We encourage the borough and school district to continue working together and defining a common mission and vision to move Pottstown forward.

As a resident, the decisions that the Pottstown Borough Council and the Pottstown School Board make have a direct impact on your wallet.  Therefore, it is critical that taxpayers are educated consumers.  There are 22,377 Pottstown borough residents (2010 census).  Residents need to make fact-based decisions and not make decisions based the opinions of one or two outspoken people.

You are encouraged to attend school board and borough council meetings to gain first-hand knowledge of what goes on and see who is making decisions on your behalf and spending your money!  Knowledge is power.

Upcoming Pottstown School Board meetings are:

March 31st, April 14th, May 5th and May 19th

Upcoming Pottstown Borough Council meetings are:

April 11th and May 9th

There are some big decisions coming down the road about the number of elementary schools Pottstown really needs and can afford.  The school district is facing a large budget deficit due to funding cuts from Harrisburg and a declining tax base.  The teaching staff is without a contract and negotiations are not going well.  If you do not think these issues will impact your wallet, guess again!  If you are unhappy with your child’s education, your tax bill or have concerns with any of the issues I mentioned above, come to a school board meeting and let your feelings be known.  We elected these people into office and their job is to serve the taxpayers of this community.  They will welcome your comments.

http://www.pottstownschools.com/pottstown/Our%20District/Board%20of%20Education/Board%20Members.html/_top  Click this link to see who is on the school board if you are unsure.

The borough government is constantly grappling with decisions that affect your daily life at every meeting.  Sadly, a handful of people attend these meetings and offer little citizen advice.  Council needs to hear from the citizenry of this community.  Complaining that Pottstown sucks to everybody you know is not helpful and accomplishes little more than further damaging our community’s image to the outside world.  If you want to express your dissatisfaction about how this town is run, COME TO A COUNCIL MEETING and tell the people who can do something about it.  There are seven councilors making decisions for 22,377 people.  We voted them into office and they serve at our pleasure.  The taxpayers of this community put them in these positions.  Do you know who your councilor is?   http://www.pottstown.org/about_council.htm  Click this link to see who represents your Ward.

Do not be swayed by propaganda and skewed facts.  Make informed decisions by coming to meetings and asking questions from our elected officials.  Just because someone writes an opinion piece and publishes it in the newspaper does not mean it is 100 percent accurate.  It is an opinion.  An opinion can be defined as:  A belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof. 

Knowledge is power!

Camden Layoffs Become Reality

Census Bureau map of Camden, New Jersey

Image via Wikipedia

After months of talking about layoffs and balancing the budget, Camden now has far fewer municipal employees.  168 police, 67 firefighters and 100 other city workers were let go last week. (That represents about 25% of the city’s employees)  This is an effort to close Camden’s $26.5 million dollar budget deficit. (For a point of reference, Norristown’s entire 2011 budget is $25.5 million dollars).

The good news is that no spike in crime has occurred, yet.  However, as one astute online commenter pointed out, wait until summer.  It is too cold out now and people are staying indoors.  This summer, when it hot and people are outside, things will get dicey.  There is certainly something to be said for that theory.

Camden can not be compared to other suburbs their size.  Generally, suburbs do not have the inner city problems that Camden does.  Camden is certainly in a class by itself when you study their demographics and crime statistics.  The crime rate and abject poverty are startling. 

Another well made point was that Camden is not an island.  It is surrounded with other suburbs and criminals are not stopped by the city line.  Not good news for Camden’s affluent neighbors like Cherry Hill and Haddonfield, to name a few.           

Let us hope that a solution can be found to resolve Camden’s budget problems before the warmer weather hits!