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.
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.
York’s budget woes have set off a scramble to find ways to save positions in the departments that could face the deepest losses — police and fire — and triggered a whirlwind of questions about what would happen to the city if a balanced budget can come only at the cost of cutting public safety personnel.
Mayor Kim Bracey‘s budget, which she introduced Tuesday, would cut 46 positions in the police department and eight fire-fighting jobs, and would cut the city’s work force from 412 employees in 2014 to 315 next year, documents show. Bracey said she was faced with few options and asked community partners, legislators and the county for outside help.
As of Friday, “no one has knocked on the door,” she said.
She has called for union concessions. Bracey said she will meet with fire union President Fred Desantis on Monday, and the city already is in negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police. Police union president Mike Davis said he is “committed” to reaching an agreement before the end of the year.
Hours after York Mayor Kim Bracey outlined her proposal to dramatically reduce the city’s work force, including deep cuts to public safety forces, in order to close an anticipated $7 million budget gap, public backlash began.
“I’m ashamed for the city,” said James Waughtel during public comment at a City Council meeting Tuesday night, calling the potential loss of police and fire personnel “extremely devastating.”
Members of the fire union also lined the council chambers to listen as Bracey presented her plan to council members.
AFTER TOM WOLF got his doctorate from MIT, he worked at his family-owned cabinet company – driving a forklift.
That experience could soon come in handy.
Estimates just released by the state’s Independent Fiscal Office say the incoming governor’s first budget faces a shortfall of nearly $2 billion.
Heavy lifting clearly is called for.
Malvern, PA – , recently joined Hoover Financial Advisors as a senior tax advisor. His appointment was announced by Peter K. Hoover, CFP, president and HFA founder. “We are delighted to have someone with such impressive credentials on our team,” says Hoover. “He is an asset for clients, particularly seniors.”
Furey’s primary duties are to help HFA clients with tax planning and preparation. His expertise concerning executive compensation tax implications, stock options and restricted stock, 401(k), pension plans and employee benefits is essential in guiding clients to financial goals and comfortable retirement. In addition, Furey’s knowledge of the intricacies of incentive programs and deferred compensation is beneficial in the tax planning process. He is a volunteer preparer through the AARP tax aide program. “I enjoyed learning how to apply HFA’s state-of-the-art software to my job. I first came here as a seasonal tax preparer and it evolved into an exciting and challenging year ‘round position,” concludes Furey.
Furey was an executive for Campbell Soup Company for more than 25 years. He served as vice president and corporate secretary for 18 years and received Campbell’s prestigious Influence with Honor leadership award. He holds a bachelor’s of science degree in business administration from Villanova University. He earned a doctor of jurisprudence and master of laws in taxation from Villanova, as well. Furey and his wife Jill reside in Villanova.
HFA, which is headquartered on Moores Road in Malvern, was launched in 2005 by Hoover, who has been an independent financial advisor for more than 30 years. Since its inception, HFA has tripled in size. Employees include client relationship managers, financial planners, insurance and tax specialists, investment analyst and an information services manager. Two years ago, HFA was selected as 2012 Small Business of the Year by Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry. For more information, visit its website at www.petehoover.com or call 610.651.2777. To reach Furey, call the tax department at 610.651.2777 (Ext. 123).
HARRISBURG, PA — Scranton and other fiscally distressed cities could triple the local services tax to help them move out of Act 47 status under legislation that won final legislative approval with a 43-5 Senate vote Thursday.
This option would be available to Act 47 municipalities only as an alternative to an increased earned income tax already available to them.
Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to sign the bill after a review, said spokesman Jay Pagni. He has 10 days to review the provisions.
The local services tax could potentially triple from $52 annually to $156 annually for individuals working in those municipalities but those earning under $15,600 annually would be exempt from the higher local services tax.
The latest sample of voter opinions in the Pennsylvania governor’s race tested for lingering effects of Gov. Tom Corbett’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation investigation.
It shows the struggling Republican incumbent still trailing Democratic challenger Tom Wolf by double digits.
Robert Morris University Polling Institute found 54.6 percent of voters say the Sandusky case would not affect their vote, according to an online survey sponsored by Trib Total Media. Almost 27 percent say Corbett’s handling of the investigation makes them less likely to support his re-election, and 12 percent say it makes them more likely to vote for Corbett.
Scranton commuters will not have to pay a commuter tax.
Senior Judge John Braxton of Philadelphia issued an order today striking down Scranton’s commuter tax.
The judge dismissed two procedural objections made by petitioners opposing the commuter tax, but agreed that Act 205 doesn’t give the city power to exclusively levy a tax on commuters. The wage tax had to be levied on both nonresidents and residents.
Mayor Bill Peduto today presented a $505.9 million city budget proposal for 2015 that includes a real estate tax increase but ends what he characterized as two decades of budgeting shell games, putting Pittsburgh firmly on the path to financial solvency.
“Today is the beginning of the end of Pittsburgh’s financial distress,” Mr. Peduto said at a news conference where he was flanked by Sam Ashbaugh, the city’s new director of the Office of Management and Budget. “We’re overhauling our entire budget. We’re stripping it down and building it back up.”
Mr. Peduto said his staff worked with the city council, the city controller and the Pittsburgh’s financial overseers under the state Act 47 program for distressed municipalities to vet revenue forecasts.
After five straight years of shrinking “profits,” Lancaster County’s biggest nonprofit hospital turned things around last year — due in large part to cost cutting.
Lancaster General Hospital’s surplus, or revenues over expenses, ballooned to $92.6 million in 2012-2013, up 54 percent from the previous year and the highest total since 2007-2008, according to the hospital’s IRS Form 990, released earlier this summer.
The hospital’s parent firm, Lancaster General Health, inched closer to becoming a billion-dollar organization in 2012-2013, with total revenues of $919.8 million and a surplus of $100.7 million.
Philadelphia’s finances are improving and are likely to continue doing so through 2019.
The Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) board made that optimistic determination Monday when it unanimously approved the city’s five-year plan.
The city’s fiscal overseers cautioned, however, that various risks were still associated with the Nutter administration’s long-term budget, including unresolved labor contracts, the School District’s fiscal crisis, and the pension fund.
Despite its concerns, PICA staff found enough good news in the five-year plan and in its most recent revenue reports to endorse that administration’s fiscal road map to 2019. So did the City Controller’s Office. Both the staff and the controller had recommended the opposite last year, for the first time in PICA’s history.
As the 2015 budget season approaches, it is my duty to talk straight about our city’s fiscal challenges and pension legacy costs that have been growing since before the turn of this century. While laying out the dire conditions, leadership requires us to hold out meaningful hope by advocating for bold measures. Long term fiscal game-changers can stabilize our property taxes while enabling us to continue providing quality public services and infrastructure that our people deserve and demand.
At times, I feel like a night watchman of earlier centuries who witnesses a spreading fire and vigorously shouts and rings the bell to alert citizens of the imminent crisis. During the last two city administrations, we’ve been warning of the growing fiscal crisis for 13 years, and we’ve done as much as we can internally to make our budget process transparent, to seek sound recommendations from outside experts, to cut costs, and to be fiscally responsible. The list is extensive.
• In 2003, under Mayor Brenner, our city initiated its first open budget hearings, an annual tradition that continues to this year.
• In 2006, our city was one of the very first in the state to enter the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Early Intervention Program, which provided an analysis of York’s finances by outside experts. Their analysis concluded that York’s financial controls and management were strong but that systemic constraints beyond its control were leading to out-of-control costs. Recommendations included implementing a parking tax, which was done.
Board members unanimously approved, with no discussion, a real estate tax increase from 38.75 mills to 39.5056 mills, with each mill representing $3.95 per $100 of assessed value.
Under the budget of $126,791,664 for the fiscal year starting July 1 and ending June 30, 2015, the median district homeowner will pay an additional $54, according to the district.
The district projects that the tax increase will add $1.56 million in revenue, while assessed value growth will provide another $1.2 million.
HARRISBURG — People who work in Scranton and other distressed municipalities could see a $52 annual tax triple under a new Senate amendment.
Lawmakers want to steer Act 47 municipalities to levy a higher local services tax as an alternative to a commuter tax.
The distressed cities legislation cleared a first Senate hurdle Wednesday with a comprehensive amendment added by the Local Government Committee.
The committee’s action is the latest step in an effort to overhaul the Act 47 program for fiscally distressed municipalities. Scranton, Nanticoke, West Hazleton and Plymouth Twp. have Act 47 status. Shamokin is seeking to enter the program.
POTTSTOWN — With a 7-2 vote at its May 15 meeting, the Pottstown School Board adopted a $59.9 million proposed budget that would raise taxes by 2.9 percent if it is adopted unchanged as a final budget in June.
Board members Ron Williams and Thomas Hylton cast the only two votes against the proposed budget, which increases spending 5.6 percent and would increase the annual tax bill by $81.91 for the owner of a property assessed at $73,670 — the borough’s median assessment.
Board member Amy Francis said, “This is a very difficult decision for me because, like every other taxpayer, I am at the end of my rope, but I also feel we have a responsibility to get the job done that we started with the renovations at the elementary schools. We can’t do one without the other.”
School districts across Pennsylvania are getting news that’s unpleasant yet not unexpected.
The Public School Employees Retirement System, or PSERS, last week began sending notices to school districts that their pension costs will climb to 21.4 percent of payroll in the 2014-15 school year.
Even though that total could change a bit before it becomes official at an end-of-year meeting of the PSERS board, it gives a pretty good indication of what school districts are facing.
For historical context, the 21.4 percent figure is the highest rate since at least the 1950s — and it’s quite a jump from the 16.9 percent districts paid this year.
HAZLETON, PA — About 50 of the city’s 110 employees might be furloughed as early as Monday and the city is in danger of defaulting on its bills because of a $500,000 budget deficit.
At a press conference Monday, Mayor Joe Yannuzzi unveiled the latest in a string of the city’s financial woes that started last year when it had to raise the real estate tax by 45 percent. As it stands, non-essential employees — primarily office personnel and some public works employees — will not show up for work Monday and City Hall will be closed.
Firefighters and police will work regular shifts and road crews will still plow snow from the streets, Yannuzzi said.
HARRISBURG – New mayors have been elected in four large cities under Act 47 status just as lawmakers are giving greater attention to urban fiscal issues.
The mayors-elect came to office by various routes and campaigned on issues specific to their cities, but once in office they will face common problems with a shrinking tax base, greater demand for municipal services and the skyrocketing cost of unfunded pension obligations for municipal employees.
It could help matters that new elected spokesmen for cities will be on the scene while state lawmakers consider a wave of legislation to help municipalities address financial problems.