Lancaster General Hospital Surplus Soars After Several Years Of Decline

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

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

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.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/lgh-surplus-soars-after-several-years-of-decline/article_2a806084-2f92-11e4-8770-001a4bcf6878.html

Fiscal Board Approves Philadelphia’s 5-Year Plan

English: This is my own work, Public Domain Ph...

English: This is my own work, Public Domain Photograph, not copyrighted Ed Yakovich http://www.flickr.com/photos/10396190@N04 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140722_PICA_likes_Phila__s_5-year_plan.html#qRukpGb4zKGUI7xu.99

York Mayor Kim Bracey: 5 Game Changers That Could Save York (Column)

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County

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

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.

Read more: http://www.ydr.com/letters/ci_26165619/kim-bracey-5-game-changers-that-could-save

Tax Increase Set For State College Area School District Residents

Counties constituting the Happy Valley Region ...

Counties constituting the Happy Valley Region of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 — Taxpayers in the State College Area School District will see a 1.95 percent tax increase after the district school board adopted its final general fund budget Monday.

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.

Local Services Tax Could Triple Under Act 47 Plan

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.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/tax-could-triple-under-act-47-plan-1.1705643

Pottstown School District Adopts Proposed $60M Budget That Raises Taxes 2.9 Percent

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.”

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140521/pottstown-adopts-proposed-60m-budget-that-raises-taxes-29

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Pension Crisis About To Explode For Pennsylvania School Districts

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.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20131204/pension-crisis-about-to-explode-for-pa-school-districts

Hazleton City Shutdown Looms Over Deficit

Downtown Hazleton, PA

Downtown Hazleton, PA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/1010850/Hazleton-city-shutdown-looms-over-deficit

Act 47 Cities Elect New Mayors Amid Changes

Map of Pennsylvania, showing major cities and ...

Map of Pennsylvania, showing major cities and roads (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Election Day brought victories to Democrat Bill Courtright in Scranton, Democrat Bill Peduto in Pittsburgh, Democrat Eric Papenfuse in Harrisburg and Republican Matt Pacifico in Altoona.

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.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/act-47-cities-elect-new-mayors-amid-changes-1.1582982

Facing 4.3% Tax Hike, Pottstown Working To Close $330K Budget Deficit

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

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

POTTSTOWN, PA — The public got its first look at the proposed $38.3 million borough budget for 2014 on Wednesday night and saw a projected deficit of more than $330,000 — the rough equivalent of a 4.3 percent property tax increase.

Finance Director Janice Lee made the budget presentation, but did not identify how the administration will propose to close the deficit, which her presentation spreadsheet pegged more specifically at $332,308.

Other than a property tax increase, options for closing that budget gap could include additional revenue from other sources or decreased expenses.

Asked after the meeting how much of a tax hike would be needed to close that gap, Lee declined to speculate and noted that the administration has not yet made a recommendation to borough council, whose members listened to the budget presentation Wednesday night but asked no questions.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20131107/facing-43-tax-hike-pottstown-working-to-close-330k-budget-deficit

PEL: Scranton Faces $20 Million Deficit Next Year; Needs To Raise Taxes

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Scranton city government’s budget outlook for next year continues to worsen as the city now faces a possible deficit of nearly $20 million for 2014, according to the city’s financial-recovery coordinator.

That state-appointed Act 47 coordinator, Pennsylvania Economy League, also urges the city to craft a “realistic and responsible” budget for next year that closes the structural deficit and lists as options unspecified hikes in both the real-estate (property) and earned-income (wage) taxes, and an increase in the city’s annual garbage fee.

“I think the letter speaks for itself,” Mr. Cross said in a phone interview. “It shows where the city is in terms of recovery-plan progress and shows the challenges that we always spoke of for 2014 being a challenging year.”

Read the letter here

City Business Administrator Gina McAndrew said the 2014 budget is in the works. She would not rule out any increases in taxes or fees but declined to say what may be under consideration.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/pel-scranton-faces-20-million-deficit-next-year-needs-to-raise-taxes-1.1566385

Detriot Files For Bankruptcy

Map of downtown Detroit with I-375 and BS-375 ...

Map of downtown Detroit with I-375 and BS-375 highlighted (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DETROIT — Detroit on Thursday became the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy, as the state-appointed emergency manager filed for Chapter 9 protection.

Kevyn Orr, a bankruptcy expert, was hired by the state in March to lead Detroit out of a fiscal free-fall and made the filing Thursday in federal bankruptcy court.

A number of factors — most notably steep population and tax base falls — have been blamed on Detroit’s tumble toward insolvency.  Detroit lost a quarter-million residents between 2000 and 2010.  A population that in the 1950s reached 1.8 million is struggling to stay above 700,000.  Much of the middle-class and scores of businesses also have fled Detroit, taking their tax dollars with them.

In recent months, the city has relied on state-backed bond money to meet payroll for its approximately 10,000 employees.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130718/NEWS04/130719263/once-mighty-motor-city-files-for-bankruptcy

Pennsylvania Legislature OKs Budget, But Not Corbett Agenda

HARRISBURG – The main Pennsylvania state budget bill became law with Gov. Tom Corbett’s signature on Sunday night, as he acknowledged that the wider agenda he had sought with it of overhauling public employee pension systems, privatizing wine and liquor sales and increasing transportation funding has stalled until the fall.

Still, Corbett did not express disappointment, and instead sought to highlight the progress that occurred in the Legislature.

“I have to thank the people for what they’ve done and I certainly encourage them when they return in the fall,” Corbett told reporters shortly after the signing the bill at 10:15 p.m.  “Let’s get it done.”

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=489833

Standard & Poor’s Increases Pittsburgh’s Credit Rating To A

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)

The credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s has bumped up Pittsburgh’s credit rating three notches to A, a move that could save the city money on future borrowing by improving the city’s credit profile.

The agency cited a number of factors in moving the city’s credit rating up from BBB.  First, it said the city’s resilient economy and “deep and diverse economic base” which allowed the city to fare relatively well during the economic downturn.  It also cited the presence of two state-appointed oversight boards that have kept close tabs on the city’s budget since the state of Pennsylvania declared it financially distressed nearly a decade ago.

S&P analyst Andrew Teras also cited the city’s debt management, increase in reserves and ability to manage long-term liabilities, like pensions.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/standard-poors-increases-pittsburghs-credit-rating-to-a-693510/#ixzz2XX5qOifp

Pottstown Property Owners Facing 2.4 Percent Tax Hike Under $53M Budget

POTTSTOWN — Few changes were unveiled Thursday night when the school board’s finance committee met to review the proposed $53 million budget that would raise property taxes by 2.4 percent, or $65.70 per year, for the average property owners.

The 2.4 percent tax hike is the maximum allowed under the state’s Act 1 index without going to the voters for approval.

“There really are very minimal changes from the preliminary final budget you approved last month,” Business Manager Linda Adams told the finance committee Thursday night.

As with most budget deliberations, there was good news and bad news.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130615/NEWS01/130619437/pottstown-property-owners-facing-2-4-tax-hike-under-53m-budget

Postal Service Is On Its Last Legs, With Little Help In Sight

English: U.S. Post Office Lincoln Branch in Ma...

English: U.S. Post Office Lincoln Branch in Madison Township near Mansfield, Ohio. This United States Postal Service branch closed its doors at 4:30 p.m. on Friday February 11, 2011 due to the fiscal crisis that the United States Postal Service is in as of 2010-2011 and the drastic decline in mail volume. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON — With a wide grin and a quick step, letter carrier Kenny Clark brings more than the day’s mail to the people on his route in suburban Maryland.

Clark, 49, greets nearly everyone he sees by name. He puts packages under eaves on overcast days to keep them dry, reminds people to retrieve keys they might have left in keyholes, and shouts a quick “You OK?” at the doors of seniors.

“He’s a neighborhood icon — him and his truck,” said Amy Dick, who lives on Clark’s route.

But his future, and that of the U.S. Postal Service, is in doubt. The Postal Service lost $1.9 billion between January and March, and $15.9 billion last year. The 238-year-old institution loses $25 million each day, and has reached its borrowing limit with the federal Treasury. Daily mail delivery could be threatened within a year, officials say.

Read more:  http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/la-na-postal-service-20130528,0,4812985.story

Deficit To Get Millions Worse In Future, Reading City Council Told

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

City Controller Christian Zale on Monday pressed his case, again, to City Council: Unless the city makes some drastic changes, it’s facing a $35 million cumulative deficit by 2017.

However, those changes can’t include bigger property tax hikes; Zale said his projection already assumes the city raises the property tax by 5 percent in each of the next four years.

But he said the tax increases cut the deficit by only $10 million.  Without them, the deficit rises to $45 million.

“Me being conservative, I tried to be as gloomy as I could,” Zale told council.  “And quite frankly, I don’t want to hear (that) we’ll approach that and try to solve it when that time comes.”

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=479276

‘Catastrophic’ Budget Laid Out By Philly Schools

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

If the “catastrophic” budget picture Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. laid out Thursday comes to pass, Philadelphia schools would be virtually unrecognizable come September.

There could be no money for counselors or librarians. There might be no sports or extracurricular activities. No dedicated funds for secretaries, aides, or summer school would be provided. And that would follow the steep cuts made over the last two years.

There also could be 3,000 layoffs, including some teachers.

This doomsday scenario comes as a result of a deficit of more than $300 million in the district’s $2.7 billion 2013-14 budget. Officials have asked for $120 million in additional funding from the state and $60 million from the city, as well as $133 million in concessions from labor unions.

Read more:  http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20130419__Catastrophic__budget_laid_out_by_Philly_schools.html

Reading On Course For $35 Million Cumulative Deficit By 2017

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reading is on course to amass a $35 million cumulative deficit by the end of 2017 even if it raises property taxes by 5 percent a year, controller Christian Zale told City Council on Monday.

The budget likely will be $1 million short this year and $1.4 million short in 2014, but Zale said the city’s own fiscal cliff comes in 2015, when it expects a $10.2 million deficit.

That will be repeated in 2016 with a $10.9 million deficit, and again in 2017 with an $11.4 million deficit, he said.

“Now is the time to address the 2015 cliff, (and) also ensure future decisions do not exacerbate these projected deficits,” he said.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=469810

Stalled Owen J Roberts Contract Talks Lead To Teacher Slowdown

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Chester County

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

SOUTH COVENTRY — The stalled contract negotiations between the Owen J. Roberts School District and its teachers union has gone public.

The teachers have been working without a contract since June 30 and the two sides have been negotiating, quietly for the most part, for 15 months.

However the failure to reach an agreement about wages has raised the stakes and the rhetoric in the matter and the teachers union have instructed their members to work only to the specific language of the expired contract and cease all extra and voluntary activities.

School Board President Douglas K. Hughes reacted by issuing a letter to the district Tuesday, which was also   posted on the district web site, announcing that the teachers union had decided to “work to contract,” explaining they would “work only to the contractually obligated hours” and informing residents and taxpayers the union had asked their members “not to participate in any unpaid activities.”

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130328/NEWS01/130329308/stalled-ojr-contract-talks-lead-to-teacher-slowdown#full_story