Philly Schools Facing $320 Million Deficit

English: South Philadelphia High School, taken...

English: South Philadelphia High School, taken from Broad Street, with snow in the foreground (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

FOR THE SECOND straight year, the Philadelphia School District is staring at a more than $300 million shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

That’s according to a lump-sum budget adopted last night by the School Reform Commission, which lays out broad projections of revenue and expenses. The forecast anticipates $2.8 billion in expenses, with $2.5 billion in revenues, leaving a deficit of $320 million.

“Based on our current financial picture, we are still left without adequate funding to provide even the most basic services for our students,” SRC chairman Bill Green said. “We are again in a position to ask for additional funding.”

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20140328_Philly_schools_facing__320_million_deficit.html#P7Hcx2qtfSuo52VT.99

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Open For Risky Business: Philadelphia’s Vacant Properties

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Delaware County

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

With its broken plywood door and faded graffiti, the former hosiery mill on Frankford Avenue in Philadelphia’s Fishtown section is a contrast to the quarter-million-dollar townhouses and upscale lofts nearby.

1101 Frankford is not just a four-story eyesore, says Thomas Fasone, who owns an antique lighting shop next door. He rates it a magnet for trouble.

“It’s so easy to get into these buildings,” says Fasone, who has complained to the city. “They can go in to keep warm, start a fire, do drugs, fall asleep, and a fire breaks out.”

The place is supposed to be sealed. But on two recent visits, an Inquirer reporter found it open. The owners have problems, too. One of them, a Drexel Hill man, is accused of dealing marijuana

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/city/20140310_Open_for_risky_business__Phila__s_vacant_properties.html#5hYIOdF5lTCuGBHK.99

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Long-Awaited Change Coming To Italian Market

English: Map of Philadelphia County highlighti...

English: Map of Philadelphia County highlighting South Philadelphia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s 30 degrees and an icy rain is falling, but as Michele Gambino stands in the center of the Italian Market, she’s feeling surprisingly warm.

Not from the flames snapping in the fire barrels.

But because in 10 days, a change four years in the making comes to the venerable market, one that Gambino and others believe will enrich shoppers and enliven the assembly of grocery stores, butcher shops, and restaurants that line Ninth Street in South Philadelphia.

On Jan. 1, the business-district association takes control of the market’s iconic, outdoor rows of wooden stands.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20131223_Long-awaited_change_coming_to_Italian_Market.html#xkxhQzitABLg2xCv.99

Philly Ups Aggressive Tactics In Fighting Blight With CLIP Bill

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

CODE OFFICERS looking to rid nuisance conditions in locked-up, vacant lots around town just might get a pair of shears to gain access, if a bill becomes law by the end of January.

Legislation passed in City Council on Thursday would allow workers in city’s Community Life Improvement Programs, or CLIP, to clip the locks on vacant and abandoned fenced-in lots whose owners are either lost, unknown or unresponsive.

The ordinance, sponsored by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, gives greater power to CLIP, which works to improve the appearance of neighborhoods and eradicate blight.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20131215_City_ups_aggressive_tactics_in_fighting_blight_with_CLIP_bill.html#VPr0fYt2tSrQLCqu.99

Philadelphia Could Make History With Land Bank Plan

English: Map of Philadelphia County highlighti...

English: Map of Philadelphia County highlighting planning districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe City Councilman Bobby Henon said it best on Thursday: “Right now, we have opportunity to make historic changes.”

Henon, chairman of Council’s Public Property Committee, was talking about the bill to create a land bank.

It’s a system Atlanta, Cleveland, St. Louis, and other cities have adopted and that supporters say could help cure the blight haunting many Philadelphia neighborhoods.

But with history at stake, the proposal seems stuck

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20131125_Philadelphia_could_make_history_with_land_bank_plan.html#u0ZlRfmlg53GFGwF.99

50-Story Hotel Proposal For Center City Gains In Council

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)

City Council moved closer Thursday to approving millions in tax breaks for a contentious 50-story hotel development in the heart of Center City.

The $280 million tower would include two hotel brands – W and Elements – built on a parking lot at 15th and Chestnut Streets, a half-acre plot adjacent to the disastrous 1991 fire that consumed One Meridian Plaza and resulted in the deaths of three firefighters.

The developers, Brook Lenfest and Jeffrey Cohen, say they can’t build there without tax increment financing (TIF), a deal in which they would borrow $33 million and repay the loan through tax breaks authorized by the city.

The project – and TIFs in general – has its critics, and the Council chamber was packed Thursday with lobbyists, supporters, and opponents, who waited out a hearing that lasted more than five hours.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20131108_50-story_hotel_proposal_for_Center_City_gains_in_Council.html#q0H4BjrGoLvkrcT5.99

Philadelphia Council Committee Says Yes To A Land Bank

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

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

After years of talking the talk about getting a land bank in Philadelphia, where blight scars entire neighborhoods, City Council started Monday to walk the walk.

On a 6-1 vote, Council’s Committee on Public Property and Public Works approved a resolution to establish a land bank. The bill still needs a vote of the full Council.

If it approves, Philadelphia would become the largest city with a land bank. Land banks streamline the process for rescuing blighted property, whether by homeowners who want to turn a vacant lot next door into a garden or developers who hope to buy clusters of houses to make way for a major project.

One expert said Philadelphia was better equipped than some cities with land banks, such as Flint, Mich.; Cleveland; and St. Louis.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20131029_Phila__Council_committee_says_yes_to_a_land_bank.html#86b2DVYsKXDDfbXV.99

Lawyers Slam Demolition Work At Center City Philadelphia Collapse Site

PHILADELPHIA – Attorneys for four people suing over the collapse of a downtown building that killed six people last week lambasted the demolition work after surveying the site Sunday.

Lawyers and consultants walked gingerly on piles of debris, indicating to photographers and videographers what they wanted documented. Meanwhile, other consultants on a hoist far above scanned the site where a four-story building under demolition gave way and toppled onto an attached Salvation Army thrift store Wednesday, killing two employees and four customers and injuring 13 others.

Afterward, attorney Robert Mongeluzzi, who said his firm represents three plaintiffs in lawsuits against the property owner and contractor, said his initial examination indicated that the building that collapsed had brick-bearing walls and wooden girders without steel support and should have been demolished by hand rather than using heavy equipment. In addition, he said, the backhoe appeared to not be high enough to pull the wall down on the side away from the thrift store.

“Of course, a demolition from the top down by hand would have been much more time-consuming and expensive but was really the only way to get this done safely,” he said.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20130609_ap_lawyersslamdemolitionworkatpacollapsesite.html#ibzXi0JbVdKrHgE2.99

Town By Town: Somerton, A Suburban Feel In The City

Somerton is rare among Philadelphia neighborhoods: Its borders are fairly clear.

“It’s really more of a square,” says Seth Kaplan, 28, who grew up in Bustleton and chose to buy his first home here in 2009.  The house – where Kaplan, chief of staff for State Rep. Kevin Boyle, lives with wife Melissa, son Dylan, 3, and daughter Michaela, 2 – had “a low sale price in a great neighborhood,” though it “needed to be completely gutted.”

Easily discernible borders are just one thing in Somerton’s favor.  Another, says Keller-Williams real estate agent Mike Fitzpatrick, is a “strong sense of community and the political wherewithal to keep it that way.”

With a view of Montgomery County to the northwest and Bucks County to the northeast, Somerton has the feel of the suburbs without being there.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/classifieds/real_estate/town-by-town/20130602_Town_By_Town__Somerton__a_suburban_feel_in_the_city.html#dPS2LuesjGDwoLux.99

Changing Skyline: Philly Steering Toward Bike Sharing

Philadelphia didn’t need Bicycling magazine to confirm that it is one of America’s best biking cities (No. 17 on its 2012 list).  You can see it every day on the streets:

Near northeast corner, May 2005.

Near northeast corner, May 2005. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The steady stream of commuters sluicing down Center City‘s bike lanes.  The tangle of bikes hitched to U-shaped racks and bike corrals.  (More, please.)  The proliferation of neighborhood bike shops.

Philadelphia probably could have ranked higher in the magazine’s esteem if it had a bike-sharing program, like most of the list’s top 20 cities.  You can now find cheap, on-street bike rentals in more than 135 places around the world, many of them with worse weather and hillier streets than Philadelphia.  Yet the city has remained strangely ambivalent toward the concept, even as private bikes have become a popular transit option within the city.

But the sight of Mayor Nutter tooling around Rittenhouse Square last week on a canary-yellow cruiser suggests Philadelphia is finally ready to commit.  To show the city’s seriousness, his Transportation Department organized a daylong bike-sharing demonstration with three top vendors, supplying a docking-station’s worth of bikes in paint-box colors.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/20130510_Changing_Skyline__City_steering_toward_bike_sharing.html#oeXi4rzPYwBAAXdv.99

‘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 Mayor’s Campaign Finances Being Probed

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

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

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer’s 2011 mayoral campaign committee – and its $10,000 gifts to each of two Philadelphia City Council candidates – is the focus of the Berks County Election Board’s probe begun in August, the board chairman confirmed Friday.

The chairman, Commissioner Mark C. Scott, also confirmed that he is the one who sought approval for the probe after studying the campaign finance reports of the Friends for Vaughn Spencer committee.

He said the Philadelphia questions are one aspect of the probe, but there are others.  He did not elaborate.

Scott said the election board has taken testimony from a number of witnesses and is reviewing the evidence.  He said the board has not yet adopted any final recommendations, but likely will issue its report in about a month.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=457692

Philly Says Yuengling Owes $6.6 Million In Taxes

English: Finished bottles of Traditional Lager...

English: Finished bottles of Traditional Lager being placed into cases at Yuengling Brewery, Pottsville, PA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WHEN Dick Yuengling bought a round of beers for more than 10,000 Philadelphians on National Drink Beer Day last year, he said “the city has truly shown our family business brotherly love, and we’d like to raise a glass to that.”

Now, Dick Yuengling may be throwing back a few of his own brews after receiving a civil lawsuit from the city that claims his brewery, D.G. Yuengling and Son Inc., has failed to pay more than $6.6 million in city taxes, interest and penalty fees.

How does a Pottsville-based beer company that doesn’t have a brewery or a plant in Philadelphia come to owe millions in business-income and receipts taxes to the city?

Read more:  http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/city/20130205_City_says_Yuengling_owes__6_6_million_in_taxes.html