Your Pottstown Tax Dollars At Work

Editor’s Note:  Former Sixth Ward Councilor, Jody Rhoads posted this fine example of the Pottstown Public Works Department’s keen eye for detail when constructing a “curb cut” aka handicapped access ramp.  Imagine trying to get your wheelchair around the poles. Apparently, this didn’t seem like a flawed plan to whomever constructed the ramp? Really?

 

Jody writes “Here is another one where Pottstown’s Public Works wasted you’re money.  What is wrong here?  West St between Charlotte and Evans. Go look at it for yourself.  These are the type of things that need to come out so people can see what Pottstown and its leadership is really all about.  And I’ll bet no one will raise hell at a Council meeting about this! Leadership thinks this is doing a GOOD job?  This one should go VIRAL!”

Feast your eyes on this engineering marvel!  No, it’s not an April Fool’s joke…

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Mayor Peduto Puts New Focus On Pittsburgh Public School System

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)

More than a decade ago, the Mayor’s Commission on Public Education called for the Pittsburgh Public Schools board to be appointed by the mayor rather than elected by residents.

That hasn’t happened nor have some of the other recommendations in the 144-page report critical of the district and written during the administration of Tom Murphy in 2003.

In the intervening years, no other mayor or mayor’s commission has tried to take control away from an elected school board or made such sweeping recommendations.

While he hasn’t suggested appointing the school board, Mayor Bill Peduto, sworn in last month, is taking a keen interest in the fate of the school district.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2014/02/17/Peduto-puts-new-focus-on-city-s-school-system/stories/201402170044#ixzz2tbUvxXqU

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Chester County Approves 2014 Budget

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Chester County

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

WEST CHESTER, PA – Chester County approved a $523 million budget Wednesday that would not raise residents’ taxes in 2014.

Operating expenses total $430 million, and the capital budget is $93 million. Next year’s budget is $4 million less than this year’s budget.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/suburban_pa/20131212_Chester_County_approves_2014_budget.html#tvoLqI6IphpHvOqD.99

Mayor Holds Line On Taxes, Raises His Own Salary In Proposed Budget

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

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

WILKES-BARRE, PA – Mayor Tom Leighton proposed a $42.7 million 2014 budget Friday without any tax or fee hikes, a raise for himself and funding to hire additional police officers.

“My goal is to hire at least 10 new officers in 2014, but we will closely monitor the strength of city finances to hire as many officers as the general fund can afford,” Leighton said during his budget presentation at city hall.

Unionized city employees will receive a 3 percent raise. Leighton’s salary also will increase 3 percent for 2014 to $82,309.

Leighton, who is serving in his third term as mayor, said he has not taken a raise for the last seven years amid financial woes

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/mayor-holds-line-on-taxes-raises-his-own-salary-in-proposed-budget-1.1567278

Lehigh Valley Man Protests School Taxes By Paying With 7,143 $1 Bills

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

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

Bet tax collector Anne Bennett-Morse is glad didn’t pay his school taxes in pennies.

The Forks Township father, whose three children are homeschooled, last week staged a personal protest against funding public education by lugging in a satchel filled with 7,143 one-dollar bills.

He had everything recorded on a YouTube video for the world to see — and hear his reasons.

Sporting a clean, pinstriped dress shirt, untucked over jeans, the crew-cutted IT manager neatly piled 71 stacks worth $100 each on the counter, along with 54 cents, at the municipal building of the Northampton County town, a few miles north of Easton.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/E_Pa_man_pays_tax_in_7143_1_bills.html#ZFq54ZXrlHRqD2IP.99

Reading School Board Makes Budget Progress

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

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

Slowly toiling away, looking at proposed cuts from every angle imaginable, the Reading School Board inched closer and closer to its members’ goal: a balanced budget they can live with.

Following the board’s voting meeting Wednesday night, members stuck around to pick through the administration’s latest proposed 2013-14 spending plan.

They reviewed a list of 18 cuts one by one, taking straw polls to find out which ones have support and which ones don’t.

And, with two days before they plan to vote on a final budget, they appeared to have finally made some big decisions.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=487596

Antietam, Exeter Hold Public Session On Merger Possibilities

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

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

At a town meeting Monday night at Reformation Lutheran Church in Exeter Township, the questions reached so far across the board that Arlene Unger had to admit, “I think we’re a little premature with the specifics of the questions.”

“Some questions can’t be answered until the (school) boards decide which model they want to pursue,” Unger of Exeter Township said at the meeting hosted by the church and organized by area pastors.

Just what direction school officials plan to go is a question that’s still up in the air.

“It’s important for us to get a feel of what you feel,” said Exeter School Board President Robert H. Quinter Jr.  “We’re going to make the decision.  So the more information I get from you at meetings like this, the better off I am.”

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=484010

Merger’s Benefits Mulled At Antietam Meeting

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

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

If the Antietam and Exeter school districts were to combine in some form, students from both could take advantage of a minimum of 42 new course offerings.

They’d also have access to 10 different buildings and added athletic facilities.

And have the opportunity to take part in up to 31 new clubs and activities.

“You’d have the capacity to do a lot more,” Kerry Moyer told more than 150 parents and residents at Antietam’s Mount Penn Primary Center Wednesday. “And you’d have the capacity to accommodate a large enrollment (increase) if it does happen.”

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=472673

Reading Schools Begin Pondering $8 Million Budget Gap

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

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

There’s a lot of work still to be done.

Facing a budget gap estimated at about $8 million, that was the overriding message Wednesday night during the first in a series of budget workshops held by the Reading School Board.

Not much new was revealed during the workshop, with Robert Peters, the district’s chief financial officer, simply setting the stage for future budget talks by reviewing the district’s current fiscal status.

Peters said he built the initial $216 million budget – the one with the $8 million hole – without reducing any services or programs.  It includes the maximum allowable tax increase of 2.8 percent, as well as any other projected changes that he could predict to expenditures and revenues.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=465957

Governor Mifflin Administrator Pushes For Maximum Tax Hike

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

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

The $1.88 million shortfall in the Gov. Mifflin School District’s 2013-14 budget draft could turn into a surplus if the board continues with a proposal to raise taxes the most state law will allow, administrators said Monday.

The district had thought the nearly 5 percent tax hike would fall short of balancing the $64.67 million preliminary budget the school board approved last month.  But Business Manager Mark R. Naylon told the board Monday that the district would be able to save more money than expected.

Even with the rosier financial outlook, Naylon urged the board to continue making budget cuts where it can and to still consider the maximum increase, which would raise the tax rate by 1.186 mills.

“When you have something available, you have to take advantage of it,” he said.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=463406

Pottstown Joint Meeting Wrestles With Jobs Versus Lost Tax Dollars

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

POTTSTOWN — During the first joint meeting of the year between borough council and the Pottstown School Board, discussion was free-flowing and frequent.

Perhaps highest on the list, and the subject which generated the most focused conversation, had to do with a business that wants to occupy the former 84 Lumber truss plant at the end of Keystone Boulevard.

Steve Bamford, the director of Pottstown Area Industrial Development Inc. and the borough’s chief economic development officer, gave for the third time, an overview of the Keystone Opportunity Zone program and the request from Heritage Coach Co. to occupy some of the space there.

Sellers of hearses and limousines, Heritage began as a side business for the Lankford family, which also operated a GM dealership in Conshohocken that was shut down during what Jay Lankford, a Hill School graduate, called GM’s “political sham of a bankruptcy.”

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130228/NEWS01/130229383/pottstown-joint-meeting-wrestles-with-jobs-vs-lost-tax-dollars#full_story

Property Taxes To Rise Across Philadelphia Suburbs

English: Pennsylvania county map

English: Pennsylvania county map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hundreds of thousands of property owners in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties are getting something they probably don’t want in the new year – higher real estate taxes.

Countywide increases, approved in December, affect the owners of all 382,304 real estate parcels in Chester and Delaware Counties.  Some people are taking a double hit, as at least 27 towns in those counties also have increased taxes.

Bucks and Montgomery Counties kept their rates the same, but at least 28 municipalities raised real estate levies.

While the reasons vary, officials say the overarching reason is basic: Revenue is down; costs aren’t.

Read more:  http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/suburban_pa/20130128_Property_taxes_to_rise_across_Philadelphia_suburbs.html

Scranton School Board Passes Budget With No Tax Increase

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Scranton residents will see one tax bill stay the same for 2013.

The Scranton School Board on Thursday night unanimously approved a $120.4 million budget that calls for no tax increase.

With a city tax increase of about 25 percent and a 4 percent increase in Lackawanna County taxes, Scranton school directors said they wanted to give residents a break.

Directors had been looking at a tax increase of 1.35 percent, but with interest rates for tax anticipation notes coming in lower than expected, finding additional health care savings and using $1.18 million in capital improvement money to pay down debt, officials balanced the budget.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-school-board-passes-budget-with-no-tax-increase-1.1422154

No Pottstown Tax Hike Due, In Part, To 3-Year-Old Report Says Council President

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  And also due to the tireless efforts of Jason Bobst, Janice Lee and Dan Weand for fixing the broken accounting system.  Imagine what Pottstown could become if Council President Toroney followed the ULI Report recommendations!

POTTSTOWN — Borough Council President Stephen Toroney credited a 2009 consultant report on the borough’s finances for starting Pottstown down the road to what he considers a landmark achievement, that was made official Monday with the adoption of a $38.5 million that does not raise borough taxes for the first time in recent memory.

Councilman Mark Gibson, who, as a paid driver for the Empire Fire Company could be said to benefit financially by voting for the budget, which makes contributions to the fire companies, abstained from the vote.

But the budget, officially balanced at $38,530,729, otherwise received unanimous support from the remainder of council.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20121214/NEWS01/121219662/no-pottstown-tax-hike-due-in-part-to-3-year-old-report-says-council-president#full_story

PEL: Scranton Needs More Than 12% Tax Hike

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Scranton‘s state-designated recovery coordinator, Pennsylvania Economy League, has told city officials they need to raise property taxes next year higher than the 12 percent that the city budget for 2013 proposes. Exactly how much higher was not stated.

In a letter received Thursday, PEL Executive Director Gerald Cross notes that the city has not dedicated a tax millage toward paying for the city’s second unfunded debt package approved by a court this year, of $9.75 million. In that case, Judge Peter O’Brien, a senior visiting judge from Monroe County, on Oct. 31 ordered that a tax millage be dedicated to paying back this unfunded debt.

It was the same arrangement the city sought and received in January, when a different judge, Senior Monroe County Judge Jerome Cheslock, approved the city’s first unfunded debt, of $9.85 million, and ordered that this amount be paid back with a dedicated tax millage over 10 years.

The first unfunded debt package translated into the 12 percent tax hike in the proposed budget for next year, city officials have said.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/pel-scranton-needs-more-than-12-tax-hike-1.1413187

Reading Now Eyeing Bigger Increase In Property Taxes

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer’s administration said Monday that the Reading’s 2013 budget might need not only increases in the earned-income and commuter taxes but also a higher property tax hike: 20 percent instead of 15.

City Managing Director Carole B. Snyder said she doubts the city will need all three increases.

But she also said it’s better to get enabling ordinances ready now and cut them later if circumstances allow because the taxes can’t be raised later without starting the process over.

“We’re setting the stage, so we can get a balanced budget,” Snyder said.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=422741

Property Taxes Are Killing Pottstown

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  This is a well-written opinion piece from the Fishwrap that was sent to Governor Corbett and other state and local officials.  Sums up the state of Pottstown pretty well.

An open letter sent to Gov. Corbett and copied to state Rep. Thomas Quigley and Pottstown Mayor Bonnie Heath.

Gov. Corbett:

There’s a lovely stone house for sale on High Street in Pottstown.  Yes, it’s our house.  It’s reasonably priced and has piqued the curiosity of many prospective buyers but one item makes them turn and run.  “What is so frightening?” you ask.  It’s the property taxes!  Over $7,500 per year on a house assessed at $150,000.  That’s outrageous!  We have friends in other Montgomery County communities such as Springfield Township, Abington and Upper Dublin.  Their houses are assessed higher than ours but, in some cases, they pay less than half our taxes.  There is something drastically wrong with this scenario.  Pottstown ranks seventh in school taxes out of 500 Pennsylvania districts.  We also rank at the top for producing underachieving students.  We have 13.4 percent of our residents over 65, an inordinate number of Section 8 and transient residents in this blue-collar town, and high unemployment.  Property values are spiraling downward, creating a dismal sinking into the quicksand of urban destruction.

Our delusional council and school board keep raising taxes as though we were a booming town but we’ve lost our industrial base that employed hundreds at Bethlehem Steel, Firestone, Mrs. Smith’s Pies and other long-gone businesses.  Sadly, we’ve also had to say good-bye to our wonderful Pottstown Symphony.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20120928/OPINION02/120929459/property-taxes-are-killing-pottstown

Reading School District Debt Called Near Its Limit

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

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

The financial picture for the Reading School District isn’t pretty.

That news should come as no surprise as the district is fresh off a rough budget process that saw dozens of employees laid off and five schools closed.

But exactly where the district stands may not have been crystal clear.

That’s why the business office put together a special presentation this week to fill the Reading School Board in on the district’s financial trends.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=412937

Exeter-Antietam School District Merger Talks Give Rise To Questions

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

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

By definition, it’s a union – oftentimes, an absorption. It could be as simple as sharing a sports team. Or as complex as a new high school.

For the school officials who make the ultimate decision, though, mergers aren’t so easily defined. They’re complex; never the same. And ultimately, the trigger for heated emotions all around.

Since talk of a merger between the Exeter and Antietam school districts reignited this year, questions have arisen.

If the two were to combine, residents wondered, would there be a new name? Which high school would be used? And who, if anyone, would actually benefit?

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=410187

Berks County Property Tax To Rise 5-8%

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

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

Next year Berks County property owners can expect the first county tax increase in eight years: between about 5 and 8 percent.

The amount will depend on negotiations with labor unions that represent county workers, county commissioners said Tuesday during their workshop session.

Budget Director Robert J. Patrizio Jr. said that in a worst-case scenario a 2.5 percent increase in wages would cost the county $3.2 million in 2013. Covering that, plus an expected deficit this year of $9.5 million and cuts in state funding would require an 8 percent increase in taxes, he said.

Property owners currently pay a rate of 6.935 mills, or $693.50 annually on a property assessed at $100,000.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=399675