State College Council To Vote Monday On Budget, Proposed Tax Hike

Counties constituting the Happy Valley Region ...

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

Editor’s note:  The average State College homeowner, with a property value of $200,000, would pay $7 more per month….

State College Borough Council will decide Monday whether to go along with one member’s last-minute push to avoid a tax increase in 2014.

Council is expected to vote Monday on a proposed budget that carries a property tax increase of 1.5 mills. But Councilman Jim Rosenberger suggested last week that he would make a motion instead to put off the increase and dig deeper into reserve funds to balance the spending plan.

Rosenberger said he hadn’t seen enough at a series of budget discussions to be convinced that the borough needs to raises taxes in 2014.

Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said that the budget could be modified to include no tax increase and still be passed Monday. Council wouldn’t have to start the process over or hold additional meetings.

Pennsylvania Casinos Rank High In Tax Revenue

English: Pennsylvania county map

English: Pennsylvania county map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When it comes to gambling meccas, you might want to start counting Pennsylvania among them.

Pennsylvania casinos generated more tax revenue last year than those in any other state and more gross revenue than any state but Nevada, according to a national American Gaming Association report released Monday.

The “State of the States: The AGA Survey of Casino Entertainment” found that the commonwealth’s 11 casinos produced nearly $1.5 billion in tax revenue in 2012, up 2.1 percent from the previous year.  Nevada placed second at $868.6 million and New York third at $822.7 million.

Pennsylvania also was first in 2011.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/pennsylvania-casino-revenues-rank-high-686612/#ixzz2SdTUCkyl

PhillyInc: Philadelphia Has Gained Much, But Not Jobs

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)

Several macrotrends have broken Philadelphia’s way:  The city’s population is growing again.  Residential building is up, and the city has seen an influx of college-educated young adults over the last decade.

But one trend remains stubbornly negative, as three recent research reports make clear: The city continues to lose jobs. The latest such evidence was included in the Center City District’s “State of Center City, 2013″ report, released Monday.

The special-services district can rightly brag about the increased vibrancy in the area wedged between the rivers and Vine and Pine Streets.  The city is cleaner since 1990, serious crime is down, and the churn in retail stores and restaurants is source of small-business strength.

Employment, though, remains a weakness, and if the long-term trend of job destruction does not change, it’s hard to imagine that the city could continue to maintain momentum in other areas.

Read more:  http://www.philly.com/philly/business/columnists/20130423_PhillyInc__Philadelphia_has_gained_much__but_not_jobs.html

Pottstown Meeting Set To Boost Borough-School District Cooperation

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

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

Editor’s note:  Considering the same 5 square miles comprises the school district and the borough, this is well overdue.  However, on a positive note, we will hope this leads to substantive change for the beleaguered Pottstown taxpayer.

POTTSTOWN — It won’t just be the location of the joint school board/borough council meeting Tuesday that is unusual.

The agenda is short, unusual in itself, and further, it is focused almost exclusively on breaking down barriers to cooperation.

“We want to set the stage for collaborating, for open communication,” said schools Superintendent Jeff Sparagana who, along with Borough Manager Mark Flanders, met with The Mercury Thursday to outline their efforts.

“That’s one of the reasons we wanted to have the meeting off-site,” said Flanders. “To put everyone in a setting that encourages participation and interaction.”

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130225/NEWS01/130229649/pottstown-meeting-set-to-boost-borough-school-district-cooperation#full_story

Lower Providence’s Final 2013 Budget Adopted With No Tax Increase

Location of Lower Providence Township in Montg...

Location of Lower Providence Township in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LOWER PROVIDENCE — The final, $9,557,713 2013 budget was unanimously adopted Thursday night by the Board of Supervisors with no increase in the township’s 1.512 mill real estate tax rate.

For a homeowner with a home assessed at the township average of $167,022, the 1.512 mill tax rate translates into a township tax bill of $252.54.

The township will use the $730,023 fund balance from the 2012 budget to balance the 2013 budget, said Township Manager Richard Gestrich, when the preliminary budget was adopted in mid-November.  To give the township budget some operating capital while tax revenues are trickling into the township accounts during 2013, the board also approved transferring $425,000 from the unrestricted capital account.

“At the end of the budget year we will need the balance of the $425,000 to get through the end of the year,” Gestrich said.

Read more:   http://www.timesherald.com/article/20121221/NEWS01/121229902/lower-providence-s-final-2013-budget-adopted-with-no-tax-increase#full_story

Ambler Borough Council Approves Tax Hike

Location of Ambler in Montgomery County

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

AMBLER — Ambler Borough Council adopted a the new tax rate for 2013 that raises real estate taxes for residents at its Dec. 18 meeting.

The real estate tax millage rate will increase by 0.48 mils to 6.78 mills, a 7.62 percent increase. A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed value.

For a home assessed at $100,000, that translates to a tax bill of $678, an extra $48 a year or $4 a month in taxes.

The borough expects to collect $1,564,643 in real estate taxes in 2013, according to borough figures, which contributes to a total projected general fund income of $4,101,743.

Read more:  http://www.timesherald.com/article/20121221/NEWS01/121229903/ambler-borough-council-approves-tax-hike#full_story

Pottstown Council, School Board Want To Work Closer

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

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

Editor’s note:  Two Roy’s Rants thumbs up to Acting Superintendent Jeff Sparagana for being proactive!

POTTSTOWN — When it comes to getting along, it could be said that the borough and school district governments in Pottstown sometimes get along like siblings on a long car trip.

Acting Schools Superintendent Jeff Sparagana is among the first to admit that and did so Wednesday when he told borough council that “it is important to acknowledge and recognize there have been breakdowns in the relationship between the borough and the school district in the past.”

But he was also the first to offer an olive branch in pursuit of a new era of cooperation.

Appearing before council during the Wednesday work session, Sparagana prefaced a presentation of the district’s land development plans for Rupert, Franklin and Lincoln elementary schools with a statement — and an apology.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20121209/NEWS01/121209423/pottstown-council-school-board-want-to-work-closer#full_story

Reading Officials Push For Increases In Taxes On Workers

Meeting today in talks to close a $5.7 million gap in the 2013 budget, the city administration and City Council urged the consultants who oversee Reading’s finances to reconsider their ban on raising local earned-income and commuter taxes.

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

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

“I don’t see how we can survive we don’t get that revenue,” Councilman Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr. said.

The city’s Act 47 financial recovery plan, written by the state-paid consultants and adopted by the city in 2010, calls for the earned-income tax on residents to remain at 1.9 percent in 2013.

It also calls for the earned-income tax on suburbanites working in the city, the commuter tax, to remain at 0.1 percent next year.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=419224

Easton Moves Forward With Commuter Tax

English: Skyline of Easton, PA from Lafayette ...

English: Skyline of Easton, PA from Lafayette College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Easton City Council approved a commuter tax Wednesday, raising the earned income tax for more than 10,000 people who work in Easton but live outside the city an average of $127.

City officials estimate the new tax will generate $1.35 million, which Easton can use only toward offsetting a $1.8 million increase in pension obligations. The commuter tax, which takes effect Jan. 1, raises the earned income tax for non-Easton residents from 1 percent to 1.75 percent, the same rate city residents pay.

Council’s 6-1 vote came after an impassioned debate between Mayor Sal Panto Jr. and Councilman Jeff Warren, who wrote a recent op-ed piece opposing the commuter tax. Panto accused Warren, the only council member to vote against the tax, of political grandstanding.

“You keep saying you’re against this but you haven’t laid out any alternatives,” Panto told Warren. “What are you coming up with? What is your solution?”

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/news/local/easton/mc-easton-commuter-tax-vote-20120808,0,1762718.story

Scranton Commuter Tax Eyed In Compromise Plan

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Just when Colleen Rhue thought she was out, Scranton is trying to pull her back in.

The downtown office worker recently moved to Moosic to escape the city’s 3.4 percent wage tax on residents.

“Now it looks like the money I saved from moving, they want to take from me,” Ms. Rhue said Tuesday, reacting to a possible 1 percent commuter tax included in the city’s latest recovery plan proposal.

While the tax will be decided through the courts, support for the levy seems strong among city residents, who pay for police and fire protection and infrastructure.  Support drops off at the city limits.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/commuter-tax-eyed-in-compromise-plan-1.1353047

Daniel Boone School Board Disagrees On Fixing Budget Gap

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

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

The members of the Daniel Boone School Board can all agree that the district is entering a scary place financially.

However, the best way to prepare for that continues to be hotly debated.

The board is preparing to pass a tentative budget next week at its voting meeting that would include a 0.3168 mill property tax increase and $1.2 million from the general fund balance to help balance its $52.18 million budget.

The tax increase would make the district’s rate about 29.28 mills, which would mean taxes on a property.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=386246

Pottstown School District Preliminary Budget Has 4.2 Percent Tax Increase

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Image via Wikipedia

The problem with this PSD budget number is that it is above the 2.4 percent increase allowed by the state.  If Mrs. Adams can’t “whittle” down that figure any further, the board will need to ask permission from the state to make an exception and allow a larger tax increase.

The big picture here is that Pottstown Borough Council just passed a budget with a 1.68 percent tax increase.  Pottstown Borough and Pottstown School District occupy the same geographical area and the residents of Pottstown are not just getting one increase, but TWO.  Even if Mrs. Adams can get to the state mandated 2.4 percent increase, taxpayers are on the hook for a 4.08 percent increase.  I am guessing possibly higher.

As Councilor Rhoads has pointed out time and again, most people have a finite amount of money to work with each year.  With the current state of the U.S. economy, finding extra money is very difficult.  Pottstown has a large percentage of senior citizens on fixed incomes.  We also have a large percentage of low-income residents and residents below the poverty level.

People are having to make choices between food, heat, housing and taxes.  This is flat-out wrong.  This spending addiction pissing contest between the Borough of Pottstown and the Pottstown School District is killing the average Pottstown resident.  We are on the edge of the cliff staring down at the bottom of the ravine.  There is no where left to go except down in flames or move out of Pottstown, if that option is even available.  Many people are too financially strapped to even escape.

We do not need four fire companies nor do we need five elementary schools and two annex buildings.  Are we looking at job performance?  If we are not getting enough bang for the buck would outsourcing services make more sense?  We cannot afford all these salaries, benefits and pensions, which make up the lion’s share of both organization’s budgets.  We haven’t even felt the pain of the upcoming pension crisis with the school district. 

The economy is not going to improve fast enough to save the day.  We need long-term financial solutions for both taxing entities in this town.  Frankly, I am not seeing enough effort being made to address these very serious problems that impact 22,377 people by either entity.

Pottstown Borough Spending Addiction Continues

I commented last year and cited examples of other cities and towns in Pennsylvania who have more size appropriate budgets.  Pottstown’s budget is enormous!

Jeff Leflar makes some good points in his recent post on The Pulse about Pottstown’s spending addiction and the inability of our leadership to cut expenses.  We continually raise taxes!  Eventually nobody will be able to afford to live here!

To read Jeff’s article, click here:  http://codebluepulse.blogspot.com/2011/11/borough-spending-addiction-continues.html

Governor Corbett Forms Advisory Council On Privatization And Innovation

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — As promised in his budget address, Governor Tom Corbett today announced he has created a new Governor’s Advisory Council on Privatization and Innovation to explore if any functions now performed by state government might be better and more cost-effectively performed by the private sector.

“We have an obligation to taxpayers to find new and innovative ways to make government more efficient,” Governor Corbett said. “This panel will further evaluate potential privatization, public-private partnerships or managed-competition opportunities with the ultimate goal of streamlining government and saving taxpayers’ dollars.”…

Click here to read the rest of the article: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/governor-corbett-forms-advisory-council-on-privatization-and-innovation-130798908.html

What Can Pottstown Learn From Scranton?

This is certainly news we do not read about often!  Scranton City Council unanimously adopted a $74.9 million dollar budget that features a 10.55% property tax decrease AND a 25% decrease in mercantile and business privilege taxes.  The budget restores 44 of 69 positions which had previously been recommended to be cut. 

Mayor Chris Doherty submitted a $75.5 million dollar budget to council in November which included 69 jobs being eliminated.  Mayor Doherty has until December 24th to act of council’s $74.9 million dollar budget.  Council has a veto-proof majority so any attempt to veto the budget by Mayor Doherty would be symbolic.

Scranton, PA                                        Pottstown, PA

Population – 71,944   2009 estimate                Population – 21,421   2009 estimate

Land area – 25.2 square miles                          Land area – 4.83 square miles

2011 Budget – $74.9 million dollars                2011 Budget – $39.3 million dollars

Police – 150 officers                                         Police – 47 officers

Est. 2008 median income – $32,794                Est. 2008 median income – $45,941

Est. 2008 per capita income – $19,034            Est. 2008 per capita income – $24,044

City-data crime index 2009 – 306.7                City-data crime index 2009 – 454.7

After carefully reflecting on the above figures some questions may develop.

How does a city 3 1/2 times our size (population) and 5 times our size in land area have a lower crime rate with less police per 1000 people?

How does a city 3 1/2 times our size have a budget less than twice as big?

How does a less affluent city in terms of median and per capita income reduce property taxes 10.55% and reduce business taxes 25%?

Any thoughts?????

Demographic information from City-data.com

Pottstown Borough Budget Meeting

Today, November 30, 2010 at 6:00 pm, Pottstown Borough Council and borough staff discussed the proposed 2011 borough budget.

I must commend Jason, Janice, Councilor Weand, the Finance Committee and our borough staff for the effort they put into finding ways to cut costs and maintain services.  I do not think it is possible to ask Jason a question he can not answer.  Janice Lee has more than earned her salary by walking into the abyss aka borough finances and taking the bull by the horns!  So much has been accomplished to get our financial house in order.  As I said in an earlier post, accounting is boring to write about however, the changes implemented by Jason, Janice and Finance will pay huge dividends down the road.  We now have a clearer financial picture than ever before.  Frankly, things are not all that bleak now that Generally Accepted Accounting Principals have been returned to borough hall.

Council asked some tough questions of Jason, Janice and the department heads.  I was impressed with how well the questions were answered and the manner with which our borough staff handled themselves.

The bottom line is that council unanimously approved the 2011 budget with a 3.1% tax increase.  The increase equates to $25.66 per year on a home assessed at $85,000.  We have a $177,000 deficit that unfortunately makes this necessary.  The increase can go down if more spending cuts are found or unexpected revenue comes in before the end of the year.  However, the increase can not go any higher than 3.1%.  The projected property tax collection rate is 92% for 2010.

Getting to a zero tax increase would mean selling a park, laying off Parks and Recreation staff, cutting programs or messing with the paid driver’s health benefits in the Fire Department.  Our parks are a big plus for existing borough residents and attracting new residents.  We can barely maintain our parks system with the staff we have and cutting programs affects the quality of life for our residents.  Fire Department drivers can not afford to pay their health benefits at their current salary levels.  It is not their fault costs are skyrocketing.

The assessed value of all Pottstown real estate came in a million dollars higher than projected which also helped the process.  The rate of decline in assessed property value seems to be leveling off and council is hopeful that this trend may reverse itself as some development projects in the pipeline are completed.  Unfortunately, the assessed property value of Pottstown still declined $1.9 million dollars from last year.  This brings in less tax revenue. 

PCTV has agreed to reduce their management fee to $331,000.  The borough can ill afford to absorb their $147,000 revenue shortfall so going forward they need to break even.  PCTV has lost revenue because of the recession and now when FIOS comes to Pottstown, Verizon will not allow PCTV to be a for-profit community access channel.  PCTV could potentially lose 25% of their viewers as residents switch from Comcast to Verizon.  Council will be scrutinizing PCTV very closely in 2011.  PCTV is trying to get grant money, however, until such time as a grant is received, they will still continue to struggle.

Pennsylvania Experiences Revenue Decrease For October

Some disappointing financial news for Pennsylvania.  Revenue collected for October was 3.2% below projections, which translates to $57 million dollars less than expected for the month.  $44 million of the shortfall was in the personal income tax category.

We aren’t out of the woods yet!

Best Bet For Tax Revenue: Mixed-Use Downtown Development

This is an article about mixed-use urban development that should be a must read for all Pottstown civic leaders and concerned residents about the direction our community needs to take.   Hit tip to Chris Huff for the referral!

http://www.newurbannetwork.com/article/best-bet-tax-revenue-mixed-use-downtown-development-13144