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.

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Bethlehem City Council Passes $71 Million Budget With 7 Percent Tax Hike

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

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

In a budget where rising pension costs framed the debate, Bethlehem City Council on Thursday adopted a $71 million budget that includes a 7 percent property tax hike and other revenue including a tax on certain concert tickets.

But what it doesn’t include is $500,000 from a citywide trash hauler, a proposal by Mayor John Callahan that drew public backlash.

Instead, council cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from the budget and accepted Callahan’s suggestions on refinancing the landfill debt.  Council also accepted the administration’s updated revenue projections that show the earned income tax and casino fees as bringing in more money than when Callahan first released his budget proposal last month.

Councilman Robert Donchez acknowledged the budget isn’t perfect but a lot of work was put into it.

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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.

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Manheim Township School Board Makes Gene Freeman Highest-Paid Superintendent In Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

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

Manheim Township school board Thursday agreed to limit any tax increase in next year’s budget to 1.7 percent and approved a five-year contract with superintendent Gene Freeman.

The employment agreement, which runs through June 2018, will pay Freeman in excess of $1 million in salary and compensation over five years, making him the highest-paid superintendent in Lancaster County.

The vote on Freeman’s contract was unanimous, as was the vote to keep a possible tax rate increase for 2013-14 at or below the school district’s Act 1 index of 1.7 percent.

That vote marks a return to form for the district, which had stayed within its state-mandated index every year since 2006 until 2011-12, when it boosted taxes by 3.96 percent in the face of a revenue shortfall of about $4.7 million.

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Scranton Eyes $20 Million In Borrowing And Second Dedicated Tax Hike For 2013

Scranton City Council on Thursday unanimously introduced a $21 million bond ordinance to fund new debt and an increase in mandatory pension contributions and refinance old debt.

While the introduction was unanimous, council had questions about the bond proposal and agreed to ask administration officials to attend an upcoming caucus to explain it.

Mayor Chris Doherty wanted council to adopt on an emergency basis this legislation and another ordinance for a dedicated tax increase to pay for $9.75 million in unfunded debt, council President Janet Evans said.

However, because council received the ordinances late Wednesday, she said, council and its solicitor, Boyd Hughes, had not had enough time to review them and refused to enact them on an emergency basis – which requires introducing, advancing and adopting them all at the same meeting.

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Reading City Council Closer To 2013 Budget, Size Of Tax Hikes

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

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

The city on Wednesday inched closer to a 2013 budget that would raise earned income and commuter taxes and reduce a property tax hike.

However, officials are facing critical deadlines this month to finish the deal.

“We’re close,” said Councilman Jeffrey S. Waltman Sr., who added that the budget could be wrapped up with a few more sessions. “We can’t miss those deadlines.”

Not so fast, said Council President Francis G. Acosta and Councilwoman Donna Reed, chairwoman of the Finance Committee.

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Scranton City Council Holds Hearing On Recovery Plan

In a first in several years, Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty on Thursday attended a city council meeting that was a public hearing on their joint revised recovery plan.

The mayor – who usually bears the brunt of a barrage of negative comments and criticism from council and some regular attendees at weekly council meetings – had not attended a council session in about six years, council President Janet Evans said.

However, the city’s financial crisis has finally made for some strange bedfellows between the mayor and council majority, who usually are mortal political enemies. After months of a bitter mayor/council stalemate over revising the city’s Act 47 recovery plan that would be acceptable to banks and the city’s recovery coordinator, Pennsylvania Economy League, the mayor and Mrs. Evans reached an accord July 27. As a result, she said she asked the mayor to attend the hearing, and he agreed.

“It was a milestone,” Mrs. Evans said of the mayor’s appearance. “We’re very pleased to be working with him.”

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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.

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Early Oley Valley School District Budget Includes Tax Hike, Job Cuts

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

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

The Oley Valley School Board passed a tentative budget for the 2012-13 school year Wednesday night, but board members are still looking for any possible places to cut.

“I will support this tonight, but I am not pleased with certain aspects of the budget,” board member Ralph C. Richard said. “We still have some work to do, but we’ll get the proposed budget on the docket as we move to get a final budget.”

The $28.21 million budget includes a 0.4013 mill increase, which would bump the tax rate to 24.5563 mills. The annual tax bill on a property assessed at $100,000 would be about $2,456.

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Manheim Township School Board Eyes Max Tax Hike

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

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

The tax rate in next year’s Manheim Township School District budget has yet to be set, but the school board appears to be leaning toward boosting taxes to the maximum.

At the board’s Thursday work session, members discussed a recommendation by superintendent Gene Freeman to take full advantage of Act 1 exceptions granted by the state.

The district could increase property taxes by as much as 4.1 percent in 2012-13, more than twice its base Act 1 index of 1.7 percent, because of exceptions to cover increasing special-education and pension expenses.

Board members won’t vote on the recommendation until next week, but few of them voiced objections to a 4.1 percent hike, which would boost the tax bill for a $150,000 home by $107 next year. A 1.7 percent hike would result in a $44 increase.

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Harrisburg City Council Adopts 2012 Budget With 16 Percent Tax Hike

Harrisburg City Council tonight adopted a $54.3 million 2012 budget that includes a 16 percent real estate tax hike for homeowners.

The increase will tack on $50 to $100 in real estate taxes for most property owners.  A person whose property is assessed at $50,000 would pay $40 more annually in property taxes.  Property owners with houses valued at $100,000 would pay an additional $80 in taxes per year.

Council’s budget cuts spending by $1.2 million compared to the $55.5 million plan Mayor Linda Thompson introduced last month. Thompson’s proposal also included a 16 percent tax hike.

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