Harrisburg Mall Assessment Plummets From Nearly $66.5M To Less Than $8M In Three Years

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County

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

A dramatic drop in the Harrisburg Mall‘s tax assessment means Dauphin County, a municipality and school district are collecting an estimated $838,164 a year less in revenue than they did in 2010.

The new value of the mall is $7.987 million — less than one-eighth of the nearly $66.5 million assessed in 2010 and less than half of its 2012 assessment of $17.65 million.

For Swatara Township, that lost revenue, in part, contributed to the township’s need to raise taxes in past years.

Central Dauphin School District remained aware of the property’s decreasing value and took that into consideration concerning its budget.  For Dauphin County, the most recent drop means the loss of less than one-half of a percent of the county’s annual budget.

Read more:  http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/06/harrisburg_mall_assessment_dro.html#incart_m-rpt-1

Tax On Airline Flights Could Increase

The cost of flying might be going up, but this time it’s not the airlines raising prices.

The Obama administration has proposed raising the taxes on air travel by about $14 per flight, a move airlines strongly oppose.

Higher taxes are needed to help reduce the deficit, pay for improvements at the nation’s airports and add thousands of new immigration and customs officers to reduce wait times to process foreign visitors, the administration says.

Airlines say higher taxes will backfire and hurt the economy.

Read more:  http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/la-fi-travel-briefcase-20130527,0,2840007.story

Budget Presentation Disappoints Reading School Board

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

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

The third time was not the charm.

The Reading School Board held its third budget workshop Wednesday night, and for the third time board members were disappointed.

It wasn’t because of the scope of proposed cuts needed to close a more than $8-million budget gap, but rather because of the lack of information. Again.

Administrators provided the board with a list of proposed changes – ranging from trying to bring some outsourced special education services back to cutting assistant principals from 12-month to 10-month employees – but did not provide a comprehensive plan to balance the budget.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=476031

U.S. Employers Add 165,000 Jobs; Rate Falls To 7.5 Percent

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added 165,000 jobs in April, and hiring was much stronger in the previous two months than the government first estimated.  The job increases helped reduce the unemployment rate from 7.6 percent to a four-year low of 7.5 percent.

The report today from the Labor Department was a reassuring sign that the U.S. job market is improving despite higher taxes and government spending cuts that took effect this year.

The government revised up its estimate of job gains in February and March by a combined 114,000.  It now says employers added 332,000 jobs in February and 138,000 in March.  The economy has created an average of 208,000 jobs a month from November through April — above the 138,000 added in the previous six months.

The number of unemployed fell 83,000 to 11.7 million.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=474934

Driver’s License, Registration Fees, Fines Would Rise Under State Senate Plan

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, released a transportation funding plan on Tuesday.  Here are some details of how approximately $2.5 billion would be raised from tax, fee and fine increases and spent once the plan is fully phased in:

FEES

— Imposes $50.50 licensing fee for six years, instead of a $29.50 fee for four years

— Imposes $104 registration fee for two years, instead of a $36 fee annually

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/439181/Drivers-license-registration-fees-fines-would-rise-under-state-Senate-plan

Federal Budget Cuts Will Affect More Than Federal Programs, Officials In Scranton Say

English: Official photo of Senator Bob Casey (...

English: Official photo of Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration will hurt everything from the local barbershop to the largest manufacturers in Northeast Pennsylvania, said members of a panel at Sen. Bob Casey’s office Friday in downtown Scranton.

With no deal between Congress and the White House in sight and just hours before sequestration kicked in at midnight, the Democratic senator and a cross-section of local civic leaders struck a dire tone.

“We don’t have a full sense of what will happen,” Mr. Casey said.  “If this goes a day or week, it will have an impact.  If it goes six months, the effect will be devastating.”

As the furloughs and cuts begin, sequestration will have an immediate impact not just on the government employees, but on contractors, and the communities where they live and spend.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/federal-budget-cuts-will-affect-more-than-federal-programs-officials-in-scranton-say-1.1452684

Armstrong’s Yearly Profit Climbs

Armstrong World Industries today reported a small drop in net profits for the fourth quarter but a sizable increase for the year.

For the quarter, net profits slid 1.2 percent to $8.4 million (14 cents a share) from $8.5 million (14 cents a share) in the 2011 quarter.

Sales dipped 1.6 percent to $612.8 million.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/816802_Armstrong-s-yearly-profit-climbs.html#ixzz2LOK0sAFf

Daniel Boone School Board Tentatively OKs Drastic Cuts

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

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

The Daniel Boone School Board is moving forward with a preliminary 2013-14 budget that includes drastic cuts.

The board voted 6-2 Monday to pass a preliminary $54.9 million budget that closes a nearly $5 million gap by raising taxes the maximum amount, furloughing nearly 40 employees and eliminating kindergarten and all extracurricular activities, including sports.

Board members Connor J. Kurtz and Kevin F. McCullough voted no and Robert D. McLaughlin was absent.

More than 100 residents attended the meeting, with many speaking out against the cuts outlined in the preliminary budget.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=452236

Smoother Berks Roads Ahead?

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

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

Berks County would enjoy smoother roads and sturdier bridges if the $1.8 billion annual boost to statewide transportation funds Gov. Tom Corbett pitched last week becomes reality, local officials said.

At a minimum, the funds would stop the backlog of bridge and highway repairs needed in Berks from growing, said Alan D. Piper, county transportation planner.

But over time, PennDOT could catch up on repairs and focus on expanding traffic-prone highways such as Route 222 and the West Shore Bypass, he said.

“There’s no doubt that it will be beneficial,” Piper said. “Does it solve all our problems? Probably not. But it’s a gigantic step in the right direction.”

Read more:   http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=451840

Yuengling Fights Back Over Philly Lawsuit

After D.G. Yuengling and Son became the biggest American-owned brewery, the Pottsville company celebrated last year with a “Here’s to you, Philly,” promotion during which it offered a free serving of its signature lager to bar patrons around Philadelphia.

The company said beer drinkers in the City of Brotherly Love helped revive the popularity of its historic brand, which has become one of the fastest-growing brews in the country.

So it seems fitting that the company’s fifth-generation owner, Dick Yuengling, said he was “the happiest guy in the beer business” until he found out the city he chose to celebrate his company’s success with has slapped the brewery with a lawsuit seeking more than $6 million.

The lawsuit stems from a disagreement between the city and Yuengling about whether the company has to pay Philadelphia’s business income and receipts tax, which is assessed on companies doing business in the city.

Read more:  http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-yuengling-fires-back-20130207,0,3754013.story

Courtright Announces Candidacy For Scranton Mayor

The hundreds of supporters entering the front door at the Keyser Valley Community Center on Sunday to see Democrat Bill Courtright formally announce his campaign for mayor of Scranton received smiles and handshakes from the candidate himself.

Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” played in the background as Mr. Courtright focused on themes of “returning the luster” and reaching out to the people of his hometown – a place of staggering municipal debt and significant skepticism about city leadership.

The city’s current tax collector and a former city councilman, Mr. Courtright, 55, of 126 Ridgeview Drive, said he will bring commitment, competence and character to City Hall.

Without going into a lot of detail, he also offered insights into his immediate priorities if elected mayor, calling for an in-depth analysis of the city’s finances and plans to create a panel of community leaders to help solve the city’s problems.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/courtright-announces-candidacy-for-scranton-mayor-1.1435709

House, Senate Approve ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Bill

Official portrait of United States House Speak...

Official portrait of United States House Speaker (R-Ohio). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Well it’s about damn time!

WASHINGTON — Congress’ excruciating, extraordinary New Year’s Day approval of a compromise averting a prolonged tumble off the fiscal cliff hands President Barack Obama most of the tax boosts on the rich that he campaigned on.  It also prevents House Republicans from facing blame for blocking tax cuts for most American households, though most GOP lawmakers parted ways with Speaker John Boehner and opposed the measure.

Passage also lays the groundwork for future battles between the two sides over federal spending and debt.

Capping a holiday season political spectacle that featured enough high and low notes for a Broadway musical, the GOP-run House voted final approval for the measure by 257-167 late Tuesday.  That came after the Democratic-led Senate used a wee-hours 89-8 roll call to assent to the bill, belying the partisan brinkmanship that colored much of the path to the final deal.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=440254

Senate Leaders To Make Last-Ditch ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Effort

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama and U.S. congressional leaders agreed on Friday to make a final effort to prevent the United States from going over the “fiscal cliff,” setting off intense bargaining over Americans’ tax rates as a New Year’s Eve deadline looms.

With only days left to avoid steep tax hikes and spending cuts that could cause a recession, two Senate veterans will try to forge a deal that has eluded the White House and Congress for months.

Obama said he was “modestly optimistic” an agreement could be found.  But neither side appeared to give much ground at a White House meeting of congressional leaders on Friday.

What they did agree on was to task Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader, and Mitch McConnell, who heads the chamber’s Republican minority, with reaching a budget agreement by Sunday at the latest.

Read more:  http://www.mcall.com/news/local/sns-rt-us-usa-fiscalbre8a80wv-20121109,0,6642146.story

A More Simplified Way Of Explaining The U.S. Economy/Debt‏

Editor’s note:  This came in my email today and I liked the comparison between the home budget versus the national budget.  I don’t know anybody who would run their household budget the way our government runs the national budget.  I think this applies across the aisle!

This rather brilliantly cuts thru all the political doublespeak we get.  It puts it into a much better perspective.

Lesson # 1:
* U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
* Fed budget: $3,820,000,000,000
* New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
* National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
* Recent budget cuts: $ 38,500,000,000

Let’s now remove 8 zeros and pretend it’s a household budget:
* Annual family income: $21,700
* Money the family spent: $38,200
* New debt on the credit card: $16,500
* Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
* Total budget cuts so far: $3.85

Got It ?????

OK, now Lesson # 2:

Here’s another way to look at the Debt Ceiling:

Let’s say, you come home from work and find there has been a sewer backup in your neighborhood….and your home has sewage all the way up to your ceilings.

What do you think you should do ……

Raise the ceilings, or pump out the crap?

Easton Pays McDonald’s $300,000 To Vacate Two Rivers Landing

English: The official logo.

English: The official logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There will be no more Egg McMuffins, Golden Arches or Happy Meals in Centre Square.

Easton City Council agreed Wednesday night to pay McDonald’s $300,000 over three years to terminate the remainder of the burger chain’s lease at Two Rivers Landing.  The deal paved the way for a 10-year commitment from Crayola to lease the entire facility, putting the building back on tax rolls and effectively paying off the mortgage.

Mayor Sal Panto Jr. laid out the major terms of the two pacts, highlighting a $2.2 million boost in revenue over the next decade before the payments to McDonald’s.  Crayola, which will invest millions to revamp its Crayola Experience attraction, plans to generate much larger crowds, reconfigure its store and pump more money into the downtown, Panto said.

“The amount of dollars we are investing,” Panto said of the McDonald’s buyout, “will be returned many, many times.”

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/news/local/easton/mc-easton-two-rivers-landing-lease-resolved-20120822,0,5083955.story

Pa. Senate Approves $27.7 Billion Spending Plan And Sends It To Gov. Tom Corbett

With one day left in the fiscal year, the state Senate passed by a 32-17 vote the nearly $27.7 billion state spending plan that the House passed on Thursday.

It now goes to Gov. Tom Corbett for enactment.

Read more: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2012/06/pa_senate_approves_277_billion.html

An Open Letter From Ronald C. Downie To Pottstown Residents And Leadership

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

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

A Pox On Our Town

A plague has descended on Pottstown.  Its symptoms can be tracked by “For Sale” signs whose lettering is fading from being posted so very long.  This type of a malady take a long time to become a full blown plague which has or will touch all property owners in the town.

For example: Up my street an elderly widow recently passed away and her estate just put her house up for sale.  They listed the well appointed house with a new roof, a large rear sunroom, three bedrooms, on a pleasant lot in the North End for $129,900.00.  I imagine that’s close to the appraised value.  But, when the sales agent was asked by me, “What would this house be listed for if it were situated in Limerick or Collegeville?”  His reply was, “Up to, maybe, $100,000.00 more.”  “Why?” I asked.

He gave me that puzzled look while telling me about the ills of properties with Pottstown addresses.  School tax was the biggest factor, then the reputation of the town, on and he went with negatives even though he is an investor in rental properties here himself.  The only way to make out owning a property in Pottstown, he advised, was to be a landlord.

We have lived in our home since 1974 which is 38 years.  We’ve raised three children here.  I had hoped to die while still living here.  One time our house was worth upwards to $200,000.00 but is now less than three quarters that, probably much less.  It’s not the weight of the bales of straw which broke the camel’s back but it was the weight of the final strand of straw which did the camel in when added to the load.

It is impossible to be on a limited retirement income and still own a home in Pottstown.  The power to tax property is the virus propelling the plague which has demeaned our town.

Kind of like the feelings those in the 1940′s European ghettos had when they were afraid to speak out as the Gestapo rounded up certain groups to be shipped off to concentration camps.  Finally, then, they came for those who had remained silent and as they were being herded away they looked around for someone to speak on their behalf and, low and behold, no one else was left to speak for them.

Our State Legislators have, in my mind, failed us.  As a whole, they slop at the trough of special interests pandering to the desires of those who profit from inaction, the status quo. For too long, we, including me, have been silent while those who did speak out were marginalized and silenced. The field of grain is planted that will grow the stalks which could be that last straw which could break your back just like mine is fractured.

Who speaks for us now?  Best you raise your voices loudly and clearly while you still can.  Next they will be coming for you!

Ronald C. Downie

More Than 100 Positions On Chopping Block At Easton Area School District

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

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

The Easton Area School District could cut more than 100 positions if it chooses not to raise taxes for the 2012-13 school year.

Facing a deficit of more than $8 million without a tax increase, the administration Wednesday unveiled the details of cuts associated with tax increases of 2.2 percent, 1.7 percent and zero percent. All of the budget plans include using $1.5 million from the district’s assigned reserves.

Even with a 2.2 percent tax hike, the maximum allowed by the state, the district would cut more than 40 teaching positions, 27 paraprofessionals and 10 maintenance positions in order to balance its 2012-13 budget.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/news/local/easton/mc-easton-school-budget-options-20120404,0,2495016.story

Antietam School District Exploring The Possibility Of Merging With Exeter SD

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

Image via Wikipedia

It’s a tune the Antietam School District has heard before: The district is once again exploring the possibility of merging with Exeter Township School District.

This is not the first time the neighboring districts have considered merging, nor the second. Or even the third. The idea has been discussed, repeatedly, as far back as the 1960s.

And for some Antietam residents, the history of failed mergers clouds their opinion of a new consideration.

“I don’t think they’ll merge,” said Brandy High, a Lower Alsace Township mother with two children in Antietam schools. “They’ve been saying it for a long time and never did.”

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=362292

Tamaqua Borough Council Makes Tough Decisions Rather Than Raise Taxes

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Schuylkill County

Image via Wikipedia

Tamaqua, PA Borough Council decided it did not want to raise taxes to offset a $200,000 deficit in the 2012 budget.  (Imagine that idea Pottstown Borough Council)

And so, the cuts began.

Council eliminated random drug tests for borough police officers, dropped the DARE anti-drug program in schools for a year, laid off a police officer and deciding not to fill a vacancy in the streets department.

Council also hopes selling what one official called an underutilized community center will help balance the budget.

Read more: http://standardspeaker.com/news/mayor-center-s-sale-would-be-loss-1.1260511#ixzz1k872u0SE