The Municipal Blog tracks news about area municipalities, people, and issues we believe will interest our audience.
Older Pennsylvanians to See Property Tax, Rent Relief
Thursday, Sept. 14, at 7:01 a.m.
HARRISBURG PA – Older Pennsylvania adults are expected to benefit from a 2024 expansion of the state’s existing property tax and rent rebate program, following Gov. Josh Shapiro’s recent approval of House Bill 1100.
Expansion of the program will significantly boost property tax rebates for older adults, according to Bill Johnston-Walsh, state director for AARP Pennsylvania. That should alleviate financial burdens for homeowners and renters. The Keystone State is home to almost 3.5 million people age 60 and older.
The yearly maximum standard will increase from $650 to $1,000 for individuals, he added. The program will be adjusted for cost-of-living hikes over time. AARP Pennsylvania fought for the expansion, Johnston-Walsh said, because “both property taxes across the state, and rents have been increasing year after year.”
The program provides financial relief to those who need, Johnston-Walsh explained, and also demonstrates a proactive approach to addressing the needs of an aging population.
What the Pennsylvania Legislature and Shapiro hope for, he noted, is the ability to help people stay in their homes longer? “How do we put more money in their pockets so that, you know, they’re able to put food on their table, pay for their medications, and also pay for their property tax and their rents?,” Johnston-Walsh asked.
Shapiro and state Secretary of Aging Jason Kavulich recently participated with AARP in a telephone-based “town hall” meeting to answer questions from older Pennsylvanians about the expansion. Its intent: to reach as many Pennsylvanians as possible, and advise them of the program.
About 400,000 people are already qualified to receive the benefit. Pennsylvanians have until Dec. 31 to apply for the program. Area agencies on aging, local senior centers, and state legislators’ offices will be offering assistance, Johnston-Walsh said. “We know there’s going to be nearly 175,000 additional Pennsylvanians that will be eligible for the program next year,” he added.
AARP Pennsylvania’s goal is to ensure as many people apply for it as possible.
Editor’s Note: AARP Pennsylvania contributes to Public News Service funds for reporting on budget policy and priorities, consumer issues, livable wages/working families, and senior issues.
Publicker Buildings Demolition Set to Start Sept. 1
Sunday, Sept. 3, at 2:54 a.m.
LIMERICK PA – “Large-scale demolition” of deteriorating buildings on the former Publicker distillery industrial site at 1301 Main St., Linfield, is scheduled to begin Sept. 11 (2023; Monday), Limerick Township announced on its website.
The 197-acre property is owned by Connecticut-based Limerick Town Center LLC. It bought the land for $17.1 million in September 2022, according to Montgomery County property records. It most recently was proposed as a potential site for warehouses. Earlier it was mentioned as a possible location for development of homes, offices and stores.
“The property owner will be required to maintain proper dust control measures, and adhere to all township requirements concerning hours of operation,” Limerick reported Friday (Sept. 1) in a website “news flash” notice about the demolition. It was accompanied by a graphic (above) that included three photos of the site.
A demolition permit for the work was issued by the township during February, but at the time no schedule had been issued for its start. Township Manager Dan Kerr told the Pottstown Mercury newspaper that the property owners would provide “adequate notice” before demolition began so community residents would be informed in advance, reporter Evan Brandt wrote on Feb. 20.
Any new use of the long-vacant property would play an important role in fulfillment of or changes to master plans for the Linfield section of the township, Brandt’s article noted.
File photo by Travels With The Post
Publicker property graphic from Limerick Township
To Sell a Home for More Select Photos, Words with Care
Wednesday, Aug. 23, at 8 a.m.
AMES IA – When it comes to selling a home, researchers in Iowa on Wednesday (Aug. 23, 2023) again confirmed what real estate brokers and agents have long known. The more that’s selectively shown and said about a property, the faster it may sell … and at a better price.
Online real estate listings with more photos and accompanying well-written descriptions earn higher sale prices, says Cheng Nie, information systems assistant professor at Iowa State University. But Nie and a team of four emphasize that not just any photos of a home will do. They place a premium on what are described as “experience attributes” to increase the sale price of properties.
Experience attributes “signal the aesthetic and less tangible benefits of a property,” the researchers state. Examples they offer are photos and descriptions like “upscale bathroom fixtures,” “a sunlit kitchen,” or “an exceptional lake view.”
Additionally, experience attributes “play an even bigger role in the sale price of homes valued significantly higher or lower than the neighborhood average,” according to study data.
The team’s research focuses primarily on Zillow, a nationally known real estate marketing and information website. It was founded in 2006 by several technology company executives. Zillow users can browse homes, take virtual tours, save their searches, find local agents, and use financial tools and resources.
The study, titled “How Does Online Information Influence Offline Transactions: Insights from Digital Real Estate Platforms,” currently appears on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN).
Would-be buyers gravitate to online real estate sites because they save time and travel. “Digital real estate platforms like Zillow help people see what’s available, which saves them time by preventing wasted trips to properties that don’t fit their criteria. Even when working with a real estate agent, these platforms often play an important role in the home-buying process,” Nie reports.
The researchers acknowledge real estate platforms, although not perfect, can be reliable sources of information for home buyers. It’s no surprise, then, that almost every broker and many agents operate websites to meet seller and buyer demand.
Besides experience attributes, what gets written about a listing and its photos also is important. Sellers and their real estate representatives should tap “into the potential buyer’s emotions and experiences,” Nie suggests. In the examples he offers, which interests you more?:
- “This is a four-bedroom, three-bathroom property.” Or,
- “This four-bedroom haven is perfect for families, with a sun-soaked living room ideal for Saturday morning cartoons, and a master bathroom that feels like your personal spa.”
Hua Sun, associate professor of finance at Iowa State; Zhengrui Jiang of Nanjing University; Arun Rai of Georgia State University; and Yuheng Hu at the University of Illinois at Chicago all contributed to the study, according to a media release.
Pottstown Meeting to Help Form State’s Internet Plans
Tuesday, Aug. 15, at 7 a.m.
POTTSTOWN PA – A Sept. 5 (2023; Tuesday) meeting conducted in part by local state Sen. Tracy Pennycuick has been scheduled to seek public comment on Pennsylvania’s plans to expand broadband Internet access.
An announcement said the meeting would start at 6 p.m. in North Hall Room 202 on the Pottstown campus of Montgomery County Community College, 16 E. High St. Pennycuick represents residents of Montgomery and Berks counties in the state’s 24th Senatorial District.
Pennycuick and Philadelphia Sen. Jimmy Dillion, both chairs of the Senate Communications and Technology Committee, are hosting the session.
The two hope to hear from the community about their broadband use and experiences. The meeting will also provide information about the Commonwealth’s work to develop an action plan to ensure equitable, affordable broadband access for all residents, businesses, and communities.
Businesses, community organizations, nonprofit organizations, and members of the public are asked to attend. A boxed meal will be provided to participants at the event. Online advance registration is requested.
The meeting is intended as a part of a larger strategic effort led by the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority. It is tasked with developing plans to address broadband service needs in unserved and under-served communities. The plans are expected “to ensure everyone has the skills, technology, and capacity needed to benefit from our digital economy,” the pair said in a joint release.
The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act authorized a $65 billion investment into broadband to close the “digital divide.” Pennsylvania is guaranteed to receive a minimum of $100 million, and is expected to receive hundreds of millions in additional funding through formula or competitive funding.
Public Defender Office Schedules Expungement Clinics
Monday (July 31) at 4:45 p.m.
NORRISTOWN PA – If prior earlier offenses are keeping you “from making a fresh start” legally, according to the Montgomery County Office of the Public Defender, its staff may be able to help.
Its team of advocates is interested in discussing what a records expungement can, and cannot, accomplish. They also may be able to determine if you are eligible to have certain convictions removed from your record, sealed from the general public, or both.
The office has scheduled two Virtual Expungement Clinics to explain the process and answer initial questions. They are scheduled for online delivery using the Zoom on Aug. 8 (2023; Tuesday) from 4-6 p.m., and again on Aug. 22 (Tuesday) from 4-6 p.m.
Anyone can join the Zoom gatherings on those days and hours. Log in using the Meeting ID 491 292 9804 and the password “expunge.”
For more information, send an e-mail to PDExpungements@montgomerycountypa.gov.
Lower Salford Township Starts Annual Sewer Maintenance
Tuesday (July 18) at 10:39 a.m.
LOWER SALFORD PA – Annual preventative maintenance work on sewers across Lower Salford Township began Tuesday (July 18, 2023), the municipality said.
An e-mail reported its Township Authority, responsible for the sewer system, had hired a contractor for the service. It is expected to clean, and make video inspections of, the sanitary sewer mains. The video look through the pipe occasionally helps identified unexpected sources of water infiltration, possibly including storm water or unauthorized connections.
“The work will not include any construction or digging, and there should be no disruption to the public sewer service,” the e-mail stated. The work is anticipated to affect “various areas of the township throughout the summer,” it added. The contractor, Sewer Specialty Services Co. Inc., is expected to finish its work by mid-September.
Questions about the work should be directed to the Township Authority office by calling 215-256-8676, according to the e-mail.
Photo provided by Lower Salford Township to, and colorized by, The Municipal Blog
State Preserves Farm Acres in Berks, Montgomery Counties
Wednesday (July 12) at 9:15 a.m.
HARRISBURG PA – Farmland acres on four more properties across Berks and Montgomery counties have been protected from future development, the state reports.
Pennsylvania’s Agriculture Department said state, county, and local sources combined to invest a total of $10.2 million in preservation efforts.
- The Berks County farm parcels were located in Richmond, Jefferson, and Tulpehocken townships. The total investment there amounted to $703,376; $604,966 from the state, and $98,410 from the county.
- The sole Montgomery County parcel is in Horsham Township. Its rights were valued at $1,863,665; $1,367,042, from the state, $211,623 from the county, and $285,000 from the township.
The money bought development rights offered by the landowners. It ensures their land will remain as farms and never be sold to developers. The collective purchases keep future residential or commercial construction away from 29 farms in 15 counties.
“Prime soil and clean water are critical resources for feeding a growing population,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announced June 21 (2023; Wednesday). “Families who preserve their farms forge a partnership with government, investing together in ensuring … the resources to produce food, income, and jobs.”
Photo by Travels With The Post for The Municipal Blog
Local Rep. Scheuren Named to Transportation Committee
Saturday (July 8) at 6:55 a.m.
HARRISBURG PA – 147th House District state Rep. Donna Scheuren, whose constituents include residents of Upper Pottsgrove, Douglass (Montgomery), and New Hanover townships, has been appointed to the House Transportation Committee, her office reported Friday (July 7, 2023).
The committee helps create and adjust state transportation policies on infrastructure, funding allocations and other issues.
“My involvement allows me to influence decisions that can have a significant impact on our transportation system, including roads, bridges and railways, and the lives of the people who rely on it,” Scheuren said.
Photo provided by Rep. Donna Scheuren to The Municipal Blog
When Approved, State Budget Could Mean More School Money
Thursday (July 6) at 4:50 a.m.
The past-the-deadline and yet to be approved 2023-24 Pennsylvania budget is likely to include “$3.4 million more for Pottstown schools,” according to an article published Friday (July 7, 2023) in The Pottstown Mercury newspaper.
It also apparently offers additional funding to Spring-Ford, Pottsgrove, Perkiomen Valley, Methacton, Norristown school districts, Mercury reporter Evan Brandt writes.
The budget has passed the House, but is not yet approved by the Senate or signed by Gov. Josh Shapiro. The holdup is a continuing argument between the governor and some senators over school voucher provisions.
Mercury stories are often unavailable to non-subscribers. If you have a subscription, or if you’re feeling lucky, read the Brandt article.
Flag image provided by the state of Pennsylvania to The Municipal Blog