Bensalem adopts handheld cell phone ban for drivers

Bensalem Township recently adopted an ordinance that will ban the use handheld cell phones without a hands-free device such as Bluetooth by drivers. The cell phone violations will not be considered a moving violation, and police will need another primary reason for stopping a driver on the road. The ban will not apply if a 911 call is being made, if a car is parked, or for law enforcement and emergency vehicles. The ban is similar to ordinances passed across Pennsylvania in Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Fines will range between $150 and $300. The ban will go into effect on Friday, Feb. 4, 2011.

Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 2/1/2011

Council Rock faces budgetary challenges

The upcoming budget process will be challenging for the Council Rock school board. The state Act 1 index allows for a 1.4 percent increase in taxes and, if approved, an exemption to fund the pension plan payments could increase the allowed tax hike to 2.67 percent. The district is struggling with revenue losses from real estate tax assessment appeals ($1.2 million) and real estate transfer taxes. A larger problem is the fact that the district has no idea how much funding will be available from the state. Pennsylvania faces a $4 to $8 billion dollar deficit and the end of federal stimulus monies. The stimulus funding was used by the state to fund the basic education subsidy. A 2.67 percent increase in taxes would translate to about $120 more in taxes for the average homeowner. A proposed preliminary budget will be considered on Feb. 3 with the final budget being adopted in June.

Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 1/26/2011 & The Advance; 2/2/2011

New plan unveiled for development along Green Street in Hilltown

For the third time in five years, Hilltown supervisors were presented with plans to develop 86 acres along Green Street. DeLuca Homes presented a plan to build 59 homes on 10,000 square foot lots. The homes would range from 2,900 to 3,300 square feet and sell for around $500,000 each. The development would extend public sewer lines to the street and help alleviate the looming problem of failing septic systems in the area. Supervisors discussed the plans but made no decisions at the meeting. If approval is received, DeLuca would begin construction in the spring of 2012 at the earliest.

Source: The Intelligencer; 1/25/2011

Bristol Township school board resolves to limit tax increase to 1.8 percent

The Bristol Township school board approved a resolution that will limit any tax increase for the 2011-12 school year to no more than 1.8 percent. The 1.8 percent amount is the state Act 1 index benchmark for the district and would mean a 3.34 mill increase to the current 185.28 mill rate. This would increase the average school property tax bill to $3,372 for the average home assessed at $17,877. The Bristol Township School District is facing a projected $8 million deficit.

Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 1/21/2011

New Hope-Solebury proposed budget increases taxes $135

At a recent meeting, the New Hope-Solebury school board agreed to seek a maximum 2.9 percent tax increase. Act 1 allows only a 1.4 percent tax increase next year, but school districts can apply for exceptions that will allow the board to raise taxes higher, if necessary. The draft budget includes a $1.9 million deficit, with $1.25 million being taken from savings to cover part of the shortfall. The current draft has the remaining $730,000 being made up by a tax increase. Assessment appeals have led to a $3 million loss in revenue from real estate income. The school board pledged to pare down the proposed tax increase, which would hike the average school property tax bill to $4,804. The New Hope-Solebury School District has posted the proposed preliminary budget on their website.

Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 1/26/2011

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