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Newtown Residents May See Steep Tax Hike In 2021...Or Not!

Newtown Residents May See Steep Tax Hike In 2021...Or Not! | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

Homeowners in Newtown Township could face a 178 percent increase in property taxes if a proposed 2021 budget is approved.

 

At its Wednesday meeting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to request that Township Manager Micah Lewis come up with an alternative budget that only increases property taxes by 40 percent.

 

"I voted against this 'do over' primarily because I thought it was a waste of the Manger's time," Supervisor John Mack said. "More than likely the new version will not include what I consider necessary improvements in services for residents."

 

TAKE MY SURVEY: What Would You Cut From the Proposed 2021 Newtown Township Budget?

johnmacknewtowns insight:

A victim of the "40% alternate" surely will be the 2021 road program. As it is, the original proposed budget only allows for the repaving of about 3.6 miles of roads, which is just enough to keep to keep up with the status quo - not to get ahead. That program will surely be cut to the bone in the 40% "solution," which is why I voted against the "re do." Neither I nor the other supervisors voted to approve a 178% increase in RE taxes.

 

You can learn more about cuts that may be proposed in the "40% alternate" and tell me what you think should be cut by taking my "budget cut" survey.

 

Further Reading:

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These Scoops are excerpts from articles published in local newspapers and other sources. Please click on the "From" link to access the full original article. Any opinions and "insights" appended to these article summaries are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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Many - But Not All - State & Local Governments Facing Fiscal Consequences of the Pandemic Make Painful Cuts to Spending

Even the most optimistic assumptions about the course of the pandemic point to fiscal consequences for states and local governments that “would be the worst since the Great Depression” and take years to dig out of, Dan White, director of fiscal policy research at Moody’s Analytics, concluded.

 

The squeeze at the state level reverberates in urban, suburban and rural counties in nearly every corner of the United States, and officials are making piercing choices.

 

In Kansas City, Mo., with a municipal budget of $1.7 billion, the city manager has asked each department to draft a plan for cuts of more than 11 percent. That could mean laying off 200 police officers from the 1,300-member force and 180 firefighters and emergency medical technicians, said Dan Fowler, a City Council member.

 

To avoid layoffs, the city is cutting the pay of higher-level employees by 10 percent* and requiring most other employees, including police officers, firefighters and emergency responders, to take 26 unpaid furlough days — one every two weeks — next year. The move amounts to a 10 percent pay cut, and comes on top of six furlough days imposed on the city’s roughly 4,000 employees through the end of this year.

 

State and local employees make up roughly 13 percent of the nation’s work force.

 

Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, and many economists have warned that reducing state and local spending will further drag down a weak recovery, as it did after the Great Recession. Spending by state and local governments accounted for about 15 percent of the nation’s economic activity, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, part of the Commerce Department.

 

While the federal government can run budget deficits to cover both regular and unexpected expenses, states generally cannot.

johnmacknewtowns insight:

* The Preliminary Newtown 2021 budget provides a 3% increase in salary for all staff members with much higher increases for some managers and directors.

 

Here's what I said at the November 10, 2020, Board of Supervisors meeting:

 

"Today is the 245th B’day of the U.S. Marines! As one Marine veteran resident told me at a Zoom meeting yesterday, Marines have a phrase: 'Officers Eat Last.' That is a sign of 'selfless leadership.' It is why I favor a 3% increase limit for ALL staff, including department heads. It’s the right thing to do, especially during these times when people are being furloughed, laid off, or working for lower wages due to COVID-19."

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Meet Mack Monday, December 7, 2020, at 7:30 PM via Zoom

Meet Mack Monday, December 7, 2020, at 7:30 PM via Zoom | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

Please Register if you are interested in attending the next Meet Mack Monday Zoom meeting scheduled for December 7, 2020, at 7:30 PM. 

Topics for Discussion include: 

 

The "Hung" 2021 Preliminary Budget. At the November 25, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, the supervisors voted 4-1 to advertise (aka, "hang") the preliminary 2021 Newtown Township budget. This was NOT an approval of the proposed budget. The earliest that supervisors can vote to approve the budget is December 22, 2020.

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO LIMIT A TAX INCREASE will be discussed:

 

  • Over 400 residents have signed a petition to oppose this budget and there is a call for a Newtown Taxpayers Alliance to oppose this and "any other insanely high township tax increases in the future."
  • Some residents are organizing dozens of people show up at the December 9 BOS meeting to protest and submit comments.
  • My plan for discussing cuts to the budget with fellow Supervisors at the December 9 BOS meeting.

 

Other topics to be discussed include items on the agenda for the December 9, 2020, BOS meeting: TBD

 

REGISTER TO ATTEND

 

You can join this Meet Mack Monday discussion via Zoom or via phone. Login details will be sent to you via email or text to your cell phone a few days before the meeting and again on the meeting day.

 

DISCLAIMER: This is not an official Newtown Township meeting. It is hosted by Newtown Supervisor John Mack to learn more about issues of concern to Newtown Township residents. The opinions expressed at Meet Mack Monday events are solely those of John Mack and the attendees of the meeting and do not represent the opinions of any other entity.

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Newtown Township Supervisors Vote to Advertise the Preliminary/Proposed 2021 Budget

Newtown Township Supervisors Vote to Advertise the Preliminary/Proposed 2021 Budget | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

[Image: TAKE MY SURVEY]

 

On Thanksgiving Eve, the Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to advertise its 2021 budget that if adopted would boost the real estate property tax rate by 5.9 mills, or 133 percent.

 

The $13.375 million preliminary budget reflects a roughly $2.2 million increase in spending over 2020, including the hiring of three new full time police officers, an assistant manager and a code enforcement officer.

 

The spending plan also allocates $350,000 for road repaving and includes salary increases for the manager and police chief and funding for a renovation study of the police department building.

 

The budget also funds a number of capital purchases including three new vehicles, four portable radios, seven ballistic vests and 12 tasers for the police department; an International Dump Truck, a Ford F-350 utility vehicle and a zero turn and a walk behind mower for public works; and various technology upgrades for the administrative offices.

 

The budget would boost the property tax rate by 5.9 mills, from 4.5 to 10.49 mills, to balance next year’s spending plan, which is funded through a combination of property and earned income taxes.

 

By law, the vote to advertise the budget does not preclude the supervisors from making additional cuts to the budget between now and final passage on Dec. 22, noted township solicitor David Sander.

 

Supervisor John Mack said between now and final adoption of the budget he would like to hear from residents on what cuts, if any, they would support.

 

[TAKE MY "BUDGET CUT" SURVEY to tell me what cuts in personnel, service, and/or capital spending you would like to see to reduce the tax increase.]

 

At the Nov. 10 meeting, Mack said he might support cutting the code enforcement position and the police building study from the budget and favored hiring one new police officer in 2021 and two more in 2022 instead of all three in 2021.

 

Mack, however, proposed no changes or cuts to the budget on Thanksgiving Eve. Neither did the other supervisors.

 

The supervisors are hoping to bring an assistant manager on board with expertise in economic development who can devote time to attracting larger sector companies and businesses to the township to produce more revenue for the township.

 

At the advice of the township’s economic advisor, the township also is looking at ways to reinvigorate the Newtown Business Commons by expanding zoning opportunities to include mixed uses including residential and commercial options.

 

Several residents attending the Nov. 25 board meeting, however, said this is not a good time to be considering raising taxes with people out of work and unable to pay their bills due to the pandemic.

 

“What about the guy who lives at home and he and his wife are both unemployed and you put a lien on their house to collect it when they try to sell it,” asked one of the residents.

 

The township’s proposed 2021 budget is posted online at the township’s website for public inspection. The public will have two more opportunities - Dec. 9 and 22 - to weigh in on the spending plan prior to final adoption on December 22.

johnmacknewtowns insight:

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Supervisors Vote to "Hang" the Preliminary 2021 Budget

Supervisors Vote to "Hang" the Preliminary 2021 Budget | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

[Image: At the sparsely attended November 25, 2020, BOS meeting, resident Ash Kamath presented a petition signed by nearly 400 residents who oppose the proposed tax increase.]

 

At the November 25, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, the supervisors voted 4-1 (Kyle Davis voting "nay") to advertise (aka, "hang") the preliminary 2021 Newtown Township budget.

 

I voted to advertise the budget so that residents can finally see the numbers and give them more time to suggest changes.

 

This is the first opportunity for the public to view the numbers and other details of the proposed budget. The public will have 20 days for this review after the advertisement appears in a local newspaper on Monday, November 30, 2020, before the BOS can vote to finally approve the budget OR a modified version of the budget.

 

Read more and download the preliminary budget here...

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Financially Distressed Pa. Towns Faring Better Than Expected, While Others Are Feeling the Pain

A significant number of Pennsylvania municipalities are considering applying for a state program for the severely financially distressed, while those already in the program appear to be weathering the coronavirus pandemic better than expected.

 

In March, many city managers, mayors, and experts feared that 16 municipalities already enrolled in a state financial recovery program called Act 47 could suffer the most dramatically as the statewide economic shutdown undercut tax revenues.

 

But many have remained stable and are braced for fallout from the current surge, while others in better shape before the pandemic are faring worse.

 

A survey of 430 municipalities conducted this fall by the Pennsylvania Economy League, a civic leadership nonprofit, found that 23 townships, boroughs, and other local governments said they may now apply for Act 47 status as a result of their current financial pressure.

 

The Act 47 program considers requests from municipalities that are struggling financially and decides whether they are qualified for a formal, state intervention with oversight that restructures debt, reins in costs, and bolsters tax bases. In some cases, technical assistance or grants are provided to tackle issues like insufficient housing and blight, or to invest in downtown areas.

 

About 40% of the surveyed municipalities said it’s too soon to tell just how bad the fallout from the pandemic will be, said LeeAnne Clayberger, CEO of the Pennsylvania Economy League.

 

In addition to the 23 municipalities that disclosed that they may request Act 47 status, another 38 said that they are likely to apply to participate in another state program, the Strategic Management Planning Program, which also assists with financial planning, according to the Pennsylvania Economy League survey.

 

More than half of those surveyed also saw or expected a decline in earned income tax, which is deducted from workers’ paychecks. Amusement tax, along with fees collected from parking and the use of other community facilities, have also taken a hit as events are canceled and restaurants and bars rein in service.

 

  • In West Chester borough in Chester County, officials proposed a 2021 budget with a 32% property tax increase because of a more than $2 million shortfall. In Newtown Township in Bucks County, officials in October proposed a draft budget that included a 178% property tax increase for 2021.

 

[NOTE: Newtown Township has revised its proposed 2021 budget, which includes a 133% property tax increase, NOT 178%.]

johnmacknewtowns insight:

In April, 2020, the Board of Supervisors “re-allocated” the 1.0 mill real estate tax slated to be used to borrow money to repave more than 5 miles of roads in 2020 to cover General Fund expenses - a drastic move in anticipation of an Earned Income Tax (EIT) revenue shortfall of 8-11% due to the COVID-19 shutdown of local businesses. That shortfall, however, never materialized. According to Keystone Collections, which collects EIT, comparing earned income collections for 1/1/20 – 8/31/20 vs 1/1/19 – 8/31/19, Newtown Township specifically is up about $258,000.00 or 4.8%

 

 

Related Content:

  • “First Draft of Yardley Borough Budget: “Sorry, But We Have to Raise Taxes!”; http://sco.lt/6fzLEm 
  • “Consultant Briefs Newtown Township Supervisors on a 5-Year Budget Plan That Includes Raising RE Taxes and Hiring 10 New Personnel in 2021/2022”; http://sco.lt/7RkMwC 
  • “Newtown Residents Cite Need for Infrastructure Improvements”; http://sco.lt/5dwjXU 
  • “Consultants Propose Three Scenarios to End Newtown Township's Deficit Spending – All Involve Significant Tax Increases”; http://sco.lt/6fWOm0 
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Bristol Borough Council Eyes Tax Cut in 2021

Bristol Borough Council Eyes Tax Cut in 2021 | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

Bristol Borough residents will see their taxes go down in 2021 if the proposed budget for the coming year is adopted by Council at its Dec. 7 meeting.

 

The $5.6 million budget anticipates a decrease in the borough’s debt service of 7.82 mills or $563,040 because of the sale of its ice arena in August. The borough sold the rink to the Black Bear Sports Group of Bethesda, Maryland, for $4 million.

 

The overall budget cut in taxes will amount to 6.50 mills, even as the borough spends an extra mill on street lighting and projects a 0.32-mill increase in the recreation fund, which hadn’t been increased since 2009, said James Dillon, borough manager.

 

A resident with the average property assessment of $16,000 will see their tax bill drop by $104 in 2021, Dillon said.

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Newtown Township's Proposed Tax Increase Put Into Perspective

Newtown Township's Proposed Tax Increase Put Into Perspective | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

A recent article published in the Newtown Patch entitled "Newtown Supervisors Look To Tweak A Taxing Budget Proposal" has caused quite a stir amongst many readers of the article - at least among those who posted comments. The misleading subtitle - The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors voted to revise the 2021 budget that proposes a 178 percent property tax hike. – is the probable cause of this mishegas!

"Even 40% is too high in this economic environment," said one commenter.

I have found that many people are misunderstanding what tax the township is looking to increase. As a consequence, the often-cited percentage increase numbers are misleading.

The average Newtown Township homeowner such as myself pays about $4,800 in TOTAL property taxes each year. However, only about 3% of that – about $144 – is levied by Newtown Township. Bucks County gets $802 and the Council Rock School District (CRSD) gets a whopping $3,862! Imagine those numbers as dollars piled up next to each other as in the diagram shown above.

 

Because the township real estate tax amount is currently very low, any increase ON A PERCENTAGE BASIS WILL LOOK ALARMINGLY LARGE, but in terms of dollars and cents it doesn't look alarming at all!

 

Review the dollars & cents numbers and figure out what your taxes are here...

johnmacknewtowns insight:

Related Content:

 

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Newtown Supervisors Look To Tweak the Proposed 2021 Preliminary Budget to Lower the Tax Increase

Newtown Supervisors Look To Tweak the Proposed 2021 Preliminary Budget to Lower the Tax Increase | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to revise a budget that proposes a steep tax hike on residents.

 

The preliminary budget proposes a millage increase of 7.5 to be added to the general fund, or a 178 percent property tax increase for township residents.

 

During its meeting Tuesday night, supervisors instructed township manager Micah Lewis to return to the Nov. 25 board of supervisors meeting with a revised preliminary budget that reduces the millage increase by 2.0 mills by dipping into the township's reserve fund.

 

During public comments Tuesday night, some residents expressed concern over the potentially significant tax hike.

 

"To hit us with such a high increase, you're hurting the people that are already hurt," Mike Palestini, a Newtown Township resident, told supervisors. "It doesn't seem to be the right time to do that."

 

More...

johnmacknewtowns insight:

I suggested more cuts that could be made to further reduce the millage increase by about 1.0 mill (see my list here: https://bit.ly/10Nov20BOSnotes). It is my hope that the supervisors may be able to compromise and possibly cut an additional 0.5 to 1.0 mills from the overall increase without sacrificing needed services.

 

Tell me what you think should be cut by taking my "budget cut" survey: https://bit.ly/2021BudgetCutSvy

 

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Newtown Township Board of Supervisors Approves a Single Fire Chief for NESD Career & NFA Volunteer Firefighters & Reduces Funding for Volunteers

Newtown Township Board of Supervisors Approves a Single Fire Chief for NESD Career & NFA Volunteer Firefighters & Reduces Funding for Volunteers | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

Newtown Township Fire Chief Glenn Forsyth will officially take over as chief of the all volunteer Newtown Fire Association effective Jan. 1, 2021 under a bylaws change approved by the board of supervisors on October 29.

 

“This is a huge step for the Newtown Emergency Services and the Newtown Fire Association,” said Forsyth, the chief of the paid Newtown Emergency Services department. “It’s the first step in bringing our two departments together as one.”

 

It’s also in keeping with a fire study commissioned by the township in 2018, which recommended moving to a single fire chief who would oversee both the paid full time staff at the Newtown Emergency Services department (Station 55) and the volunteers with the Newtown Fire Association (Station 55).

 

The resignation of NFA Chief Matt Gerhard at the NFA’s October meeting opened the door to the change in bylaws, which is pending the approval of the NFA membership at its November meeting.

 

“Matt is taking a leave of absence only as the Chief. We’re not letting him out the door,” said Forsyth.

 

If the change is approved by the NFA membership, a new organizational chart will be put into place in which Forsyth will now officially oversee both organizations. A deputy chief will be added to the association’s chain of command and two battalion chiefs would be added, one at Station 55 and one at Station 45. Both would report to Forsyth.

johnmacknewtowns insight:

Why I voted NOT to approve this contract:

 

The contract, like the proposed 2021 budget, reduces the Newtown Township’s yearly contribution to the NFA from $175,000 to $160,000. If the contract is approved by the NFA, it takes precedence over the budget, meaning the Township is committed to that number and Supervisors no longer have any say in the matter.

 

Meanwhile, the proposed 7.99 mills real estate tax increase includes 0.125 added to the Fire Fund, which includes this yearly contribution and the salary and benefits of the Chief Forsyth. That’s an added $43,000 per year! The township is collecting MUCH MORE than enough additional money to cover the Chief’s salary & benefits while providing LESS services via funding the NFA!

 

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johnmacknewtown's curator insight, November 3, 7:55 AM

Why I voted NOT to approve this contract.

 

The contract, like the proposed 2021 budget, reduces the Newtown Township’s yearly contribution to the NFA from $175,000 to $160,000. If the contract is approved by the NFA, it takes precedence over the budget, meaning the Township is committed to that lower number and Supervisors no longer have any say in the matter.

 

Meanwhile, the proposed 7.99 mills real estate tax increase includes 0.125 added to the Fire Fund, which includes this yearly contribution and the salary and benefits of the Chief Forsyth. That’s an added $43,000 per year! The township is collecting MUCH MORE than enough additional money to cover the Chief’s salary & benefits while providing LESS services via funding the NFA!

 

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Local Area Fire, Rescue, and EMS Will Receive $535,425 in #COVID19 State Relief Fund Awards

Local Area Fire, Rescue, and EMS Will Receive $535,425 in #COVID19 State Relief Fund Awards | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) has announced that 26 area fire, rescue, and EMS will receive $535,425 in funding to offset expenses related to COVID-19, under the COVID-19 Crisis Fire, Rescue and EMS grant from the Office of State Fire Commissioner (OSFC).

 

“Our fire, rescue, and EMS workers dedicate themselves to serving our communities and have been on the frontlines of keeping us healthy and safe, long before this pandemic started,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “These funding awards are critical to supporting the efforts of these brave men and women, who have continued to respond to the needs of our community, often with diminished resources, during these unprecedented times.”

 

The funding awards in Senate District 10 include:

 

- Doylestown Fire Co. No. 1: $25,342

- Fairless Hills Volunteer Fire Co.: $23,973

- Falls Township Fire Company #1: $25,342

- Newtown Fire Association: $25,068

- Newtown Township: $11,094

- Upper Makefield Fire Company: $25,068

- Newtown American Legion Ambulance Squad, Inc.: $15,048

- Yardley-Makefield Emergency Unit: $13,754

 

More...

johnmacknewtowns insight:

Related Content:

  • “The Volunteer Newtown Fire Association is at a Turning Point”; http://bit.ly/NFAturn
  • “Middletown To Pay $250 to Each Volunteer Firefighter and EMS Worker Who Serves the Township”; http://sco.lt/5v44nI
johnmacknewtown's curator insight, October 10, 7:41 AM

Related Content:

  • “The Volunteer Newtown Fire Association is at a Turning Point”; http://bit.ly/NFAturn
  • “Middletown To Pay $250 to Each Volunteer Firefighter and EMS Worker Who Serves the Township”; http://sco.lt/5v44nI
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Developer Plans Largest Industrial/e-Commerce Park on East Coast on Site of Former U.S. Steel in Falls

Developer Plans Largest Industrial/e-Commerce Park on East Coast on Site of Former U.S. Steel in Falls | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

If all goes to plan, the former U.S. Steel site in Falls could be transformed into the largest industrial park on the East Coast within the next decade.

Pending a purchase of the site, a proposal from Kansas City, Missouri-based industrial developer NorthPoint would invest more than $1 billion into remediation and , redevelopment to make way for 10 million square feet of warehouses and logistics centered industrial buildings at the 1,800-acre site.

If those plans are realized, redevelopment inside the Keystone Industrial Port Complex could expand to 15 million square feet at an investment cost of $1.5 billion — making it the largest e-commerce, logistics and multi-model industrial project in the Northeast. Each warehouse is expected to be between 1 million to 2 million square feet.

“Our vision is to create a class A industrial park and completely redevelop what’s out there today,” Jed Momot, NorthPoint chief strategy officer, said during a township planning commission meeting Wednesday.

With more than a dozen new buildings, the project dubbed Keystone Trade Center could bring between 5,000 to 10,000 jobs back to an area that lost thousands of positions when the steel plant closed nearly two decades ago.

“I think it will certainly be a shot in the arm for the local and regional economy,” Momot said.

johnmacknewtowns insight:

This may not be such good news for Newtown Township, which has plans to entice new high-tech businesses to the Business Commons located on Newtown-Yardley Road.

 

The 5-Year Financial Plan by Econsult Solutions also suggested that Newtown - with the assistance of regional economic development agencies – “should work to reevaluate and foster the local business community” and specifically recommended to “examine the capacity of Newtown business spaces such as the Business Commons.”

 

This was discussed at the July 2, 2020, Zoom meeting of the Newtown Economic Development Committee (EDC). Listen to local business leaders discuss “Bringing New Businesses to Newtown.” 

 

NOTE: The site was previously considered for the Elcon hazardous waste treatment facility. That plan was shot down by Falls Supervisors in May, 2019 (read “Victory! Falls Supervisors Reject Elcon Plan.”

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FDA Orders KVK Tech To Hire An Outside Consultant To Bring Its Laboratory Practices Up to Agency Expectations!

FDA Orders KVK Tech To Hire An Outside Consultant To Bring Its Laboratory Practices Up to Agency Expectations! | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

An FDA warning letter is an ignominious sign for any company and a wake-up call for change. But two warning letters in one year? That's an alarm bell for most companies—a fact that a Pennsylvania-based drugmaker is finding out the hard way after a new FDA notice.

 

FDA investigators accused KVK-Tech of failing to set up the proper policies to surfaces used in packaging operations at its Newtown, Pennsylvania plant despite the agency's prior wrist slap in April, according to a warning letter [addressed to

Anthony P. Tobasso, President and CEO] posted online this week.

 

During an inspection between February and March, investigators found the company did not have proper cleaning protocols for a slat table used in packaging its oral solid-dose drugs, which were redacted in the letter.

 

The newest warning letter isn't KVK's first run-in with the FDA—a point investigators noted.

 

In February, the FDA found KVK failed to properly integrate co-eluting peaks during impurity testing of its phentermine HCL capsules, a drug used for weight loss, at a second facility in Newtown. As a result, the letter says the analysis failed to detect out-of-specification results for at least one lot of the drug.

 

KVK Tech said even though its methods might underestimate impurities in the drug, the impact was minimal because “the failing batches were ultimately recalled from the market, albeit at a potentially later time.”

 

The FDA, unimpressed by this argument, ordered the company to bring in an independent consultant to help it assess its laboratory practices and then put together a plan on how it intends to bring them up to agency expectations.

johnmacknewtowns insight:

The Newtown Bucks County Joint Sewer Authority previously had issues with how waste water from KVK Tech is handled. It may have to take another look! These chemicals are NOT what we want to end up in our ground water.

 

Related Content:

  • “KVK Tech - Located in Newtown Township - is #7 Among the TOP TEN Biggest Rx Opioid Manufacturers! According to DEA Database”; http://sco.lt/5n2yoq
  • “FDA to Determine if Oxymorphone, Produced by KVK Tech in Newtown, is More Likely to Be Abused Than Other Opioids”; http://sco.lt/9KUNFp
  • “Does This Email Message from KVK Tech Violate FDA Regulations?”; http://sco.lt/4x7qu9
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Newtown Residents May See Steep Tax Hike In 2021...Or Not!

Newtown Residents May See Steep Tax Hike In 2021...Or Not! | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

Homeowners in Newtown Township could face a 178 percent increase in property taxes if a proposed 2021 budget is approved.

 

At its Wednesday meeting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to request that Township Manager Micah Lewis come up with an alternative budget that only increases property taxes by 40 percent.

 

"I voted against this 'do over' primarily because I thought it was a waste of the Manger's time," Supervisor John Mack said. "More than likely the new version will not include what I consider necessary improvements in services for residents."

 

TAKE MY SURVEY: What Would You Cut From the Proposed 2021 Newtown Township Budget?

johnmacknewtowns insight:

A victim of the "40% alternate" surely will be the 2021 road program. As it is, the original proposed budget only allows for the repaving of about 3.6 miles of roads, which is just enough to keep to keep up with the status quo - not to get ahead. That program will surely be cut to the bone in the 40% "solution," which is why I voted against the "re do." Neither I nor the other supervisors voted to approve a 178% increase in RE taxes.

 

You can learn more about cuts that may be proposed in the "40% alternate" and tell me what you think should be cut by taking my "budget cut" survey.

 

Further Reading:

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How to Calculate Your Yearly Newtown Township Property Tax

How to Calculate Your Yearly Newtown Township Property Tax | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

How to Calculate Your Yearly Newtown Township Property Tax

One item of discussion at a recent Meet Mack Monday "Town Hall" meeting with residents (https://bit.ly/MMM102620audio) concerned the increase in Newtown Twp municipal property taxes and how it will impact homeowners. The total increase proposed is 7.99 mills on top of the current 4.5 mills. The new total would be 12.49 mills - a 178% increase - if the proposed 2021 budget is approved. Download an 8-page summary of the proposed budget here: https://bit.ly/3oalgUf

But how much more will YOU pay should this budget be approved by the Board of Supervisors? To find out, follow these steps...

johnmacknewtowns insight:

Note: The budget loomed large at the October 28, 2020 Board of Supervisors meeting. The Supervisors voted 3-2 to have the Township Manager prepare a new/alternate budget with just a 40% increase in RE tax, which works out to only a 1.8 mill increase.

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Middletown Zoning Board Hearing on 2nd Middletown Electronic Billboard Ends Without Decision

Middletown Zoning Board Hearing on 2nd Middletown Electronic Billboard Ends Without Decision | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

Erecting a large electronic billboard in a Middletown right-of-way would run afoul of township zoning law and would create traffic problems, an attorney and transportation engineer testified during a lengthy virtual zoning hearing board meeting Wednesday night.

 

The hearing was adjourned at 11 p.m. without a decision, and will be continued, likely sometime in the next week or two, board solicitor Dan Grieser said. It's being held to consider an appeal of a zoning permit issued for the billboard, also being referred to as a monument sign, proposed by Premier Media LLC for a spot at the corner of Business Route 1 and South Flowers Mill Road.

 

McCafferty Hyundai Sales, Inc., owned by the Fred Beans Family of Dealerships, filed the appeal during the summer over the monument sign that would be located in a township right-of-way right next to the dealership.

 

Signs located in rights-of-way are generally much smaller and are of the "breakaway" type that couldn't cause significant damage in the event of an accident, he added.

 

"When you start putting fixed objects in rights-of-way, you have a traffic hazard," Horner testified.

 

Frank Bartle, a Lansdale attorney who specializes in real estate, zoning and land development, testified that monument signs need to be located on an actual lot and are not allowed in rights-of-way.

 

Beans also repeated points he had made in a recent guest opinion in the Bucks County Courier Times, that the monument sign would be an eyesore and that township officials should have higher standards for structures proposed in Middletown.

 

The township supervisors approved a 25-year lease for the monument sign in June. It would pay Middletown yearly rents starting at $12,000 and rising to more than $30,000 in the final five years of the agreement.

 

If eventually put up, the 300-square-foot rectangular-shaped structure would be the second large electronic billboard in Middletown, joining the "M" owned by Catalyst and located on private land at the corner of Business 1 and Oxford Valley Road (read “A Large Electronic Billboard – Touted as “the Middleown Monument” – is Being Erected at Intersection of Route 1 and Oxford Valley Road Near Wawa!”; http://sco.lt/92vyLZ).

johnmacknewtowns insight:

Silver Lake Park in Newtown was also suggested in 2016 as a site for a hideous, huge outdoor lighted sign such as the one that was erected in. The same company responsible for promoting the Middletown Twp sign made two pitches to the Newtown BOS to erect a similar outdoor monstrosity at the entrance of the Park. The idea went nowhere but the salesperson went on probation for lying to federal investigators about intended bribe payments that former Lower Southampton public officials sought in exchange for promises of a favorable outcome for his electronic billboard proposal.

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Proposed Newtown Township Tax Increase is a "Little Troubling" But No Need to Worry...Yet!

Proposed Newtown Township Tax Increase is a "Little Troubling" But No Need to Worry...Yet! | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

Newtown Township Manager Micah Lewis presented his “recommended” 2021 budget to the Board of Supervisors (BOS) at a public meeting on October 19, 2020.

 

Board members had surprisingly few questions to ask or comments to make. Supervisor Kyle Davis said the tax increase was “a little troubling, a little stressful. Nobody wants to see that. One the flip side there are a lot of good things in the budget that I think are necessary.” He expressed the need for more time to look it over before asking any questions.

 

"It's not a budget approval. It's not even an official budget,” said Chairman Calabro. “If anyone has seen this, they need not be worried right at this time."

 

If not now, when should you worry?

 

Residents must wait for the official “preliminary budget” to be adopted on November 10, 2020, and advertised to see the details. That version of the budget may or may not be the same as the “recommended” version presented on October 19. The “final” budget is scheduled to be adopted on December 9, 2020.

 

The proposed 2021 budget incorporates a 7.5 mill increase in municipal real estate tax revenue that will be deposited into the township’s General Fund (GF), which pays for personnel and other operating costs. In addition, the 1.0 mill RE tax previously dedicated to paying down loans for repaving 5 miles of roads also will be redirected to the GF. Thus, a total of 8.5 mills will be deposited into the GF. Note that 1.0 mill of property tax equates to about $350,000 in revenue.

 

More...

johnmacknewtowns insight:

You can listen to my 26-minute audio recording of Mr. Lewis’s presentation here: https://bit.ly/2021RecBudgetPreso 

 

Find the synopsis here: https://bit.ly/3oalgUf 

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Newtown Township Considers "Nearly Doubling" Municipal Real Estate Taxes in 2021

Newtown Township Considers "Nearly Doubling" Municipal Real Estate Taxes in 2021 | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

[Chart shows the property tax millage of local municipalities compared to Newtown were it to adopt the tax increase proposed by Township Manager Micah Lewis. Note that Wrightstown and Upper Makefield - members of the Jointure with Newtown - have significantly lower millage rates.]

 

An early 2021 budget recommended by township Manager Micah Lewis and presented to supervisors and residents at a recent meeting has a 7.5-mill [actually 7.99-mill] property tax increase, a hike that if eventually approved would almost double municipal real estate taxes in the township.

 

A 7.5-mill increase would be $281 more in annual taxes for a resident with a property assessed at the township average of $37,459. Total township real estate millage is currently 4.99 [actually 4.5], or $187 [CORRECTION: $168] for the average property owner.

 

Lewis said the tax increase is in line with recommendations made by Econsult Solutions Inc. in a five-year financial plan for the township, which stated it needs to dramatically increase revenue to keep providing good services to residents and avoid totally depleting its savings account which now stands at about $2.1 million.

 

In addition to the property tax increase, the recommended budget proposes to add an assistant township manager, three new police officers and a full-time zoning and code enforcement director, probably in the summer of 2021 when sufficient property taxes have been collected.

 

Supervisor John Mack said a 7.5-mill increase would mean $272 more in taxes on his "modest 35-year-old three-bedroom house."

 

"I think any tax increase will be a bit more palatable for residents if more of it were spent on road paving and repaving, a No. 1 concern of respondents to a citizens survey," he added. "I would also like to see the hiring of three new police officers spread out over two years as recommended by our consultant. In addition, there should be some discount (on property taxes) for senior citizens on fixed incomes."

 

The supervisors aided by Lewis and other administrators will continue working on the budget over the next few weeks. The board is scheduled to vote on a preliminary budget at its Nov. 10 meeting, and a final spending plan at the Dec. 9 meeting.

johnmacknewtowns insight:

The actual total increase in millage is 7.99 bring new total to 12.49. The current millage rate is 4.5 (not 4.99). 7.5 + 1.0 (part of the 4.5 previously dedicated to debt fund for road paving) will go to the General Fund. The other 0.49 increase goes to pay for a salary increase for the Fire Chief (while funds for the Newtown Fire Assn would drop to $160,000 from the current $175,000), fire hydrate fees, & other stuff.

 

When it comes to the revenue enhancement, raising taxes is only one way. The proposed budget, however, offers no other sources of revenue in 2021, but includes significantly increased expenditures without significantly improving services like increase road repairs and repaving. You can listen to a 26-minute audio recording of the Manager's budget synopsis here: https://bit.ly/2021RecBudgetPreso 

 

Chairman Phil Calabro said at the start of the recent meeting. "It's not a budget approval. It's not even an official budget. If anyone has seen this, they need not be worried right at this time."

 

If not now, when?

 

Join me and other concerned citizens at my next Meet Mack Monday Zoom "town hall" meeting at 7:30 PM on October 26, 2020, with concerned residents: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NGPLVLN 

johnmacknewtown's curator insight, October 22, 7:45 AM

When it comes to the revenue enhancement, raising taxes is only one way. The proposed budget, however, offers no other sources of revenue in 2021, but includes significantly increased expenditures without significantly improving services like increase road repairs and repaving. You can listen to a 26-minute audio recording of the Manager's budget synopsis here: https://bit.ly/2021RecBudgetPreso 

 

Chairman Phil Calabro said at the start of the recent meeting. "It's not a budget approval. It's not even an official budget. If anyone has seen this, they need not be worried right at this time."

 

If not now, when?

 

Join me and other concerned citizens at my next Meet Mack Monday Zoom "town hall" meeting at 7:30 PM on October 26, 2020, with concerned residents: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NGPLVLN 

 

 

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11 Newtown Businesses Receive #COVID19 Relief Funding

11 Newtown Businesses Receive #COVID19 Relief Funding | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

11 small businesses in Newtown have received federal grant funding to help weather the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Salons, restaurants and gyms are some of the businesses to receive the latest round of grant funding through the federal CARES Act.

 

Qualified businesses included those with 25 or fewer employees in February 2020 and an annual revenue of less than $1 million prior to COVID-19's impact, among other requirements. The grants offered through the COVID-19 Relief Pennsylvania Statewide Small Business Assistance Program ranged from $5,000 to $50,000.

 

The following businesses in Newtown received funding:

 

  • Acupuncture Center for Human Performance, $20,000
  • Cafe con Leche, $25,000
  • Caren A. Stein, LLC, $5,000
  • Harlequin Beauty Co., $5,000
  • Hollywood Nails of Newtown, $20,000
  • Pat's Colonial Kitchen, $25,000
  • Philly Square, Inc., $20,000
  • Salon Privé, $35,000
  • Serenity Nails and Spa, $35,000
  • Transcend Fitness, $35,000
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New Zoning Law Clears the Way for Wawa on the Newtown Bypass - What Message Does It Send Other Developers?

New Zoning Law Clears the Way for Wawa on the Newtown Bypass - What Message Does It Send Other Developers? | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

Convenience stores with gas pumps dot the landscape in the far lower end of Bucks County and might now become a more common sight a little farther north in the Newtown area.
Supervisors in Newtown Township, Upper Makefield and Wrightstown recently approved an amendment to their joint municipal zoning ordinance that permits the use within certain zoning areas in all three municipalities.

The move is good news for Villanova-based developer The Provco Group, which wants to build a Wawa with 16 gas pumps just off the Newtown Bypass near Lower Silver Lake Road in Newtown Township. The amendment allows the use on land zoned Office Research in the township, and the Provco proposal is for a parcel zoned OR.

The company filed its application several months ago for the Wawa, and also a substantive challenge to the ordinance because it didn't allow for the use anywhere in the three townships. Doylestown attorney John VanLuvanee, who is representing Provco, said he hopes the zoning amendment takes care of the challenge and clears the way for construction of the Wawa.

Provco must go through the township's land development process and get approval from the supervisors for the Wawa to be built.

The ordinance amendment has dozens of requirements for convenience stores with gas pumps in the three townships, and allows them on land zoned OR in Newtown Township and parcels zoned Village Commercial or Village Commercial 2 in Upper Makefield and Wrightstown.

Supervisors in Newtown Township were the last among the three municipalities to green light the amendment when they voted 3-2 to approve it at a recent meeting. Board Chairman Phil Calabro and members Dennis Fisher and David Oxley voted yes, and John Mack and Kyle Davis voted no.

"We're giving them the best, sweetest part of the township for a gas station," Davis said.

johnmacknewtowns insight:

While this may or may not set a precedent for turning the Bypass into another Route 1, IMHO it does send the wrong message to other developers like Arcadia and Toll Bros who are also suing Newtown. The message is: "Newtown lacks the hutzpah to challenge developers in court."

 

Related Content:

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Bucks County Planners Want Your Input on New Trails Linking Newtown with the Delaware River

Bucks County Planners Want Your Input on New Trails Linking Newtown with the Delaware River | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

[Image from BCPC presentation shows Newtown-Yardley trail corridor]

 

Bucks County planners are seeking the public's help to study the viability of new outdoor trails connecting the Newtown area to the Delaware & Lehigh trail system.

 

The trails will provide a connection between the Newtown area — where the future Neshaminy Greenway Trail, Greenway Trail, Newtown Rail Trail and Newtown area trails converge — and the Delaware River, including Yardley Borough, Washington Crossing and Delaware Canal State Park.

 

The new trails would essentially bind the communities of Newtown, Washington Crossing and Yardley and may eventually serve as part of the Sept. 11 National Memorial Trail, Bucks County planner Christian Regosch said in a virtual presentation. http://bit.ly/BCPCtrailpreso

 

Planners are taking community input through Oct. 30. Click here to take the survey. http://bit.ly/BCPCtrailSvy

johnmacknewtowns insight:

Meanwhile, the Lower Dolington Road Multi-Use Trail in Newtown Twp is delayed due to #COVID19 restrictions & work will not start on it until next year.

 

Related Content:

  • “Newtown Township Gets Grants to Build Lower Dolington Road Multi-Use Trail, But...”; http://sco.lt/7pd4IS
  • “The 13.4 Mile Neshaminy Trail Feasibility Study Includes New Bridge Over Newtown Creek”; http://sco.lt/5hr5wO
  • “Guest Opinion: Newtown Rail Trail is a Win-Win for Newtown and Other Area Bike Riders”; http://sco.lt/7j5Y5Q
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The Volunteer Newtown Fire Association is at a Turning Point

The Volunteer Newtown Fire Association is at a Turning Point | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

[NFA Station 45 on Liberty Street in Newtown Borough]

 

The future of the all-volunteer Newtown Fire Association (NFA) may be determined in the next few months. This is based on plans to address continued staffing and leadership challenges. NFA president Warren Dallas read a letter outlining these challenges to members at the September 28, 2020, regular meeting of the Association.

“Due to a variety of reasons,” noted Dallas, “the Newtown Fire Association is at times unable to provide the proper minimum staffing” to respond to fire calls in Newtown Borough and Newtown Township. As is the case in PA and the rest of the country, the NFA is struggling to recruit, train and retain volunteer firefighters. These problems have worsened this year due to COVID-19.

 

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Moving Toward Progressive Community Policing

Moving Toward Progressive Community Policing | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

Bucks County Local Officials and NAACP Discuss the Options

 

On September 23, 2020, the Progressive Local Officials of Bucks County, which is supported by the Bucks County Democratic Committee, hosted a Zoom webinar entitled "Policing in Our Community." The moderator was Doylestown Township Supervisor Jen Herring. Panelists included:

 

Panelists:

  • Brian Munroe - Bucks County Clerk of Courts
  • Mayor Ron Strouse - Doylestown Borough - Member of Central Bucks Regional Police Commission and Chair of the Central Bucks Regional Police Foundation (CRPF).
  • Kayma Sherman-Knuckles - Bucks County NAACP Criminal Justice and Education Committee - Reimagine Public Safety Co-Chair

 

The panel addressed the following questions among other issues:

  • What policing policies and practices should we as elected officials review for proper oversight?
  • What data should we be looking at to evaluate our departments?
  • What are some best practices we can consider adopting to help our police be more sensitive to community needs?

 

Some very interesting statistics and ideas for how local officials can improve the accountability of local police forces. More...

johnmacknewtown's curator insight, October 2, 10:15 AM

Related Content:                            

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(UNOFFICIAL) 2020 Voting Record to Date of Newtown Supervisors

(UNOFFICIAL) 2020 Voting Record to Date of Newtown Supervisors | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

I've been keeping track of how Newtown Township supervisors voted on motions before the Board. The following is the voting record for 2020 as of September 14, 2020, based on the approved minutes of meetings. I will update this page when I have more data.

NOTE: This is NOT an official record of votes. Some very minor motions, such as to approve minutes, bills lists, etc., are not included. Please refer to the BOS meeting minutes for the official voting record of each meeting.

Access the record here.

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As the U.S. Grows More Diverse, Most Police Departments Haven’t Kept Up

As the U.S. Grows More Diverse, Most Police Departments Haven’t Kept Up | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

Of 467 local police departments with at least 100 officers that reported data for both 2007 and 2016, more than two-thirds became whiter relative to their communities between those years, according to a New York Times analysis of the data.

 

Nationwide, the share of white officers exceeds the share of the white population, and the gap has grown larger over time. Black and Hispanic groups remain underrepresented in the police force.

 

Researchers say it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about Black officers from the federal data. On the one hand, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that the proportion of Black officers at local police departments across the country fell by half a percentage point, to 11.4 percent, between 2013 and 2016. But given the limitations of the data — all large departments were included but agencies with fewer than 100 officers were only sampled — researchers can’t say for sure how the numbers of Black officers have changed.

johnmacknewtown's curator insight, September 23, 7:19 AM

Regarding hiring diversity, Newtown Township Police Chief John Hearn assured the audience  at a Town Hall meeting that the Newtown Police Department is an “equal opportunity” employer. Thirty-eight (38) Police Departments throughout Bucks County use the consortium test to find qualified candidates to fill vacancies. 

 

Newtown Supervisor David Oxley asked if there was a way to get a more diverse group of applicants. Understanding that the Chief worked with many black officers while he was a Philadelphia cop, Mr. Oxley suggested that perhaps there is an opportunity for those officers to work in Newtown.

 

“Philadelphia is a whole different animal,” said the Chief. He was referring to the fact that they have a recruiting agency, which seems to be the norm for big city police forces. Unfortunately, Newtown does not have the staff and money to do the kind of recruiting that big cities do. The Chief mentioned that Newtown police jobs are listed on various social media sites and if there is no interest, he does not see a need to go out and try to pull in people who are not interested.

 

Census bureau data show Newtown is 87% white, whereas the Newtown police force is 100% white. 

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A Zoning Change Would Allow for Drive-thru Wawa on Lincoln Highway in Falls

A Zoning Change Would Allow for Drive-thru Wawa on Lincoln Highway in Falls | Newtown Area News | Scoop.it

Falls is considering a zoning change to help revive a stagnant shopping center with a new addition — a Wawa with gas pumps.

 

Supervisors voted Monday to advertise rezoning a portion of the Fairless Hills Shopping Center at 500 Lincoln Highway from shopping center to highway commercial.

 

The move could allow for the construction of a 5,500-square-foot Wawa with gas pumps on a 2-acre site currently occupied by an existing restaurant — Arosso, A Touch of Sicily. If approved, the restaurant that sits in the shopping center's parking lot would be demolished and move into a storefront in the center.

 

Falls attorney Lauren Gallagher said during a meeting Monday that gas pumps could be permitted under a conditional use. 

 

Even if the zoning is changed, supervisors would not be obligated to approve the Wawa, Gallagher said.

johnmacknewtowns insight:

On Sept 23, 2020, the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted in favor of a "curative" zoning amendment that would allow a Wawa to be built on the Newtown Bypass. The vote was 3-2 in favor. Kyle Davis and I voted no.

 

The amendment passed by Newtown, however, specifically does not allow a drive-thru Wawa. However, the amendment specifies approval of any application to build by "special exception," which means approval is up the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) - NOT the Supervisors as in the case of Falls. The ZHB is notorious for granting "variances," which Wawa may ask for to (1) add additional fuel pumps than the 12 allowed, (2) add a Drive-thru window, (3) sell alcoholic beverages (e.g.,beer) on site, etc. - all of which are not allowed in the special amendment passed by the NT BOS.

 

A little history - "A Wawa in the Park": Silver Lake Park at the intersection of the Bypass and Lindenhurst Rd achieved fame in May 2017 when a certain Supervisor suggested it as a potential site for Wawa (read "Idea To Bring Wawa To Newtown" https://patch.com/pennsylvania/newtown-pa/idea-bring-wawa-newtown-be-discussed-wednesday). Two supervisors attempted to pursue this at the time after talking to an owner of an athletic club who was also approached by Wawa to build on property he had a stake in another property on the Bypass. All this happened before I was elected a supervisor in November 2017.

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I am a retired small businessman who has lived in Newtown Township PA since 1995. The opinions expressed here are solely mine and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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This board is dedicated to promoting the value of diversity and addressing discrimination based on age, race, color, gender, religion, creed, culture, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, ancestry, national origin and disability. These Scoops are excerpts from articles published in local newspapers and other sources. Any opinions and "insights" appended to these article summaries are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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