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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Township, Borough Officials Angry at Allentown's Tax Grab

Hanover's Jay Finnigan
Under a law passed in 2009 and amended in 2011, a 130-acre downtown Neighborhood Improvement Zone was established in Allentown, to defray construction costs for a hockey arena and other improvements. But what was largely unknown, until a recent Morning Call report, was that even earned income taxes owed to other municipalities like Bethlehem and Hanover Township, can now be diverted to help support projects in the Queen City. Many local township and borough officials had no idea this would happen, and are disturbed that this could lead to revenue shortfalls in heir own budgets.

At a Hanover Township Supervisors' meeting on January 23, Manager Jay Finnigan told the Board this tax grab "could have a serious effect on the surrounding municipalities. It looks like some of our current tax dollars are going to fund financing and maybe building of the arena in center city Allentown."

Finnigan stated that in 2009, when this legislation was first proposed, "We expressed our opposition." He adds Township officials did so again last year, when the law was amended. "What right do any of these intermediaries have to take our money and divert it to some other purpose?" asks Chairman John N. Diacogiannis. Finnigan also questions why no financial analysis was done before this legislation was enacted to see how it would impact surrounding communities.

Joined by Lower Macungie Manager Bruce Fosselman and South Whitehall Manager Jon Hammer, Finnigan has notified municipal managers throughout the Lehigh Valley that they have scheduled a meeting with State Senator Pat Browne, the author of this legislation, so they can register their concerns. Finnigan adds, "It is imperative that all Political Subdivisions have their elected and appointed officials contact the members of the Lehigh Valley Legislative delegation and demand that the legislature modify this portion of the enacting legislation."

This tax diversion would include employees who work at PPL Plaza, the new Butz Building, Holiday Inn, Sacred Heart Hospital, the new Arena and the new J.B. Reilly City One Building.

Whitehall Mayor Ed Hozza reports that 90 Whitehall residents are employed at Sacred Heart, but township and borough officials have no idea of the exact numbers affected. Hozza has laid out some options suggested by other Township managers: (1) withhold EIT due to Allentown; (2) demand that every municipality have membership on the arena board; (3) take coffee and dump it in the Lehigh, not tea; (4) boycott the arena; and (5) demand a luxury box at the arena for every resident whose tax dollars have been diverted.

Bangor Borough Council member David Houser has branded the tax grab nothing short of "taxation without representation."

Updated 10:20 AM: East Penn School Board Prez Chuck Ballard, in response to learning of the EIT theft, has suggested a new name for the Phantoms - the "Allentown Pirates."

93 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bernie, Will you be attending the meeting with Sen. Browne and township,borough officials. Looking forward to your reporting on this issue. Maybe can also invite Mayor Pawlowsi to this event.

Anonymous said...

That's why Allentown adopted its new motto the City without limits

Anonymous said...

Boycotting is difficult and this situation is unfortunate. I'll not go anywhere near that arena for any reason. If they'd asked for my money honestly, I might have.

Anonymous said...

This is the beginning of "tax sharing" on a so called regional level. This is supported by the Cities and Counties as well as regional Planning Commissions. Get ready for more of this. It won't stop with the NIZ. People like Alan Jennings and CACLV have trumpeted this redistribution of wealth for years and now they have it. See what happens when locals are a sleep at the wheel and worry about their petty issues when they are being robbed blind by their State legislators!!!

Anonymous said...

Bernie
Can Browne be impeached.

Anonymous said...

How much money is this? If Allentown has say 5,000 out of city employees, this EIT tax would bring the city how much? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't we hear about this sooner? Why didn't the Call's Harrisburg reporter cover this in 2009?

Anonymous said...

It's been discussed for a long time that suburbs should support center city cores.

Dave said...

It is now becoming clearer who voted for this but not why they did not tell the municipals about it. Either they passed it and knew what was in it and sat on it or they voted for it w/o reading it and are truly clueless and blameless? Either way our state rep's blew it and deserve the fall out for their actions or non-action on behalf of the taxpaying people in their districts. Truly sad either way. I refuse to be the scapegoat for them on this and they can't claim we as an entity were responsible for knowing what was coming down the pike!

Anonymous said...

This is sad because a number of really good new state legislators are making positive strides.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Bernie, Will you be attending the meeting with Sen. Browne and township,borough officials"

I doubt I'd be invited. If they want a frank exchange with the Senator, I doubt they'd bring a reporter, to say nothing of a bottom-feeding blogger. That alone would give Browne a reason to cancel.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"That's why Allentown adopted its new motto the City without limits"

Good one. Wish I had used it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Boycotting is difficult and this situation is unfortunate."

Agreed. But I will say this. I have yet to step foot inside A-town's Brew Pub, and i will never go to that arena.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"It won't stop with the NIZ. People like Alan Jennings and CACLV have trumpeted this redistribution of wealth for years and now they have it."

Really? It appears to be the Rs who voted for it while the Ds were opposed. I suspect there was lots going on in that legislation.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Can Browne be impeached."

Yes, but it is a rare remedy and should not be exercised simply bc you disagree with how he handled something. Here's a lik that provides some of the ins and outs of state government.

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/wu01/vc/visitor_info/creating/legislative.htm

Bernie O'Hare said...

"How much money is this? If Allentown has say 5,000 out of city employees, this EIT tax would bring the city how much? Thanks."

That question is answered by Macunge's EIT Collector, 2 posts below. It's $4.5 million annually, at least.

http://lehighvalleyramblings.blogspot.com/2012/01/allentowns-tax-grab-will-yield-at-least.html

Bernie O'Hare said...

"It's been discussed for a long time that suburbs should support center city cores."

That's true. I hear the argument as recently as last Thursday night, when Jeff Parks made it with respect to ArtsQuest. It has long been a mantra of the Lehigh Valley Partnership, our local aristocracy.

But I suspect many state legislators may have had no idea that this EIT provision was buried in the NIZ, regardless how obvious it seems to have been to Pat Browne.

Anonymous said...

Angry, smangry.

Can't wait to hit the ice at Chairman Pawlowski's $ 160 million dollar Palace of Sport.

Shaibu!

VLADIMIR PUTIN

Dave said...

Bernie..only Finnigan and possibly Woglom and/or Gaul will meet with Browne privately is what my source tells me. No public session yet and I doubt he would come out and face the wrath of the people he's jobbing. No call back from Emrick yet and nothing from Boscola at all.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Lisa the swaption voter....

Anonymous said...

Exactly how much of THEIR OWN MONEY do the Brooks Group, owners of the Phantoms, have invested in this $ 160 million dollar Palace of Sport?

What happens when all the money is spent but no "Transformation" has taken place?

Anonymous said...

I want a free luxury box at Pawlowski's Palace of Sport

OCCUPY ALLENTOWN PROTEST

Anonymous said...

As I understand, Allentown will still keep their EIT money. None of it will go to the NIZ. Or at least none of the .35 dedicated to pensions. I have heard both not sure if it Allentown keeps its 1.35, or just the .35 from the NIZ.

PippySqueek said...

Now comes my worry- will the loss of EIT result in the rest of us seeing a possible increase in our township property taxes to make up for that loss? For those of us in Salisbury Township, we are already seeing an increase in school and township taxes.

Dave said...

Who..in their right mind..would go to Atown unless they had to? What is there? The museum maybe but what else..symphony hall..but anything else? If I want a good meal I go to the Nazareth Diner. Sheesh! The Atown Fair is ok but that's only a week out of the year and the market is a nice venue. Reading tried this arena thing and it has failed miserably. Read some history for cripes sake! Power to the people..let them decide instead of fat cat pol's and the filthy rich and the wannabe filthy rich.

c said...

This came up after a meeting last night in the township where I reside. How can I share a link to this article via e-mail?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Pippy, That is certainly a possibility, especially in Salisbury or Whitehall.

Dave said...

Most tax revenue ordinances have been set and passed. Services could be cut..manpower cuts..but expect a tax hike next year to offset the EIT lost revenue.

Bernie O'Hare said...

C, When I changed the template for this blog, one of them includes a "M" at the bottom of each post. if you click on that, you will be able to email a link to this post.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Allentown will still keep their EIT money. None of it will go to the NIZ"

Incredible!

Dave said...

And the hits just keep on coming! It gets better and better as we dig deeper and deeper. It's good to be the King..yes?

Anonymous said...

The townships affected should be sharing their wealth with the urban core. The city hosts most of the churches, schools, county seat, etc., as well as a large percentage of the low income. I haven't seen any low income housing in the townships, have you?

What's good for the city is good for the region. It is a fact!

c said...

Thank you sir!

Bernie O'Hare said...

11"02, I guess all those churches I see in Bethlehem and Hanover Townships are products of my imagination. Your argument fails bc it is (1) factually inaccurate; (2) is an unlawful taking from other municipalities; and (3) steals from other urban cores like Bethlehem and Easton. So give it a rest.

Anonymous said...

Bernie O'Hare said...
"Allentown will still keep their EIT money. None of it will go to the NIZ"

Incredible!



Bernie-

As I undertand it, the Allentown EIT tax is dedicated for pension funding, so it can't go to the NIZ. I find this to be incredible, too.
Please look into to this further.

Anonymous said...

I am with you, Comrade 11:02.

We are ALL in this TOGETHER.

Let the Wealth Redistribution (and ice hockey at the Palace of Sport) commence in earnest!

"Fairness and Justice for Urban Communities --- FREE ice hockey tickets for EVERYBODY" ... this is my official policy.

Shaibu!

VIKTOR TIKHONOV

Anonymous said...

The suburbs should not be held hostage by the cities. Residents moved to the suburbs to increase their quality of life. Who is attacking them, bottom suckers like the mayors of Allentown and Bethlehem who are proponents of "tax sharing."


Businesses who want to succeed try to copy successful businesses. So can someone explain why the arena is not being built next to Coca Cola Park? Mayor Pawlowski tells you it is to bring the City back. He is nuts if he believes what he is saying.

Anonymous said...

I like Ed Hozza's idea. "No taxation without Representation"

Maybe if the Brooks Brothers knew what kind of waves this was making they would encourage the City to do the right thing an relinquish the EIT.

Anonymous said...

1225 again. Thumbs up to Howser too.

Anonymous said...

While there, they should discuss how gaming legislation that only benefits 3rd class Cities or only municipalities that are contiguous to Bethlehem

I would really like to know if Allentown or Bethlehem (LC) double dips into Lehigh County's share of the Gaming revenue.

Before leaving, they should discuss the redlight traffic camera legislation that is suppose to be about safety but is only dedicated to generating revenue for 3rd class cities.

Bernie O'Hare said...

One thing at a time, 12:38. Best not to dilute the message.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have learned that Allentown will be keeping only the .35 percent portion of the EIT dedicated to pensions. The remaining 1 percent will be directed to the NIZ for individuals who work and live in the NIZ. So Allentown will not be keeping "all" of its EIT, only the portion specifically dedicated to pension debt.

Anonymous said...

Lehigh County should have 0 repeat zero $$ from a casino that is not in Lehigh County. Talk about a money grab F-Lehigh County

Dave said...

I now have paper copies of Act 50 and 26 courtesy of the Bangor boro business office staff. My discussion with Emrick went nowhere. Told me to call Browne and bitch to him about it. I expected as much from my State rep. Not giving up and this thing may be unconstitutional and be repealed. How many signatures will we need Bernie?

Anonymous said...

I understand that the Hanover Township Manager is hot on this issue. He can really rally the troops. We need to keep the pressure on Browne: (610) 821-8468.

Also call every member of the PA House and Senate whose district touches the Lehigh Valley.

Pressure, Pressure, Pressure.

ironpigpen said...

Not to intentionally change the subject, Herr O'Hare, but I think you should have a look at this :

COCA-COLA PARK and the PALACE of SPORT to be converted into HOMELESS SHELTERS during the respective off-seasons?

Maybe, if the people in Dan Kehl's report (Horn and Bell Blog) have their way.

Unbelievable.

We ARE on the road to Communism!

Anonymous said...

"Lehigh County should have 0 repeat zero $$ from a casino that is not in Lehigh County. Talk about a money grab F-Lehigh County"


Can Lehigh County get its funding for two community police officers back. I suspect they been parked on Main Street in Bethlehem anyway.

While you are at it, Sheldon can give that brownfields redevelopment money back.....with interest of course.

It is an impact feet. Proximty should have more of a play that a freakin a boundary on a paper map.

Northampton County municapliites should give up any rights to gaming money from the high rollers up north

Anonymous said...

Why not a NIZ impact fee for communities adjacent to Allentown.

Anonymous said...

This is all Pat Browne's doing. Call him and let him know what you think

610-821-8468 main office

or

Harrisburg office 717-787-1349

Anonymous said...

i wish the damn morning call had reported about this in the first place, or done ANY real reporting back when the niz was actually approved. the only reason they had this story when they did is because all the businesses in the niz zone were called by the city for a meeting and told about this eit issue, and one of those businesses included the morning call. if this had come out back before the niz was voted on these municipalities might not be in this predicament now!

Anonymous said...

I love the arena/homeless shelter idea. The arena will be in use relatively few days each year. Homeless souls could find warmth, and maybe work during events. Pawlowski can't possibly oppose this mixed use for Allentown's neediest. The bums will look great hanging around the Mayor Madison Square Blockhead's boondoggle.

Rene Rodriguez said...

Why did these municipalities wait until after the law was enacted to learn the affects to their communities, seems short sighted and all the "managers" should be fired. Kind of sad the morning call story had to inform these idiots what is going on...

Anonymous said...

Home of the Allentown Leeches.

Anonymous said...

Pat Browne may result in the destruction of the local state Republican Party. Who will support a Republican candidate whether rep or senator after this. Upsetting to hear Emerich react badly. He's only been in office a year. Does he think his constituents won't remember how he's treating them?

Anonymous said...

Better to have ALL Democrats anyway ... like Chairman Pawlowski and his Rubber Stamp Council of Apparatchiks.

CITIZEN,
PEOPLE's DEMOCRATIC CITY OF ALLENTOWN

Anonymous said...

Doesn't Emerich face re-election this fall? Challenge him in the primary.

Anonymous said...

The big story here are the school districts. Are they going to weigh in, or are they going to allow their tax money, used to educate our children, to go to the arena.

Anonymous said...

8:41 School tax is primarily through real estate tax which is not affected

Anonymous said...

10:20-Generally, 1/2 the EIT a municipality collects goes to the school district. It is a significant sources of revenue for school district, as are other Act 511 taxes.

Dave said...

Emrick is up for office this year. He just kicked off his reelection run. He will be challenged in the primary and in the gen. election. His record is less than stellar. His support of Act 26 and his no show on redistricting are not good places to make a stand. As Bernie says..you get what you vote for.

Anonymous said...

Seems some municipal attorneys didnt do their job if they were caught off guard by this.

Anonymous said...

I live in the suburbs and happlily try to do my part supporting local businesses in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton. I support the IronPigs, Artsquest, and cannot wait to see the Phantoms drop the gloves. The Lehigh Valley is so cynical and these yokel municipalities all cry about regionalism and then stomp their feet like children when it actually comes about as actual action.

I am so tired of the backwards thinking of the LV who wish to just stay at the status quo and not evolve in any way as a region. No wonder all of our children move away.

Anonymous said...

I just called Pat Browne's office and voiced by support for this program.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:04,

Exactly HOW MUCH OF THEIR OWN MONEY are the Phantoms owners, the Brooks Group, contributing to Chairman Pawlowski's magnificent $ 160.0 million dollar PALACE OF SPORT?

How much of YOUR MONEY is at stake here?

That's what I thought. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:06,

I just read an interesting blog piece :

"PAY TO PLAY AT PAWLOWSKI PALACE OF SPORT?"

Google it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Seems some municipal attorneys didnt do their job if they were caught off guard by this."

Bullshit. This is complicated legislation slipped into another piece of complicated legislation, at the last minute, for the express purpose of keeping everyone - including the legislators who voted for it - in the dark.

And you should make the public aware that you are really being paid to write these pro-NIZ comments. I know damn well that Reilly's relative, Vaughn m, has been hired to conduct publicity for the new arena, and am well aware of the practice of using astroturf bloggers to create false impressions.

Dave said...

I read both Acts last night..took me 2 hours to find the NIZ related material..and it is buried deep inside both documents. I say it is unconstitutional in nature and a regressive tax aimed at the suburbs of Atown. You want to risk your own citizens money King Ed..be my guest but keep your cotton pickin' hands out of my wallet and the people I represent.

Dave said...

If redistricting can be overturned..so can this piece of self serving legislation. Bernie..do you have the Otter's phone number?

Anonymous said...

Thats me. An astro turf blogger shilling for the arena. Your paranoid attacks are laughable.

Dave said...

Thank goodness the MC reporters dug this out of the shredder. They had no intention of telling anybody about this tax grab unless a gun was held to their pointy little heads. Put the blame where it squarely belongs..Atown city Hall and Sen. Browne.

Anonymous said...

I read both Acts last night..took me 2 hours to find the NIZ related material..and it is buried deep inside both documents. I say it is unconstitutional in nature and a regressive tax aimed at the suburbs of Atown. You want to risk your own citizens money King Ed..be my guest but keep your cotton pickin' hands out of my wallet and the people I represent.

So you finally did what you were elected to do and evidently what your legal counsel failed to do.

Dave said...

Ouch..that REALLY hurt. Coward!

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is where you are full of shit. I have been blogging for 6 years. I know damn well that there is very little comment on a blog post, even a popular blog post, the day AFTER it publishes. The comments that appear then are almost always from someone who has an agenda You are no normal person with a normal job.

Also, I have a statcounter, and it tells me that the Senate of Pennsylvania is on my blog right now, and reading this particular blog entry. So is someone from Air Products.

Finally I am well aware of the practice of disguising oneself as a normal person to promote the agendas pf rich people, whether it is JB Reilly or even AT&T.

you are an astroturf blogger, being paid to shill for JB Reilly.

Go play your spin games somewhere else.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dave, Call the Otter only if you want to make a horse's ass out of yourself.

Dave said...

Just making with the levity Bernie. I'm trying to keep my sense of humor despite the oppressive political climate we find ourselves in.

Dave said...

Big Brother is watching..I am not in the least concerned with the snoops. Must be getting hot in the kitchen..eh?

John.Jay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John.Jay said...

When the total EIT tax being withheld for the NIZ ( about $ 1 , 080 , 000 ( by Bernie ' s own calculation )) is divided among all Lehigh Valley residents not including Allentownians ( about 720 , 000 ), the individual tax burden comes to about $ 1 . 50 . What ' s the big deal? We all need to gain a little perspective on this thing.

Bernie O'Hare said...

John, the big deal is that this is NOT Allentown's money, and the surrounding municipalities were screwed for a project in which they have no input.

John.Jay said...

Bernie, I can't be so cynical. This might do some good. It might not. I'm willing to pay a dollar fifty to find out.

Bernie O'Hare said...

But you're paying $1.50 of someone else's money. Hanover Tp, Bethlehem, Easton, Whitehall Tp and other municipalities depend on that money as a revenue source.

John.Jay said...

I live in Upper Macungie so I figure my property tax will go up by an amount proportionate to the loss caused by the retained EIT. Its just not enough money to get bent out of shape about.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Not enough for you, but we're not talking about you. You do not provide muncipal services.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Not enough for you, but we're not talking about you. You do not provide muncipal services.

John.Jay said...

Yes, but, I pay the taxes that pay for the municipal services and I am saying I am willing to have my taxes go up by $1.50 so that Upper Macungie remains revenue neutral after the EIT is retained by Allentown.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I understand that, to you, this is no big deal. But municipal managers should have been given some input into this decision Even more importantly, a financial analysis shold have been done to see its direct impact on them. That's one thing that really bothers Hanover Tp Manager Jay Finnigan. Does it mean a $500 loss? Or a $50,000 loss? He does not know bc no analysis was performed.

John.Jay said...

o.k., that's a fair point. Though they will get it figured out soon enough. In the scheme of things this is probably smaller then the rounding error in most township budgets. I don't consider that a good reason to hold up the works. Anyway, good exchange, but I have to go to sleep! Take care and good work on your blog.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thanks, John. I'll be checking your blogs later tonight. Looks like you have three!

Anonymous said...

all this outrage will lead to NOTHING, cant fight city all when the mayor has his cronies writing the legislation

Anonymous said...

I thought this country got its great Revolution going and broke with mighty England over things such as taxation without representation?

Now, the citizenry in Lower Mac says taxation without representation is cool.

I'm so confused ... What happened?

VIKTOR TIKHONOV

Anonymous said...

you are an astroturf blogger, being paid to shill for JB Reilly.

You might want to check that stat counter or get someone that actually understands it. I'd tell you where I'm posting from but then I wouldn't be anonymous.

You have an inflated sense of this blog and it really feeds your paranoia. I assure you I am a regular dude commenting on this blog - it simply is because I'm not a hair on fire reactionary like most of your readers that you think I stick out.

Anonymous said...

John, the big deal is that this is NOT Allentown's money, and the surrounding municipalities were screwed for a project in which they have no input.


The municipalities are being far from screwed - they will have a place for their residents to escape their suburban malaise.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"You have an inflated sense of this blog and it really feeds your paranoia. I assure you I am a regular dude commenting on this blog - it simply is because I'm not a hair on fire reactionary like most of your readers that you think I stick out."

You do stick out, and that's bc you continue to post on a blog several days after it published. It is very clear that you have an agenda, and unless you are insane, you are being paid to pursue that agenda. Have a nice day.