After the savings and loan debacle of the 1980s, Congress required states to regulate real estate appraisers. Pennsylvania installed a process that has worked successfully since the certification of appraisers began in 1992. Under the current unambiguous rules, real estate salespeople are allowed to perform “competitive market analysis” when developed in conjunction with securing a listing. All other instances of valuing real estate require a certified appraiser.
Now, pending state Senate legislation would allow real estate salespeople to perform valuations for additional purposes. With no standards, and inadequate educational and experience requirements, this quickly could create a Wild West situation that’s bad for property owners and consumers alike.
Say you’re involved in a divorce or a partnership dissolution: Under this bill, you may be faced with a legal nightmare of having a biased and nonobjective valuation that costs you dearly. If you inherit property, the Internal Revenue Service might have a valuation that requires you to pay substantially more than you should. Inaccurate price opinions done early in the lending process could preclude obtaining a loan, and so on.
As fascinating as was Eileen McCafferty DiFranco's description of Northeast High School circa 1939, it does not require time travel to witness well-equipped high schools offering a rich array of extracurricular programs ("Playing 'chicken' against city's students," May 8).
Early this month, I traveled with Philadelphia public school students to compete in National History Day Pennsylvania at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg - a state-of-the-art facility complete with pool, planetarium, carpeted hallways, SmartBoard technology, two football fields, large library, and more.
Until schools no longer rely primarily on property taxes, city students will struggle to learn in rundown dungeons while suburban counterparts study in palaces.
Our country is collapsing under the weight of health costs, but hospitals and doctors issue hilariously inflated charges that almost no one actually pays ("What hospitals bill, what Medicare pays," May 9).
Charges are legally required to be reasonable. Hospitals and other providers fail this test constantly.
The courts and legislatures need to step up and step in - because, clearly, the hospitals left to their own devices will keep doing things like charging $1.29 per Tylenol tablet.
In the guise of a solution, Gov. Corbett’s pension reform plan would make the problem worse.
It would weaken employee retirement funds, eventually cost taxpayers $179 million more a year, and add $5 billion to unfunded pension liabilities by 2019, and even more afterward.
Even though Gov. Corbett recently received criticism for linking Pennsylvania's lagging job growth to the failure of potential employees to pass drug tests, it is true that, according to a 2011 Department of Justice's National Drug Intelligence Center report, lost productivity costs the nation over $120 billion annually.
A primary challenge in getting individuals with addictions on to the road to recovery and productivity is adequate funding. But a Corbett administration official recently noted that only one in eight state residents with addiction issues can access proper treatment due to the lack of money for treatment programs. These programs and our community have been negatively impacted by resource shortfalls for quite some time.
The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs is updating many of the outdated regulatory constraints that restrict innovation and is working to reduce the administrative costs, making it possible to devote more to direct treatment. Even with this, however, there is only so far a dollar can be stretched.
Pennsylvania Turnpike users who have long since switched to E-ZPass may be surprised to learn that the toll road still prefers paper for some transactions. Rather than toll tickets, the Turnpike Commission is seeking federal approval to hand out green cards to foreign investors willing to lend it millions of dollars. Permission to live in the United States would be offered as part of a complex deal to finance a long-delayed interchange between the turnpike and I-95 in Bucks County.
In addition to securing low-cost capital funds for the project, the arrangement could spin off as much as $20 million in commissions for officers of a well-known and well-connected Philadelphia investment management firm.
With cable installations in a suburban home, a city condo, beach house, and now, my daughter's apartment, I am quite familiar with Comcast service. At every opportunity, they fail miserably.
For instance, a recent order required a follow-up call for scheduling. It never came. When I called, there was no record of the order and I was told no service could be initiated until the previous tenant terminated service. Contacting the old tenant, I was informed service ended one month earlier, prior to their own request. Then I discovered that the previous cable package was no longer available and, naturally, I was sold a more expensive plan that a sales rep failed to explain accurately.
Given Comcast's monopoly, it seems nobody cares because nobody has to care.
The city schools’ financial troubles are not new, yet reactions to the School District’s latest request for aid — $60 million more from the city, $120 million more from the state — were met with surprise.
Frankly, after two consecutive years of raising taxes on Philadelphians at the last minute to address the school system’s structural deficit, I fully expected a third emergency funding request this year. What I did not anticipate, and will not accept, is the continued absence of a commitment from state officials to address the plight of Philadelphia’s schools.
In Fiscal Year 2010, the state showed commitment by helping schools keep pace with rising costs. The state-city funding ratio that year was 62.7 percent to 37.3 percent. But this school year, the estimated state-city funding ratio is 57.5 percent to 41.9 percent. So it’s time for Harrisburg to step up.
Three full years after the Affordable Care Act was passed over Republican obstructionist actions, their Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Jr. (R., Ky.) recently found it necessary to remind us that Democrats will be to blame for its certain failure.
He chides President Obama for failing to take GOP concerns public. But isn't that all McConnell has ever done - express concerns without any real interest in moving forward?
The Upper Chichester Library has a referendum on the May 21 ballot that will allow the library to be self-sustaining with funding through the property tax, rather than the township's general fund. The modest tax increase would be the equivalent cost of a cup of coffee and doughnut, or one magazine per month. But the money raised through this tax will be used to expand and improve the library into a state of the art technology library/computer and service center.
Libraries are no longer just a collection of books, but an important link to both education and a better life. Libraries also are democratic institutions meant to be used by all people regardless of race, religion, age, or income.
In addition, a modern library increases real-estate values, enhances a town image, attracts business, and improves leadership at all levels. Unfortunately, there is no free lunch and a well-maintained and up-to-date library, and its dedicated employees, costs money.