Legislation to Pay Down Pension Debt Earns Support from IFO

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

It’s been relatively quiet over the last several weeks on lawmakers’ plans to address Pennsylvania’s bloated and unsustainable public pension systems. However, earlier this month the state’s Independent Fiscal Office filed an actuarial note to a bill (H.B. 778) that would tackle the pension crisis in part by paying off the current unfunded liabilities of the State Employees Retirement System ($19.5 billion) and the Public School Employees’ Retirement System ($42.7 billion) within about 20 years.

The actuarial report projects increased costs in the short-term with the potential for “significant” long-term savings. It indicates that under H.B. 778, PSERS contributions would initially increase by 17 percent, and then by approximately 35 percent until the unfunded liability is satisfied. SERS initial contribution would be about $90 million lower for the first five years, after which they would be higher than the estimated contribution rates under current law until the SERS unfunded liability is satisfied. All told, these provisions could save as much as $18 billion.

The IFO notes in its report: “The projections show that the savings over the entire projection period are much more significant on a cash flow basis than when they are measured on a present value basis. This occurs because the bill shifts the timing of employer contributions to pay down the unfunded accrued liabilities, and the savings that occur at the back of the projection period are valued much lower when measured by current dollars.”

In its review of H.B. 778, Milliman – the actuarial firm used by the IFO – voiced support for the bill’s reduction of the amortization period (the length of time it will take to pay down the unfunded liability) because it would help to improve security, protection from adverse experience and intergenerational equity.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle offered some level of praise for the bill, with House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, saying, “I think John [Rep. John McGinnis, R-Blair, who sponsored the legislation] has done an excellent job of putting together half a proposal, on the accelerated payments, but, obviously, we’ve got to see the other half of his proposal of how we would make those additional payments up front.” In a Capitolwire story, House Democratic spokesman Bill Patton praised McGinnis for his focus in paying down the pension debt. “The 2010 law that it’s in place now [Act 120] has a schedule for paying the pension debt, but it could be done faster if larger chunks of taxpayer funds are redirected …. House Democrats are open to workable ideas that use sustainable revenue sources to pay off the pension debt.”

Danville Business Alliance Plans to Request New Round of Facade Grant Funding

In a seven-year period beginning in 2009, the Danville Business Alliance awarded $111,000 in facade grants through its Main Street Program to assist 30 commercial building restoration project in the downtown Main Street District. Overwhelming demand had consumed almost all of the funding when the program expired on June 30, 2016. 

The program’s success was due to its comprehensive yet flexible features, including:

– Liberal eligibility: It was open to all commercial property and business owners in the Main Street District. Commercial tenants were eligible if they obtained the written consent of the building owner.

– Multi-facade application: Improvements to both side and ear business facades were also eligible, if the building had a side or rear business entrance open to the public.

– Significant funding assistance: The grants matched the renovation costs dollar for dollar up to 50 percent of the total project, not to exceed a total reimbursement of $5,000 per business facade.

– Broad range of eligible improvements: Examples which were eligible were signs, awnings, repair and/or restoration of storefront exteriors including facade painting and the cost of professional design services.

– Fee exemption: While an administrative fee was usually charged at the time of application, DBA members were exempt. 

– Local control: A comprehensive set of Facade Design Guidelines was developed and implemented by the DBA Design Committee, comprised of local business owners. The Committee reviewed the applications, determined eligibility, provided design guidance and approved the buildings to receive assistance. Projects were evaluated on the basis of quality, design compatibility and the level of visual and economic impact.

Such improvement made the business district more inviting for current and new shoppers, businesses and residents; stimulated further improvements in the surrounding, largely residential areas; and preserved the historic character and architecture of downtown Danville.

The DBA plans to apply again this summer to the Department of Community and Economic Development for up to $50,000 in additional facade grant funding to address the unmet renovation needs in the Main Street District. If approved, it is expected that the design guidelines and application process will be similar to those used through 2016. 

In order for the application to be as competitive as possible, DBA will need to document the demand for facade funding in the Main Street District. This will mean providing names of the interested parties, their addresses, the types of proposed improvements and the estimated project costs. To assist in this process, DBA is asking all interested building/business owners and commercial tenants in the Main Street District to contact the DBA office and provide that information by June 16. 

For questions or additional information about the facade grant program, please contact Jim Wilson, DBA Executive Director, at the DBA office at 570-284-4503 or stop in at 346 Mill St., Danville. Normal business hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

PA Department of Labor & Industry to Conduct Series of Free Safety Webinars

The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Health & Safety Division of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry will conduct a series of free safety webinars during the month of June. Titled PATHS (PA Training for Health and Safety), the series will cover a wide range of topics including emergency action plans, social media safety, workplace violence, industry-specific safety and much more. 

For a complete list or to register, visit the PATHS Training Calendar

An Update on the Recent Global Malware Attack

From MePush

What’s going on with this recent global malware attack? Are you safe?

What they’ve been talking about on the news is a variant of the cryptovirus; a program that encrypts your files and then asks you to pay a ransom to get your files back. This type of malware has been around for a while now, but what’s recently been making headlines is a version of that virus that exploits a new vulnerability in Microsoft Windows.

This new variation will crawl your network and infect every other computer that might be attached to it. The good news is Microsoft has patched this vulnerability for Windows Vista, 7, and 8. If you’re a Windows 10 user, you were safe from the start. Even users of Windows XP received this patch!

For more information on this important topic, or for more customized assistance with your computer system, contact one of the Chamber members in the computer, IT and internet services category. 

Member News – May 17, 2017

Member News

 

First Columbia Hosts Chris Herren

First Columbia Bank will host speaker Chris Herren at Bloomsburg University tonight at 7 p.m. at Gross Auditorium in Carver Hall. Doors open at 6 p.m. and this event is open to the public. The founder of the Herren Project, Herren is a former college basketball and NBA player who struggled with substance abuse for much of his basketball career and overdosed on heroin in June of 2008. With the help of friends and family, he has been clean since August 1, 2008 and has traveled the country telling his story to increase education and public awareness on the dangers of substance abuse and to ultimately help others one person at a time. He was also the subject of a 2011 ESPN 30 for 30 documentary titled Unguarded. 

This event is open to the public. However, seating is limited and will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information on this event, visit First Columbia’s website or Facebook page.


Public Meeting to Address Flood Impacts in Danville

Floods and flood insurance have impacted Danville Borough, and the public is invited to a meeting to learn about a flood resiliency initiative that aims to resolve many of these issues. The meeting will be held tomorrow, May 18, at 6 p.m. in the Borough Hall, 239 Mill St., Danville. The purpose of the meeting is to review flood mitigation ideas, gain a better understanding of residents’ needs and discuss preliminary survey results. It is part of a larger flood resiliency initiative being undertaken by SEDA-COG in several communities within Pennsylvania’s central region, and is funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission. For more information, contact Jamie Shrawder at 570-275-3091.

 

Montour Fossil Pit Garners Recognition on Travel Website

The fossil pit at the Montour Preserve, which is managed by the Montour Area Recreation Commission, was recently recognized on the travel website, topvaluereviews.net in a piece that lists the “30 most impressive fossil sites in North America. The site is one of just seven in the list of 30 located east of the Mississippi River. Noted for its status as both a preserve an an active excavation site, the website also recognizes the fossil pit as a popular destination for local school field trips. 


Teen Star Musical Competition Finals Set

The finals of the seventh annual Teen Star musical competition will be held on Sunday, May 21, at 2 p.m. in Haas Auditorium at Bloomsburg University. Inspired by the hit TV show American Idol, this annual event for local high school students is sponsored by First Columbia Bank as a way to show support for local youth, schools and the performing arts. At the final event, friends, family and a supportive community will gather to cheer on 12 finalists as they perform songs ranging from contemporary pop music to show tunes and even a few original pieces. Over the past six years, First Columbia has awarded more than $30K in prize money and given more than $30K in ticket proceeds and donations from this event back to area high school music departments. For more information, visit First Columbia’s website.


Attend a Yoga Mala Event to Help Beautify Downtown Danville

Join your community in raising awareness and funds to help beautify downtown Danville as you help Mill Street become a thriving and vibrant downtown destination for everyone to enjoy. A yoga mala event will bring together community members to support this common cause on Sunday, June 4, at 2 p.m at Goose Cove Field at the Montour Preserve. Those that attend will be guided through 108 sun-salutations to honor growth, transformation, and new beginnings. This is a donation-based event, and the public is welcome. All donations raised will help provide for new public amenities such as bicycle racks, flowers and decorative plant potters, benches, and much more in downtown Danville.


Free Cancer Screenings in Bloomsburg

Geisinger Health System will provide free skin cancer screenings on Tuesday, June 6 from 1–4 p.m. at Geisinger Bloomsburg, 2407 Reichart Road, Bloomsburg. Appointments are required. To register, visit geisinger.org/events or call 800-275-6401.


Geisinger Seeks Community Members for Hot Air Balloon Festival Planning Committee

Geisinger Health System will host the inaugural Dream Big Hot Air Balloon Festival, October 6-7 at Spyglass Ridge Winery in Sunbury. In order to encourage participation and feedback from the community and gain more ideas, Geisinger is currently seeking additional community members to serve on a planning committee for this event. If interested in participating, please contact Linda Vaji at 570-214-2581 or email.