Budget Proposal Includes Minimum Wage and PIT Increases

On Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled his 2016-17 state budget proposal to a joint session of the state House and Senate. The address was different than any other in the Commonwealth’s history, as the Governor gave it at the same time that parts of the current fiscal year’s spending plan remain unfinished.

While the Governor did not mention any details in his address, the 2016-17 proposal includes an 11 percent increase in the personal income tax from 3.07 to 3.4 percent, an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.15 an hour, a natural gas extraction tax, and expanding the sales tax on some items. Wolf had proposed a number of these changes in the 2015-16 budget, but backed off as the negotiations continued.

One of the major unresolved issues for 2015-16 is education spending levels. The governor continues to demand $377 million more for basic education funding this year – a number that was reached in a budget framework agreement that crumbled in December. He added another $200 million in the 2016-17 budget proposal plus an additional $60 million for pre-K education

In response, Republican legislative leaders told reporters that the governor is acting irresponsibly with his spending demands.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said Gov. Wolf is “doubling down on his failures to provide leadership on accomplishing a bipartisan budget agreement by asking for even more taxpayer money without addressing the changes needed for long-term relief for Pennsylvania schools.”

Bloomsburg Council Reconsiders Parking Enforcement Change

On Monday, February 8th, Bloomsburg Town Council did not approve changes to parking meter enforcement times. The majority of Council members agreed to let a newly-formed sub-committee on parking discuss management issues and make recommendations. Members of the business community were on hand to restate their concerns and thanked Council for listening.

Prior to two votes on the issue, Council heard several statements opposing the changes, including one developed by the Chamber and co-signed by 51 business people, who are listed below. The first vote to adopt the changes as advertised did not pass with a 3-3 vote. A member of Council was absent. A motion was then made to re-advertise the ordinance, which included a number of changes to parking enforcement, but without the changes to enforcement times. That vote passed 4-2.

Prior to that meeting, the Town’s Community and Economic Development Committee agreed to create a parking sub-committee involving community stakeholders. The Chamber and Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc. have been invited to participate. “We look forward to working with the Town and other stakeholders to develop long-term strategies for parking management in Bloomsburg,” said Fred Gaffney, Chamber President.

Thanks to the members of Town Council for listing to the concerns of the business community, as well as those business people that signed on to the joint statement to express their concerns:

Fred Gaffney
President, Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce
CEO, Columbia Montour Partnership for Community Development
 Ashok Patel
Owner, Bloom Tobacco
Ready Go Burrito
YoChoice Frozen Yogurt
David “Otto” Kurecian
Executive Director, Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau
COO, Columbia-Montour Partnership for Community Development
 Deanna R. Pealer
Owner, Deanna R. Pealer, Attorney-at-Law
Property owner, 128-130 West Main Street
Robert Stoudt
Board President, Columbia-Montour Partnership for Community Development
 Dennis R. Peters, P.E.,
President, Peters Consultants, Inc.
President, Criterium Peters Engineers, Inc.
Sherry Aungst
Owner/Operator, Sherry’s Hair Co.
 Kirk Pfaff
Assistant Manager
Ready Go Burrito
 Sara Baker
Co-Convener, Artspace Gallery
 Paul Reichert
Caldwell Consistory
 Michael Barletta
Owner, Infinity Vapes
 Joseph Reilly
Owner, President and General Manager, Columbia Broadcasting Company
Co-owner, 124 East Main St.
 Michelle Beaver
Uncle Paul’s Stuffed Pretzels
 Nancy Reilly
Owner, VP and Treasurer, Columbia Broadcasting Company.
Co-owner, 124 East Main St.
 Hans W. Bottesch II, DC
Owner, Bloomsburg Spine & Sport
 Mary Jo Skjoldal
Owner, Family Balance Acupuncture
 Bruce Bowman
Owner, Sneidman’s Jewelry Store
 Jared Snyder
General Manager, Ready Go Burrito
 Leane Coladonato
Owner, The HeadQuarters
 David L. Soltz, Ph.D.
President, Bloomsburg University
 Vince DeMelfi
Owner, Susquehanna Realty
Landlord, 102 West Main Street
Board Chair
 Harry Strausser, III
President, Remit Corporation
 Peggy Dildine
Owner, Peggy’s Massage
Allure Hair & Body
 John Thomas
President, Columbia County Historical &
Genealogical Society
Oren B. Helbok
Executive Director, The Exchange
Frans Verstraeten
Owner, Dutch Wheelman
Angela Dawn Hess
Administrative Director, Box of Light
Tim Wagner
Owner, Wagner’s Trophies & Engravables
Sarah Walzer
Toby Diltz
Owners, The Blind Pig Kitchen
Kim Angelo Keck
Owner, Exclusively You
Jon White-Spunner
Managing Director, Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble
Lydia Kegler
Director, Bloomsburg Public Library
Linda L. Woodward, SRA
Owner, Lynwood Real Estate Appraisal Co.
Jeff Lylo
Owner, J. Lylo Jewelers
Mike Zarrett
Owner, Towne Camera
Property owner, 152-154 West Main Street &
160 West Main Street
Kayla McCready, LMT
Owner, Healing Through Touch Massage Therapy
Matt Zoppetti
Sunset Holding, LLC
Susan McGarry, RA, LEED AP
Owner, ArchCentral Architects, Inc.
Nick McGaw
Owner, Endless Records
Catherine McLaughlin
Catherine McLaughlin, MEd, Licensed Psychologist
Douglas Michael
Owner, Bakers’ Guild Café
Quincey Morton-Swartz
Kirsten Swartz-Morton
Owners, Wanderlust Café
Rose Neiderhiser
Owner, Lil Kids Stuff
Jim Nemeth
Human Resources Director, Autoneum North America
Marc Nespoli
Owner, Xtreme Row
Pat O’Connell
Owner, The Law Office of Patrick O’Connell

Joint Statement on Parking Concerns Sent to Bloomsburg Council

On Monday, January 25th, Bloomsburg Town Council voted to advance proposed changes to parking enforcement in the downtown. The Chamber and WHLM Radio presented results of polls that showed significant opposition to the plan. While increasing parking fees on Main Street was approved by resolution, a final vote on enforcement times is scheduled for February 8th.

The Town’s Administrative and Finance Committee recommended the plan to increase fees on Main Street and in the Square from 25 cents per hour to 50 cents per hour. The reason given by members of Council for this increase is to help pay for new parking meters. The increase was approved by resolution on a 5-2 vote.

Changing the enforcement times requires an ordinance change. Enforcement on Main Street would change from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, to 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday. The reasoning for this change is to deter people living in the downtown area from parking in public spaces, keeping those spaces available for business customers. Advertising the changes was approved 4-3. Council is expected to vote on the ordinance change at their meeting at 7 p.m. on February 8th.

The Chamber has heard concerns from a number of business and property owners that these changes could impact customer patterns and be harmful to businesses in the downtown. A poll was created asking if people supported or opposed these two changes. Of 299 respondents that provided their contact information, 77 businesses and property owners were represented. Of the total respondents, 90.6% oppose the fee increase, and 93.5% oppose the new enforcement times. The WHLM poll asked only about the parking fee increase. With over 500 responses to that poll, 77% were opposed to the fee increase.

Detailed results of the Chamber’s poll are available here.

Following the January 25th meeting, a meeting was organized for business and property owners in the downtown to discuss the changes. A joint statement was developed and has been forwarded to Council.

Downtown businesses and property owners are also strongly encouraged to attend Council’s February 8th meeting. To guarantee that your comments are heard prior to the vote, contact Amy Seamans at Town Hall at 570-784-7123 ext. 117 no later than Friday, February 5th at noon.

Member Loan Fund Expanded

Members now have access to low interest loans of up to $20,000 through the Chamber. The maximum loan amount was recently increased from $10,000. Fixed and variable interest rates are also available. The changes were recommended by the Low Interest Loan Committee and approved by the Board in January.

Funds loaned by the Chamber can be used for a variety of business needs including renovations and equipment purchases. The Committee reviews all applications and makes a recommendation to the Chamber Board, typically within 30 days. For additional details, download the guidelines and application or contact Fred Gaffney at the Chamber.

Chamber & Visitors Bureau to Elect Directors at Annual Meeting

The Chamber and Visitors Bureau’s Board of Directors are recommending the following slates of candidates for election to their respective boards:

Nominated to serve on the Chamber Board:
3-year term
Mark Gardner, M&T Bank
Marc Nespoli, Fuel Fitness
Jeff Watson, Carriage Manor Builders
Karen Wood, Service 1st Federal Credit Union

1-year term
Diane Ljungquist, Berwick Hospital Center
Jim Micklow, Press Enterprise
Tim Wagner, Wagner’s Trophies

Nominated to serve an unexpired, 3-year term
Denise Stone, Geisinger Health System

To be appointed by the Chair for a 1-year term:
Travis Petty, Borough of Berwick
Jeff Whitenight, First Columbia Bank & Trust Co.
Sharon Wilkin, CSS Industries

Nominated to serve a 3-year term on the Visitors Bureau Board:
Matt Hickey, Holiday Inn Express, Bloomsburg
Chris Hill, Pine Barn Inn
Al Luschas, Derr, Pursel, Luschas & Naparsteck, LLP
Lauren Martz, Town of Bloomsburg
Adrienne Mael, United Way of Columbia County
Stacy Ososkie, Knoebels Amusement Resort
Joe Scopelliti, BIDA

Members will vote to elect new board members at the combined Annual Meeting, scheduled for February 11th at Rolling Pines Golf Course & Banquet Facility. An alternate ticket or tickets may be nominated by at least fifteen members by posting a ticket at the Chamber’s main office at 238 Market Street, Bloomsburg, at least five days prior to the Annual Meeting. New board members will begin their terms on April 1, 2016.