In case you missed it: this week’s good reads about Pennsylvania cities

    It’s officially spring: time to (hopefully) put down your snow shovel and catch up on the latest urban reads:

    Capitol news

    Payment in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) take off…but does it help schools?Growth of total payments in lieu of taxes to schools statewide doubled during the past two decades but that’s not necessarily good news for all districts.

    Property tax relief

    Speaking of schools, the GOP caucus created a website that estimates four in five school districts would pay more in sales and personal income taxes than they would receive in property tax relief under Governor Wolf’s budget plan. The governor’s office calls this “fuzzy math.”The Wolf budget also includes 80 percent cut in school district property taxes for Scranton businesses. (The Scranton Times-Tribune)

    Despite the budget debates, a recent Franklin & Marshall poll finds that most Pennsylvanians approve of the Wolf budget proposal.

    Education

    In an interview from his Philadelphia office, Governor Wolf said school ratings should be less tied to standardized tests that “don’t seem to me to be tied to the specific, comprehensive skills that we want students to have.”

    It looks like lawyers for the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the York City School District have reached agreement by filing a motion to end the receivership case against the district. Governor Wolf opposed turning the district’s schools into charters.

    Pittsburgh

    The bad news is Pittsburgh weather is–objectively–dreary. But the good news is there are still two cities in America that are even drearier. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

    Rain or not, Pittsburgh is pulling more than its weight in attracting venture capital.

    Pension

    Nearly half of Pennsylvania’s local pension funds are in some level of distress, meaning they’re projected to run out of money promised retired workers. According to a recent audit, York’s underfunded pension system is one of the worst in the Commonwealth. Watch for Keystone Crossroads upcoming series on Pennsylvania’s pension system.

    This is hard to swallow: in 9 out of 10 of Pennsylvania’s most populous cities, there are more pensioners than workers (Watchdog.org)

     And Governor Wolf wants pension managers to take a smaller cut and avoid relying on high risk investment strategies. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    Gun rights lawsuits—not just for cities anymore

    Gun-rights groups aren’t just targeting Pa.’s major cities—one has filed a lawsuit against Lower Merion, a Philly suburb. (CBS Philly)

    Transit

    Philly’s mayoral candidates weighed in on the city’s transit. (Next City)

    If you live (and park) in Harrisburg and you’re constantly running late–here’s some good news for you. (Pennlive.com)

    Springtime

    Time to take the tarp off of your kayak. Pennsylvania has 86,000 miles of streams and rivers, and two state senators want to use tax credits to spur waterfront improvements throughout the Commonwealth. (WITF)

    As if you needed an excuse to go outside, a new study finds creating ‘clean and green’ spaces reduce stress. (WHYY/Newsworks)

    Just for fun

    Scranton can’t catch a break–even hypothetically. Cornell researchers find the Electric City is the worst place to be in the case of a zombie apocalypse. (Wall Street Journal)

    On a more positive note: A decade ago, ‘The Office’ introduced Scranton to the world. (The Scranton Times-Tribune)

    Forums – and food for thought

    It’s not too late to register for our Lehigh Valley Keystone Crossroads Community Forum on March 31. This video is a preview of the promise and challenges facing Three Cities: One Lehigh Valley.

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