Neighborhood news in brief for the week of March 19

Senate democrats unveil pension reform proposal

Senate democrats presented a three-point pension reform proposal last week.

The proposal would refinance $9 billion of the State Employees’ Retirement System and the Public School Employees’ Retirement System’s almost $50 billion in underfunding, according to a press release.

It would also reform the state pension law to stop charter schools from receiving double-dip state reimbursements and lower the collars on state and school district payments to provide budget reliefs.  

“Over the next five years, it would save school districts $600 million and the commonwealth $1 billion,” Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said in a written statement.

The proposal was made to avoid portions of Gov. Tom Corbett’s pension proposal, such as $2 million in additional payments over the next four years, $5 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and increased future costs that could add millions to the pension crisis, according to the statement.  

State Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione (D-2nd Dist.) is among local lawmakers supporting this proposal.

“It avoids the expensive court challenges other proposals will bring,” she said in a statement. “It reassures thousands of state workers, educators, and retirees that they will not be affected by attempts to change participation rules.”

Other local senators are also lending their support to the proposal, such as State Sen. Mike Stack (D-5th Dist.).

“We cannot continue to put off the inevitable, but we have budget difficulties to face,” he said. “This forward-thinking solution will resolve the problem without putting too much burden on working families.” ••

ZBA greenlights bar-room

The Zoning Board of Adjustment granted approval for a proposed jazz-age themed restaurant at 2658 E. Clearfield St. in Port Richmond last Tuesday, March 11.

Business partners Dan Gannon and Anthony Cepparulo presented their plans to community organizations throughout the past few months prior to the hearing and have received positive support from neighborhood residents.

The bar and restaurant, called “bar-room,” is projected to open later this summer. ••

SNBL approves Grace Townhomes

Somerset Neighbors for Better Living approved the proposed Grace Townhomes development in Port Richmond at their monthly meeting last Monday, March 10.

As reported by Star last month, the Grace Townhomes development would bring 36 rental units to 2201 E. Auburn St. by early 2016.

The project developer, the Women’s Community Revitalization Project, planned to give a presentation on the development at SNBL’s two previous planned meetings, but snowstorms forced both meetings to be cancelled.

Of the 45 attendees who were eligible to vote at the meeting, 27 voted in favor of the project, while 18 were opposed.  

“There were a number of residents concerned with having rental units as opposed to a mixture of both homeowners and rentals,” NKCDC Community Engagement Director Carla Castillo said.

Other attendees were worried that the project would lead to an increase in property tax in the neighborhood.

The project’s fate is now in the hands of the zoning board, which will hold a hearing on Wednesday, March 26, at 2 p.m. at 1515 Arch St., 18th floor.

The ZBA will take into account all registered community organizations’ votes on the project when coming to a final decision. ••