Pennsylvania Auditor General Timothy DeFoor's office has released its audit of a dozen school districts for fiscal years 2018 through 2021. He explains what auditors were looking for. "For years there have been concerns raised to us from the General Assembly and from residents about school districts who are raising taxes while seemingly having enough money in reserve to cover any kind of budget gaps," DeFoor says. Among the dozen districts are Bethlehem Area School District and Northampton Area School District. DeFoor says none of the districts did anything illegal, but calls the practice a 'shell game' that allowed those dozen school districts to raise taxes 37 times during the four years audited, allowing those districts to boost their General Fund accounts to $390 million. Bethlehem Superintendent Joseph Roy says his district is in compliance with all laws and Northampton Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik says his district too is within the law and in compliance.
Easton City Council has moved forward a proposed six-story apartment building planned for 533 and 535 Northampton Street and to be partially attached to an existing five-story building at 527 and 529 Northampton Street. There are a total of 18 units in the existing building, with 14 proposed units on floors two through six in the new building. There will be 900 square feet of commercial space on the first floor. The buildings will be connected in the front, and will separate as they go back to form a corridor. Earlier this month, the Easton Historic District Commission granted conceptual approval for the new building.
A new police substation on the city's west side will give a bird's-eye view of area activity. The property at Hamilton Street and American Parkway is part of apartment building that was donated to police by Nat Hyman. In making the donation, the real estate developer has said the area needs a greater police presence. City officials say the new facility will be ready for use in about two weeks.
Police are still searching for a Lehigh University student who hasn't been seen since January 20th. Police say foul play is not suspected in Daniel Lee's disappearance. There were boat and helicopter searches for Lee along the Lehigh River Wednesday and police are saying Lee, who is a sophomore at Lehigh, may have harmed himself based on information learned during the investigation.
Crayola Experience in Easton is up for an award once again. The family-friendly attraction has been nominated again by USA Today as one of the Reader's Choice 10 best children's museums for 2023. It's going up against 19 others from across the country. Crayola Experience was nominated for the top 10 last year too, but didn't make the final list. You can go to the USA Today website and vote daily until Feb. 13.
Another Five Guys is coming to the Lehigh Valley. The newest Five Guys is expected to open by early spring in a MacArthur Road shopping center that currently counts Pizza Hut, SaladWorks and Pretzel Factory among its tenants. The Five Guys burger chain already has Lehigh Valley locations in Allentown; Hanover Township; Lower Nazareth Township; and Quakertown.
Gov. Josh Shapiro has announced the creation of an office designed to streamline red tape for businesses. "Pennsylvania needs a government that works more quickly, that is able to figure out a way to get to yes," Shapiro says. The governor says this new office will hopefully streamline the process.
The state House speaker has kicked off his cross-state 'listening tour' with a stop at Carnegie Mellon University. State officials say about 80 people turned out for Speaker Mark Rozzi's appearance in Pittsburgh. The event Wednesday comes one day after he adjourned the House until February 27th. Rozzi told reporters he's willing to recall lawmakers sooner if they reach compromises on House rules and the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse to sue their abusers.
A Republican state senator has called for the state liquor board to not raise its prices. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board had previously announced it would increase prices at state-run alcohol stores by four percent. State Senator Mike Regan believes decisions on price changes for 2023 should instead be set by the governor's office and the state legislature. It's not known whether he'll re-introduce the idea after the Senate reconvenes in February.
The Hershey Company has made the annual list of America's most "Just" companies, which measures corporations based on issues like paying a living wage, supporting workforce development, and leadership demonstrating integrity. The ranking is published each year by JUST Capital and its media partner, CNBC.
The Pennsylvania Auto Show starts today at the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg. Hundreds of new cars, trucks, SUVs and motorcycles from over 30 different manufacturers will be on display. Visitors can also see the latest motorcycles and RVs. The event runs through Sunday.
If a Pennsylvania state representative gets his way, smoking bans will be extended to casinos in the Keystone State. Representative Dan Frankel is preparing a bill that would alter Pennsylvania's Clean Indoor Air Act to include casinos. Those venues are currently exempt from smoking bans but Frankel says that second-hand smoke is a real health hazard and that casino workers should not have to choose between their employment and their health. Frankel says he hopes to introduce his bill this year.
The American Lung Association has released its State of Tobacco Control report cards and it appears Pennsylvania has been given mostly failing grades. In their results out Wednesday, the state was listed among the worst in the country in preventing or reducing tobacco use, especially among teens. Some 26 percent of state high schoolers report using tobacco. Pennsylvania's rate for lung and bronchial cancer is higher than the national average, too; 22-thousand residents die each year from smoking.
The Garden State received failing grades for its tobacco control efforts, according to the American Lung Association's latest report card on all states. The organization faulted New Jersey in its funding of programs for tobacco prevention and its level of tobacco taxes. It says the state has not significantly increased its tobacco taxes in more than a decade and is spending only a fraction of what the CDC recommends it should spend on helping people kick their addiction. New Jersey is given an "A" for its smoke-free workplace laws, though it has not banned smoking at the nine Atlantic City casinos.
A nationwide survey of coolest towns in each state has selected Cape May as its pick in New Jersey. The travel website known as Far and Wide calls Cape May a Victorian seaside town that oozes charm from every corner. It's described as a beach town that's fun to visit all year long.
The Philadelphia Eagles haven't had a MVP since Norm Van Brocklin in 1960. That could change this year as quarterback Jalen Hurts has been named one of five finalists for the honor. Hurts is pretty low key about it. "I think it's a cool honor," an understated Hurts said. Hurts tossed 22-touchdowns and ran for 13 as well during the regular season. The four other finalists are Cincinnati's Joe Burrow, Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes, Minnesota's Justin Jefferson and Buffalo's Josh Allen. The MVP and will be announced on February 9th at the NFL Honors.