Municipal Law Updates: Major Disaster Declaration, Monthly Meetings, and Stay-At-Home Order Expansion
There have been a few recent developments to update you on. I am hyperlinking the updates to various sites for your convenience.
- President Trump issued a major disaster declaration for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This makes federal funding available to state and local governments for response to the Covid-19 pandemic. We recommend you begin to gather and track your costs and expenses to the pandemic in order to eventually apply to FEMA for cost reimbursements. I believe you do also need an emergency declaration in place for your local municipality to be eligible. Here is a link to PEMA’s Public Assistance Program website where you will find more guidance and link to FEMA’s application portal. Our prior update also highlighted some of the relief programs in the CARES Act.
- The Stay-At-Home Order for York County has been extended to April 30 and additional Counties have been added. The Business Order Enforcement Guidance can be found here.
- Pennsylvania continues to update its resources and provide information. DCED has now posted some helpful FAQs you may find useful. DCED also announced that it will not extend the April 15 deadline for filing certification forms for pension state aid programs (2020 Form AG-385 and 2019 Act 205 AVR Forms). The legislative due date of April 1 to submit the DCED Annual Audit and Financial Report has not changed, but DCED has announced it will not penalize municipalities if they have not submitted the Audit by April 1.
- This morning the York County Commissioners tabled a resolution to waive the penalty for County real estate taxes during the penalty period for 2020. The County would like to coordinate any relief with local municipal governments so this will give everyone more time to get on the same page. We are attaching an email that Mark Derr asked us to help distribute explaining the County’s position on the property tax relief. We ask all of you to put this on your agenda for discussion at your next meeting so you can give feedback to the County.
- If you are still accepting permit applications, we suggest you consider getting time extensions from applicants because of the impact the business closure will have on your ability to process applications, especially where third-party offices are involved. We can help you put together an appropriate time extension for applicants to submit with applications.
- April meetings are starting remotely. We’ll give you updates and feedback as we attend a few virtual meetings. This will be a learning process for all of us! We advised most of our municipal clients that given the circumstances and the stay-at-home Orders issued near the end of March it was acceptable to cancel meetings scheduled at the end of March. This was all very new and most of us were not yet equipped for it. However, we do not recommend canceling additional meetings as we are now further into this new normal and need to adapt. Some boards are also statutorily required to meet monthly (although there is no clear penalty for failing to do so) and should make arrangements to do so by means other than in-person public meetings in April. Here are the requirements:
- First Class Townships: “The board of township commissioners shall meet at least once a month, at such time and such place as may be designated by ordinance.”
- Second Class Townships: “The board of supervisors shall meet for the transaction of business at least once each month at a time and place determined by the board of supervisors. A quorum is two members of a three-member board of supervisors or three members of a five-member board of supervisors.”
- Boroughs: Council has a duty to “meet at a stated time at least once a month. Council may adjourn to a stated time for general business or for special businesses. If no quorum is present at a regular, special or reconvened meeting, a majority of those who do meet may agree upon another date for like business in a manner consistent with 65 Pa.C.S. Ch. 7 (relating to open meetings).”
- Authorities: Have the power to “make bylaws for the management and regulation of its affairs.” Check your articles of incorporation and bylaws for required meetings and try to abide by those.
- Planning Commissions: No monthly meeting requirements unless set by bylaws.
- Zoning Hearing Boards: No monthly meeting requirements, but the “first hearing before the board or hearing officer shall be commenced within 60 days from the date of receipt of the applicant’s application, unless the applicant has agreed in writing to an extension of time.” We recommend time extensions be signed with applicants in accordance with this requirement.
As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions. You may also visit our Resource page for all of our past updates and materials. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the municipal updates.