EDITORIAL: Home sales Pa.’s latest silver lining

York Dispatch editorial board
A sign is posted announcing the sale of home on Manchester Street in Glen Rock Tuesday, March 16, 2021. Bill Kalina photo

Thumbs up to the uptick in home sales throughout the York County region — not only for the boost it brings to the local real estate market but for the larger story it tells.

According to the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties, homes sales locally for the first two months of this year were about 15 percent ahead of the 2020 pace. That puts out the welcome mat for a strong spring and summer season, when home sales traditionally surge.

The reason for this year’s increased housing activity is anything but traditional.

More:Realtors expect York County housing market to head toward strong spring

“As vaccines are becoming available, sellers are more willing to let people go into their homes and buyers are more willing to go into homes,” RAYAC President Tina Llorente told the Dispatch.

The housing market is not only a beneficiary of the region’s emergence from a year-long COVID freeze, it’s a harbinger of an overall change in direction regarding the pandemic. With vaccinations on the rise and restrictions on retail operations being pared back, the region is finally seeing welcome signs of a return to something resembling normalcy after a year of COVID lockdowns.

Thumbs down to the West York Borough Council for hiking trash pick-up fees for the second time in three months. Borough residents have now seen their quarterly fees jump more than 25 percent — from $75 to $95 — since December.

The council had rejected the second increase earlier this month by a 4-3 vote. But the measure was brought back to the floor at a later meeting and, with one of the opposing members absent, Mayor Bruce Vick broke the 3-3 tie. He says the extra income is needed to make up for a drop in overall tax revenues and the fact that about a third of West Borough’s residents are behind on their trash bills.

More:West York hikes trash fee for second time in three months

The hike is a bit unfair: essentially punishing those who are keeping up with their bills for the shortfall created by those who aren’t (including, reportedly, the mayor).

Lagging tax revenues are a widespread concern throughout many municipalities this past year and Vick’s contention that “we can’t just keep pulling money out of nowhere to pay bills” is legitimate. Challenging times call for creative solutions but taking advantage of an absence to push through a fee hike is not the type of creativity we had in mind.

Thumbs up to the IRS and, by extension, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for extending this year’s deadline for filing tax returns and paying 2020 taxes without penalty until May 17. (Pennsylvania’s tax-filing deadline is tied by law to the federal deadline.)

The one-month reprieve — which not every state tax department agreed to — provides Pennsylvania taxpayers a welcome cushion as they navigate a tax-filing process complicated this year by lost or reduced incomes, extended unemployment benefits or tax-code changes passed as part of COVID-19 relief bills.

More:IRS still hasn’t processed millions of 2019 tax returns

The extension also allows additional time for the latest round of stimulus checks to hit the mailboxes of those who may need to direct a portion of the funds back to the government if they owe taxes.

“The new deadline will be a benefit for many Pennsylvanians, including those who plan to meet with a tax professional for assistance with preparing their returns,” said state Department of Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell.

Benefits of any kind have been hard to come by this past year; having one come in the form of tax-filing breathing room is particularly welcome.