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Issue Home March 10, 2010 Site Home

Wedding Announced Ahearn - Gray
Bedtime Stories At Blue Ridge
Countryside Conservancy Welcomes New Director

County Joins Forces For Bountiful Blessings
Not Too Late To Reduce Tax Burden


Wedding Announced Ahearn - Gray

St. Ann’s Basilica, in Scranton, PA, was the setting for a wedding on May 9, 2009, of Amy Ahearn and Joshua Gray. The bride is the daughter of MaryBeth and Patrick Ahearn of Susquehanna, PA. The groom is the son of Kathy Riley and David Gray of Danville, PA.

Amy & Joshua

Father John Albosta of Waymart, a relative of the bride, officiated the 2 p.m. ceremony and bestowed the Papal Blessing on the couple.

Given in marriage by her father, the bride wore a strapless Oleg Cassini gown, carrying a hand-tied bouquet of assorted roses, orchids, and berries designed by Sharon Glover. Sister of the bride, Abby Ahearn was the Maid of Honor and cousin of the bride, Heather Noto was the Matron on Honor. Bridesmaids were Lauren Heath, Kristi Tripoli and Deidre Hittle and Ashley Noto was the flower girl.

Brother of the groom, Chad Gray was the best man. Ushers were Mike Roma, Derek Willoughby, Adam Gregg, and Michael Hepfer.

A cocktail hour and dinner reception was held at the Summit Ballroom at the Ramada Hotel in Clark Summit, PA.

The bride is a graduate of Danville High School and earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in photography from The University of the Arts and a Master’s of Fine Arts from Marywood University. She is the product photographer for Fila, USA.

The bridegroom is a graduate of Danville High School and earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Plastic and Polymer Engineering Technology and a minor in Business Administration. He is employed by Gray Builders.

Following the wedding, the couple enjoyed a honeymoon to St. Lucia; they reside in Enola, PA.

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Bedtime Stories At Blue Ridge
Submitted By Stephnie Thornton

Dressed in pajamas featuring everything from princesses to pigs, and carrying everything from blankets to teddy bears, children gathered at Blue Ridge Elementary School March 4 for a special story time. “Bedtime Stories at Blue Ridge” provided the opportunity for families to spend an enjoyable evening together dining on pizza, making a craft and enjoying a story.

The free event featured Pre-K teacher Mrs. Whitehead reading “Humphrey’s Bear” by Jan Wahl. The book took everyone on a bedtime journey that included sailing to a far off island. Families also gathered with CARES volunteer Cindy G. Reynolds to make sail boats.

“Bedtime Stories at Blue Ridge” was made possible through a joint effort with Blue Ridge School District and Susquehanna County CARES (Childcare, Agencies, Resources and Educational Services.) CARES is a non-profit group dedicated to enhancing quality early care and education in the county, and supports Pennsylvania’s Promise for Children, because every child is Pennsylvania’s future.

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Countryside Conservancy Welcomes New Director

The Countryside Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving lands and waters in and near the Tunkhannock Creek Watershed, is pleased to announce the hiring of its new Executive Director, Bill Kern.

Kern is a Tunkhannock native now living in Susquehanna County.A biology graduate of Ithaca College, he earned a Master’s in Environmental Studies at Brown University, with a thesis project focused on soil toxicity in post-Katrina New Orleans.He also completed a Brown-funded study on sustainability in Tunkhannock.Since August 2008 he had worked with Green Energy Outreach Services (GEOS), a public relations and grassroots organizing firm specializing in the renewable energy industry.“Working on wind and solar projects in New York and Pennsylvania taught me the importance of public opinion and community support,” said Kern.“Without informed public awareness and strong community backing, even the most well-intentioned efforts are bound to fail. I intend to apply these lessons to my new role with the Conservancy by expanding and strengthening our network of members and supporters.”

“The Conservancy is ideally situated to help the area strike a balance between economic progress and environmental protection,” said Kern.“I couldn’t be more pleased to have this opportunity to work with the board of directors and members of this fine organization.The Tunkhannock Creek watershed has been my backyard for pretty much my entire life, and protecting it is extremely important to me.”Kern looks forward to taking over the Conservancy’s many active projects, particularly the drive to turn the old Northern Electric trolley right-of-way into a non-motorized recreational trail. He has seen the profound impact that alternative recreational routes can have on a community, and is confident the trail can significantly improve the lives of the people and communities throughout the 6 and 11 corridor and beyond.

Bill takes over the reins from Mary Felley, the Conservancy’s Executive Director since June 2003.Felley will stay on in a part-time capacity as open-space coordinator.

“Mary has had a tremendous impact during her seven-year stint with the Conservancy,” commented Jack Muller, President of the Conservancy Board of Directors. “Although we’re sad to see her step down, we are confident that Bill will be an excellent director and further our mission of conserving land in Wyoming, Susquehanna and Lackawanna Counties.”

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County Joins Forces For Bountiful Blessings

This year there even more Easter dinners required for those in need in Susquehanna County. The number exceeds 700. 750 families may be fed, and the goal is to collect $8000. So far $3800 has been collected.

The schools of Susquehanna County - Montrose, Mountain View, Blue Ridge, Susquehanna, and Elk Lake - are undertaking to collect canned vegetables and fruit and boxed dried potatoes and macaroni and cheese. Most of the churches are collecting these items in addition to boxed cake mixes. There are jars in various businesses around the county where individuals may contribute to help finance the hams that are a part of this dinner. Many business have given or are going to give financial aid.

The center collection point for food will be St. Paul’s in Montrose on the Monday before Easter. Dinners will be distributed in New Milford at St. Mark’s, in Forest City at Christ’s Church, and in Montrose at St. Paul’s on the Wednesday. March 31.

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Not Too Late To Reduce Tax Burden

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The W-2 and 1040 forms are flying, so it must be income-tax-filing season. And a Penn State Extension money-management educator says it's not too late to do something today that can make your 2009 tax filing less "taxing."

Federal tax law permits people who fall within income guidelines to establish and fund an individual retirement account, or IRA, to reduce their taxable income by paying into that account. And Robin Kuleck, Penn State Cooperative Extension director in Elk County, said an often-overlooked tax provision lets you reduce your 2009 tax bill by making a contribution to your retirement fund even after the calendar year has ended.

"With an IRA, you can wait as long as April 15, 2010 and still take that deduction off your 2009 taxes," Kuleck said. "Some people actually calculate their annual contributions by first completing their tax return and 'running their numbers' to determine how much they need to contribute to their IRA based on reducing or eliminating their federal income tax bill."

This year, the Internal Revenue Service has introduced numerous changes to the federal tax code, most of which are intended to boost the national economy and to help people. Because the changes are keyed to individual life-cycle stages, employment statuses, income levels and even household compositions, Kuleck said, the average taxpayer may want to turn to tax-preparation software to figure out which changes apply to them.

"Generally, many of the changes will affect families with children who can still be claimed as dependents (up to age 24 for full-time students)," she said. "It really depends on your personal situation. If you have the usual one or two jobs with one or two W-2s, you probably can prepare your own return. The IRS is encouraging everyone to file their federal taxes electronically if at all possible. In fact, the IRS Web site lists 20 different providers of free online filing for federal returns, many of which will file your state taxes for a fee.

"If you're filing with paper, there are innumerable forms that you'd have to fill out based on your individual circumstances," she noted. "Most of the commercial software walks you through a series of questions and fills out the appropriate form for you based on your responses to those questions. The software suggests various expenses you may have incurred that can result in either a deduction to your taxable income or a credit against your tax bill. If you provide your bank information, your refund can be safely in your account within two weeks or less after you've filed."

Kuleck explained that one "new" feature, the American Opportunity Tax Credit, is actually a revision and extension of the Hope credit, which offers credits of up to $2,500 for each full-time college student. "The Hope credit used to apply just to freshmen and sophomore students, but the IRS is extending it," she said. "This year, the American Opportunity credit is open to a broader range of taxpayers, including those with higher incomes and those who don't owe taxes. So juniors and seniors who thought they weren't able to use the Hope now can get the tax credit. It may reduce their tax liability to zero, and then they may get up to $1,000 per qualifying student back from the IRS."

Other important new wrinkles include:

Unemployment Compensation: For 2009, the first $2,400 of unemployment compensation received is excludable from gross income. "Normally all unemployment compensation is taxable, but the federal government recognized that people were struggling," Kuleck said. "So, if you were unemployed in 2009, up to $2,400 of your unemployment compensation is tax-free."

The Making Work Pay Tax Credit is a refundable credit of up to $400 for working individuals and $800 for married couples filing jointly. The credit is calculated at a rate of 6.2 percent of earned income and reported on Schedule M.

First Time Homebuyer Credit: "Originally, this credit was for folks who purchased a home between Dec. 31, 2008, and Dec. 1, 2009, and was a credit of 10 percent of the purchase price up to a maximum of $8,000," Kuleck explained. "But tax-law changes late last year not only extended the purchase deadline to June 30, 2010, but broadened to include people who have owned and lived in the same home in five of the last eight years and have purchased a home after Nov. 6, 2009.

"The maximum credit for those families is $6,500. This one is a little confusing, since the IRS definition of first-time homebuyer is people who did not own any other main home during the three-year period ending on the date of purchase."

Standard Deduction vs. Itemized Deduction: Some taxpayers still believe they can "write off" many of their expenses. While it is true that expenses such as property taxes, charitable contributions, unreimbursed medical expenses and mortgage interest can be deducted from filers' taxable income, the total of these expenses may not exceed the standard deduction for many households.

"With mortgage interest rates at historic lows and the unstable economy reducing charitable giving, many households' itemized expenses do not exceed the standard deduction threshold, so it's to their advantage to just take the standard deduction," Kuleck said. For example the standard deduction for a married couple under the age of 65 using the "married filing jointly" status is $11,400. "This year, if you paid at least $500 in real estate taxes, you can add that to your standard deduction even if you don't itemize."

Easy-to-read income tax tips for moderate-income taxpayers are available online at Web site visitors also will find information about Pennsylvania income taxes as well.

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