Property Tax Referendum Explained

Property Tax Referendum Explained  — The Republican State Committee has distributed an explanation of the Nov. 7 ballot question on whether school districts may exempt homes from property taxes.

We are republishing it. Hat tip Donna Ellingsen.

Chairman’s Update

Dear State Committee Members:

This November, there will be a referendum on the ballot that could shape the future of Pennsylvania’s property tax system. Below I have included a research packet with information of the referendum along with background references.

The referendum, which would amend the PA Constitution, could allow for significant reductions in property taxes. I encourage you to education your voters about this referendum and to use this as an opportunity to bring conservative voters to the polls, which will help our whole ticket.

As always, please reach out to me with any questions or comment.

Sincerely,

Val

Research Packet | 2017 Property Tax Ballot Referendum 

TOP LINE: A November ballot question will ask voters whether local taxing authorities should be able to exempt residents from paying property taxes on their homes.

What would the ballot question do?

Nothing would change immediately if the ballot question passed in November.

  • School districts, counties & municipalities would have the option to exempt taxpayers’ primary residences from property taxes.
  • Note: commercial and industrial properties would still be taxed if a local government or school district enacted the exemption.

Under current law,  taxing authorities can choose to exempt taxpayers from paying up to 50 percent of the median assessed value of all homes.

  • The proposed change would expand that exemption, making it possible for local governments to exempt ALL taxpayers from paying ANY property taxes on their primary residence.

The official text of the ballot question:

“Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction, rather than limit the exclusion to one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property, which is the existing law?”

Why is the ballot measure being championed by lawmakers? 

As reporter by the Philadelphia Inquirer:

  • Rep. David Maloney, R-Berks, who sponsored the bill that created the ballot question, said he receives weekly — and sometimes daily — complaints about property taxes from his constituents, especially those who are retired and live on fixed incomes.
    • “I had an elderly lady walk into my office unexpected,” he said. “She pulls out her property tax bill out of her pocketbook and said, ‘Sir, I can no longer pay this. Do you know how to help me?’ ”

Background information of property taxes:

  • In Pennsylvania, systems in place for property assessments and distributing school funding have sparked additional complaints about the real estate tax system.
  • Currently, property owners pay tax rates set by their county, school, and municipal governments.
  • FACT: School taxes account for the largest share of property-tax bills, and Pennsylvania’s school-funding system has long been criticized.

How do Pa. property taxes compare with other states’?

Statewide, property tax collections account for about 30 percent of local and state tax revenue, according to a study by the Tax Foundation.

  • Our tax rates are among the HIGHEST in America; Pennsylvania homeowners pay, on average, 1.46 percent of their home value in taxes, according to another Tax Foundation report, which ranks the state 10th nationwide for the highest effective tax rate. New Jersey, by comparison, has the highest effective tax rate of any state, at 2.44 percent.
  •  ***Pennsylvanians pay about $14 billion a year in school property taxes alone***

Opposition:

Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials

  • Jay Himes, Executive Director

Mr. Himes has said his group thinks the option to eliminate property taxes for primary residences is a good idea — as long as a sound revenue replacement is found.

  • But Mr. Himes and his association strongly oppose the Property Tax Independence Act and efforts to eliminate the school property tax. Under that bill, school districts would continue charging for property taxes to cover their existing debt until it is paid off, and county and local property taxes would remain the same. That would lead to even more unequal payments for homeowners depending on their school district, Mr. Himes said, and would not be total elimination of the tax.

School officials also oppose the loss of local school board control over education funding under proposals to eliminate the school tax.

  • “We don’t have a perfect tax system in place for school districts and we haven’t had one for decades,” Mr. Himes said. “It, however, is an inordinately complex and difficult issue because otherwise we’d of had a solution by now.”

Events on the horizon:

If the ballot measure is adopted by Keystone State voters, the legislature would need to find alternative sources of revenue before taxing authorities could move forward with enacting property tax exemptions.

Advocates for the Property Tax Independence Act say that the referendum could help them achieve the elimination of school property taxes.

  • Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, is the prime sponsor of that effort, which has attracted support from both Democrats and Republicans. It was defeated after Lt. Gov. Mike Stack broke a tie vote on it in 2015.
  • As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer:
    • Mr. Argall said he is open to amendments to his bill, which still lacks enough votes to pass. If the measure passes this fall, for example, he could amend his bill to eliminate school property taxes only for primary residences rather than all properties.
      • “It gives us more flexibility,” Mr. Argall said of the ballot question. “I believe it helps us to build some additional support for the concept across the state.”

 

Property Tax Referendum Explained

Property Tax Referendum Explained  -- The Republican State Committee has distributed an explanation of the Nov. 7 ballot question on whether school districts may exempt homes from property taxes.

5 thoughts on “Property Tax Referendum Explained”

  1. You said, “Under that bill, school districts would continue charging for property taxes to cover their existing debt until it is paid off.” That statement is missing a pertinent fact that prejudices peoples’ understanding of the bill.

    The school districts retain ONLY enough property tax to service current debt payments. According to an analysis by the PA Independent Fiscal Office, the average retained property tax will be approximately 14% of the original property tax and the average property tax reduction will be about 86%. This is a far cry from what your prejudicial explanation implies. Please publish the truth.

    1. I didn’t say it. That’s a direct, unedited statement from the GOP state committee.

      Amazingly enough, I’ll even defend Val DiGiorgio by noting that phrase is in way of explaining the position of the referendum’s opponents albeit it should be more clearly attributed.

      Editor’s note: Upon re-reading the statement again, Jay Himes to whom it referred is not opposing the referendum but The Property Tax Independent Act which is a separate matter.

  2. 1286 will give school boards the ability to increase homestead exemption and thereby lowering property taxes for homeowners.
    When was the last time school boards lower your property taxes?
    This is feel good legislation. The legislature feels good if it’s past so they can inform their constituents that they did something about the outrageous property taxes.
    The school board’s feel good because it continues to be business as usual.
    SB 76 is the only way to keep school boards from raising property taxes at will.

    1. Actually, 1286 does not give school boards anything. The whole matter would have to go the PA legislators who would now have the authority to make a bill to do something about property tax relief. Not going to hold my breath that anything will come of it, but by voting yes, at least we send a message to the lawmakers that we need property tax relief.

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