Reassessment Moratorium, Solutions
It has often been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That statement perfectly explains the ongoing, court-ordered, reassessment fiasco taking place in Allegheny County. The current process is unworkable, burdensome, expensive and inaccurate.
Earlier this week, I wrote Judge R. Stanton Wettick, Jr. and asked him to delay the implementation of the 2012 reassessed property values until the General Assembly can craft a statewide solution. On Tuesday afternoon, Judge Wettick announced he would rule on Thursday, January 12th whether or not to delay using the new property values by one year. I am hopeful the delay is granted but regardless of which property values are used this year, I will be writing legislation that would change Pennsylvania’s flawed reassessment system to one that is uniform, fair and predictable.
Requiring court-ordered reassessments in Allegheny County, while other counties across the Commonwealth have gone decades without a reassessment, is unfair to Allegheny County property owners. Once this reassessment is over, what is the next step? The court has not indicated what will happen next year or anytime in the near future. It is time for the General Assembly to end this ‘Groundhog Day’ scenario and fix the reassessment system in Pennsylvania.
As I have mentioned before, I have introduced legislation, Senate Bill 1280 (SB 1280), which would place a moratorium on all court-ordered property reassessments until the legislature can overhaul the current system or implement an alternative method for local governments and school districts to generate revenue. When the General Assembly reconvenes I will again be calling on leadership to move this bill forward.
In addition to a moratorium, I propose three alternatives to the current property assessment system. Of course, the details of any of these options need to be discussed and debated, but any of these are more uniform, predictable and certainly fairer than the current court-ordered reassessment taking place in Allegheny County.
- The first would simply adjust the current assessment process to allow local governments to continue to use a base year system and adjust their base year on a defined time schedule. For example, a 2002 base year could be adjusted one year every three years beginning in 2012. Price indicators for each neighborhood and municipality could be used to adjust real estate values. The appeals process would remain in place to address any inequities.
- The second alternative would eliminate homeowner property taxes and allow counties, municipalities and school districts to shift to a sales and/or income tax. This option would require a change in Pennsylvania’s constitution. The concept of tax shifting has been debated in Harrisburg for many years and is worthy of serious consideration.
- The third option would prohibit the use of assessed values in taxing real estate and instead use a model that taxes the property based on square footage. Under this system, each taxing body would determine the total square footage of all taxable property within its jurisdiction and divide that number into total real estate tax collections for the previous year to establish a rate per square foot. The amount of taxes per property owner would be determined by the combined size of the lot and home or building. There would be no assessment process necessary.
I would like to hear your thoughts on these three alternatives and I welcome your comments. You can email me at email@example.com or visit my website at www.senatorfontana.com and click on the Contact Me tab to offer your opinions on these three proposals.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. Throughout his life, Dr. King fought segregation and discrimination while supporting nonviolent, passive resistance and civil disobedience. Among his many accomplishments, Dr. King organized a boycott of the segregated busing system in Montgomery, Alabama in 1954, leading to the United States Supreme Court decision forcing desegregation of the buses. In 1963, he led a march on Washington, D.C. where he gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. The third Monday of January is designated as a national holiday in order to give all Americans an opportunity to reflect upon the legacy of Dr. King and the impact he had on millions of people.
All Senate offices will be closed Monday, January 16th in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. My offices will reopen Tuesday, January 17th as scheduled.
Dr. King Hospitality Food Drive
VisitPittsburgh, together with their hospitality partners, is sponsoring the 9th Annual Dr. King Hospitality Food Drive during the month of January. VisitPittsburgh is looking to collect 8,000 pounds of food, benefitting the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Requested items include: powdered milk; beans; canned vegetables; canned chicken and tuna; soups, stews, chili; peanut butter; disposable razors; soap; diapers; toothpaste; and household products. Donations can be dropped off at:
Fifth Avenue Place
Welcome Pittsburgh Center
120 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Environmental Poster Contest
Children in grades 6-8 are invited to take part in a poster contest that encourages the use of renewable energy sources. The contest is sponsored by the Allegheny County Health Department. The theme this year is “Forget Fossil Fuels!” Students are being asked to show how to reduce reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels, how non-renewable fuels affect air quality and how renewable energy sources are beneficial to the environment.
The contest allows students to use their creativity and apply their environmental knowledge of renewable and non-renewable resources. Posters will be judged on creativity, strength of message and accuracy of information. The deadline to submit a poster is March 17, 2012. Winners will be announced in conjunction with Earth Day in April. For more information on the contest, call the Allegheny Health Department’s Air Quality Program at 412-578-8106, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Internship Opportunity for College Students
If you are a college student, or have friends or loved ones in college, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) is offering a Spring 2012 marketing internship. Bright, enthusiastic college juniors and seniors are encouraged to apply.
Job responsibilities include working closely with the e-Marketing and Promotions Manager to update the DowntownPittsburgh.com website, writing articles for the weekly Get Into It newsletter, assisting with updating the PDP's social media pages, data entry, various research projects, and other responsibilities assigned by the e-Marketing and Promotions Manager. The timeframe for the internship is mid-February through mid-May, 2012. Specific dates will be determined in early January.
Interested individuals should email a cover letter and resume to Brooke Fornalczyk at PDP@DowntownPittsburgh.com, or mail the information to 925 Liberty Avenue, 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Resumes and cover letters must be received by January 16th.
Awarding Organizations for Environmental Innovation
If you are part of an environmentally-conscious business or organization, consider applying for the 2012 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award through the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The award is open to any Pennsylvania business, government agency, educational institution, individual or farm that has created or participated in the development of a project that promotes stewardship and economic development in the Commonwealth.
Examples of eligible projects include innovation in environmental technology or clean energy, pollution prevention and resource efficiency, community revitalization, environmental education or outreach, watershed stewardship, and mine safety. The DEP will evaluate each project based on public service, how it will protect the environment, team work involved, environmental education and outreach, pollution prevention, and economic impact.
Visit the DEP website to download an application. Projects must have been completed between August 1, 2010 and July 31, 2011 to qualify. The winners will be honored during a special reception and the winning projects will be listed on DEP’s website. The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. on January 30th.
Did You Know…
Did you know that a local organization was one of 13 award winners across the state in 2011? Allegheny Land Trust in Allegheny County was recognized for its collaboration with the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation in its work to improve and expand the park system on Mount Washington.
Pennypacker Fellowship Program
The Commonwealth is offering support to individuals looking to conduct research on Pennsylvania history though a special program that provides access to facilities and historical collections. The 2012-13 Pennypacker Fellowship Program is a residency program that may be scheduled for up to eight weeks between June 1, 2012 and May 30, 2013. Anyone who is interested can apply for the program through January 30th. A stipend will be awarded to those selected for the program.
Residency programs are open to anyone conducting research on Pennsylvania history, including academic scholars, public sector professionals, independent scholars, graduate students, educators, writers and filmmakers. Areas of focus include library, manuscript and artifact collections maintained by the State Library, as well as any Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission facility (including the Pennsylvania State Archives, the State Museum, and 25 historic sites and museums throughout the state).
The program is a collaboration between the State Library of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). For more information about the program and to obtain an application, visit the PHMC website.
Christmas Tree Recycling Program
Allegheny County residents can recycle their Christmas trees now through Sunday, January 22nd as part of the County’s Fourth Annual Christmas Tree Recycling Program. You can drop off your tree daily between 8:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. at the swimming pool parking lots in North, Settlers Cabin and South parks, as well as the model airplane field at Boyce Park. Signs will direct residents to the drop-off locations. Please remove lights, decorations, tinsel, stands and other items before dropping off your tree. The trees will be mulched and used in the county’s nine regional parks.
Keystone Oaks Students Honored
Eight Keystone Oaks High School students have been honored by the school, being named Challenge Award winners. This is the third year Keystone Oaks High School, partnering with Carpenter Powder Products of Collier Township, has presented these awards which are designed to encourage students to develop skills they will need upon entering the workforce. The awards include cash prizes of $250.
This year’s winners are Olivia Lippert, a senior, and Gina Nerone, a junior, for community service; Mike Bender, a senior, and Justin Curran, a junior, for academic improvement; Chelsea Chrisman, a senior, and Ryan Rosato, a junior, for attendance; and Alison Hosko, a senior, and MaKenzie Kunig, a junior, for academic excellence.
The Challenge Program is a non-profit organization that partners with local businesses to encourage success and instill good habits for high school students. Keystone Oaks is one of 100 Pennsylvania high schools to participate in the program. Congratulations to this year’s winners!
Stowe Township was once considered a small farming community, with a population of less than 900 in 1880. McKees Rocks was part of Stowe Township, before it was incorporated as its own borough in 1892. Stowe Township and McKees Rocks didn’t merge schools until 1966, creating the Sto-Rox School District.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana