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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

 

Property Tax Elimination Legislation

Property TaxEvery year, more than $10 billion is collected in school property taxes in Pennsylvania.  However, the state has been unsuccessful in waging the property tax debate for decades.  One thing most people can agree on is that something needs to be done to eliminate the current outdated, archaic and unfair system that Commonwealth uses. 

Last year, over 117,000 reassessment appeals were filed by property owners in Allegheny County which overloaded the appeals system and created a backlog.  Although the appeals filed in 2013 have been nowhere near the numbers of last year, citizens continue to demand a change.  In addition, a court ordered reassessment has revealed that the current process is subjective, confusing, and amounts to a very costly mandate. 

Allegheny County’s government is a unique institution because we have what is known as a “Home Rule Charter.”  This was established through a May 1998 referendum that grants the voters of Allegheny County the ability to control the structure and operations of the county government through the voting process.  After years of debating the various options, I have determined that the best option for the assessment situation is to apply the Home Rule Charter if our local government cannot determine a long-term solution.  

I have once again introduced Senate Bill 418 (SB 418) which would authorize Allegheny County Council to eliminate property assessments through an ordinance.  An ordinance of this manner will prohibit Allegheny County as well as any political subdivision, like municipalities or schools districts, within the county from imposing a property tax.  If County Council does not adopt the ordinance because they do not want to cast a vote or because they lack a majority vote, the County Council, or the voters of Allegheny County, will have the ability to propose the ordinance through a public referendum. 

If Allegheny County Council or a voter referendum elects to eliminate a property tax, revenue for the county, municipality and school services received under a property tax must be funded through others means.  SB 418 addresses this issue through granting the county, and each municipality and school district the ability to collect an earned income tax, personal income tax, sales tax, fee per square foot on real property or any other tax authorized under the Local Tax Enabling Act, or combination of to make up this lost revenue. 

I have put mechanisms in my legislation to prevent the municipalities from implementing drastic tax increases for these services rendered.  The governing bodies of the municipalities will be prohibited from increasing the tax to raise no more than the amount of revenue collected from the property taxes in the year in which the prohibition was imposed.  In the future, increases in the rate of any tax or fee would require a majority vote by the governing body. 

Many bills have been introduced in Harrisburg that would eliminate property taxes through various means and I am a co-sponsor to several of these pieces of legislation.  However, the residents of Allegheny County, myself included, are growing impatient with the lack of movement of real property tax reform. 
I represent the people of Allegheny County and I believe in the Home Rule Charter. SB 418 gives residents the opportunity to allow their voices to be heard through a referendum.  This measure will also provide the vehicle necessary to grant each municipality a say in how they are governed and the flexibility needed for the local government and school districts to work together to find a solution to address the seriousness of the property tax issue within the County until other legislation can pass statewide.

FontanaFest 2013 FontanaFest!

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped make the 9th Annual FontanaFest such a rousing success!  I appreciate all those who came out to enjoy the beautiful day, celebrating our rivers and riverfronts and visiting with all the great organizations that participated.

Without the support of our sponsors, FontanaFest would not be possible.  Thanks to the following organizations:

Duquesne Light
Point Park University
Steamfitters Local Union #449
Bayer
Highmark & Allegheny Health Network
Equitable Gas
Chester Engineers
Columbia Gas
Comcast
Pittsburgh Plumbers Local #27
United States Steel Corporation

FontanaFest 2013I want to thank the organizations that sponsored booths, participated, and donated services.  Your participation helps make FontanaFest such an attraction for families and children.

I also want to thank all the volunteers for giving their time and for their hard work before, during and after the event.  Many thanks to my colleagues and the elected officials who were able to visit, including:  Senators Jay Costa and Matt Smith; Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; State Representatives Erin Molchany, Ed Gainey, Dan Miller, Harry Readshaw and Dan Deasy; City Council Members Natalia Rudiak, Corey O’Connor and Bruce Kraus; City Controller Michael Lamb; Dan Gilman from Councilman Bill Peduto’s office; Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judges Paul Cozza (who was behind the grill cooking!) and Jack McVay; and former congressman Mark Critz.

Check out the photo gallery to view pictures from this year’s FontanaFest!  If you didn’t make it this year, watch for the announcement of the date for the 10th Annual FontanaFest after the first of the year.

Small Business Grants – Deadline Extended

DEPIn the August 27th edition of my News & Views, I shared the news that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was accepting applications for their Small Business Advantage Grant through September 6th.  Last week, the DEP announced that the deadline for Pennsylvania small-business owners to apply for the grant has been extended to October 8th.

The Small Business Advantage Grant program provides 50 percent matching funds up to $9,500 for projects that adopt or acquire energy efficient or pollution prevention equipment or procedures.  Applicants must be a for-profit corporation, limited liability corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship or other legal entity with 100 or fewer full-time employees.  Projects must be located in Pennsylvania, be owned by the applicant, and save the business at least 25 percent plus $500 in annual energy consumption or in pollution handling or prevention related expenses.

Eligible projects include HVAC and boiler upgrades, high-efficiency lighting, solvent recovery systems, waste recycling systems and auxiliary power units deployed as anti-idling technology for trucks.  Applications must be mailed to the DEP’s Grant Center at:

            P.O. Box 8776
            Harrisburg, PA  17105-8776

For more information on the Small Business Advantage Grant and to view the application package, instructions and application form, please visit www.dep.state.pa.us and click on the “Small Business Advantage Grant” tab.  For additional questions, please contact the Small Business Ombudsman’s Office at 717-772-8909 or epadvantagegrant@pa.gov

PA Power Switch

PA Power SwitchThe Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is reminding consumers shopping for electricity to be aware of expiring electric supplier contracts and the associated terms and conditions.  Price changes that may occur with contract expirations can be avoided by reviewing your agreement periodically and shopping for other options.  One way to do this is by utilizing a PUC website, www.PAPowerSwitch.com, which allows consumers to view other electric supply options that may be available in certain areas.  Consumers who are locked into electric generation prices for a specific time frame may experience price changes once fixed-term contracts expire.  Once these contracts expire, consumers often remain with the supplier on a month-to-month basis at variable prices.  It is important to know that consumers in this situation are free to shop for alternatives.  If you have not done so, I encourage you to visit www.PAPowerSwitch.com to see what alternatives may be available.  If you have questions or concerns about your electric bill and what alternatives may be available, please contact the PUC at 1-800-692-7380.

Medicare Open Enrollment Forum

The Pennsylvania State Health Insurance Assistance Program (APPRISE) is hosting a Lunch and Learn to provide information on the Medicare Open Enrollment period.  The event is scheduled for October 10th from 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Allegheny County Human Service Building, located at 1 Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh.

The Lunch and Learn will review Medicare Part C and Part D plan changes for the 2013 Annual Enrollment Period (for the 2014 plan year).  In addition to APPRISE staff, representatives from the various insurance companies that provide Medigaps, Part C Advantage plans, and Part D plans for Allegheny County will be present to discuss the changes to the plans for 2014 and answer questions from those in attendance.

If you are interested in attending, please email your RSVP to mckendreew@fswp.org by September 30th.

Flu/Pneumonia Shots & Senior Clinic

Flu ShotI am hosting a Flu/Pneumonia Shot & Senior Clinic on Friday, September 27th from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. in Quinn Hall at the Church of the Resurrection in Brookline.  American HealthCare Group will be providing the free vaccinations to any senior with the Medicare Part B health insurance card.  Make sure you bring your card with you.

All attendees can also receive a free blood pressure screening and have their blood sugar tested compliments of Primary Care Health Services and will have an opportunity to speak with a pharmacist from Duquesne University’s Mylan School of Pharmacy and “Ask the Pharmacist” questions about medications.  Several other organizations will be in attendance including:  Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; PA APPRISE; PA Office of the Consumer Advocate; LifeSpan; AARP; and the Allegheny County Department of Human Services – all providing seniors with important information on available services and resources.  Light refreshments will be also provided.  I look forward to seeing you there!

Did You Know…

Did you know manufacturers expect to produce between 135 million and 139 million influenza vaccines for use in the United States during the 2013-2014 influenza season?

ShreddingShredding Event

Together with Representatives Dan Miller and Dan Deasy, we are hosting a Shredding Event on Saturday, September 28th from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Green Tree Park’s lower parking lot, located at 895 Greentree Road.  With consumer fraud and identity theft becoming an epidemic in our communities, we are hosting this event not only to raise awareness and promote prevention but also to provide individuals the opportunity to have unneeded, confidential documents destroyed, free of charge.  You may bring documents that contain personal information such as social security numbers, credit cards numbers and bank account numbers.  We will also accept CD’s, credit cards, video tapes and floppy disks.

Strip District World FestivalStrip District World Festival

The Strip District World Festival is scheduled for Saturday, September 14th and Sunday, September 15th from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. each day.  The family-focused festival will feature music, food and crafts and is being held on Penn Avenue in the Strip, between 22nd and 25th Streets.  To view a schedule of entertainers, participants and sponsors, please visit www.stripdistrictworldfestival.com.

Oktoberfest Heidelberg Oktoberfest

Heidelberg Borough is hosting their annual Oktoberfest on Saturday, September 28th from 1 – 8 p.m. at Heidelberg Park (corner of Jackson Street and Industry Way).  The day features several musical performances, children’s games, hay rides, craft vendors, a petting zoo, and much more.  German and American foods will be sold along with Paulaner Oktoberfest beer and a fireworks display will cap off the day at 8 p.m.

Additional craft and food vendors are wanted for the event.  For more information, please contact the Borough Manager at 412-276-0363 or visit the Borough's website.

Brookline Business Feature

This week’s featured Brookline business is Armond’s Frame Shop, located at 962 Brookline Boulevard.  Armond’s offers custom framing services on anything to photographs and posters to jerseys and offers shadow boxes.  They have operated the business along the Boulevard for five years.  Armond’s is open Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.  To learn more about their services, please call 412-341-7134.  Please continue to support local merchants during the Brookline Boulevard Streetscape Project and remember:

Brookline is Open for Business!

Fontana Fact

Pittsburgh PiratesBy winning their 82nd game of the season last night, the Pittsburgh Pirates ensured they would have a winning season for the first time since the 1992 season. Of course, the Pirates are not finished winning just yet, but by posting 82 wins this year, the Pirates have ended the longest consecutive streak for losing seasons in North American professional sports. This is also the first time since 2001-2003 that the Pirates have increased their win total in three consecutive seasons. The Pirates are currently 82-61 and are seeking their first division title and playoff appearance since 1992.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

  Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Fax: 412-344-3400
Harrisburg
543 Main Capitol
Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plz.
524 Pine Hollow Rd
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Fax: 412-331-2079
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Phone: 412-343-2080
Fax: 412-343-2418
PA Power Switch Pittsburgh Pirates Strip District DEP