Senator Fontana spoke on April 15th at a Preview Party for the new
Market Square Grocery Store that is soon opening in downtown Pittsburgh.
Reader Survey on Property Tax Reform
Pennsylvania’s current system of funding public education is in great need of reform. As you know, the issue of rising property taxes has a direct correlation to public school funding. Increasing school property taxes have been at the forefront of concern for Pennsylvanians for at least four decades.
As far back as the early 1970’s, the Pennsylvania Lottery was created to provide property tax rebates to lower-income seniors. Since its inception, older Pennsylvanians and adults with disabilities have received around $5.8 billion in property tax and rent rebates from the Lottery. More recently, Act 71 of 2004 was passed to legalize slot machine gaming and earmark those revenues for property tax relief. In 2014 alone, $779 million was available for property tax relief statewide from this pot of money, with the average homeowner seeing about $187 in property tax relief, capped at $641 for families residing in areas with higher poverty levels and taxes.
But there is still much work to do. To that end, there have been proposals in the General Assembly targeted at providing property tax relief, as well as Governor Wolf’s most recent plan aimed at reform.
A part of Governor Wolf’s budget proposal includes a $3.8 billion school property tax reduction resulting in homeowners’ property taxes being cut in half equaling about $1,000 in relief. Nearly 30 percent of senior households — 270,000 in total — would have their school property taxes eliminated altogether under the governor’s plan. In addition, renters who have a household income of $50,000 or less would receive a rent rebate capped at $500.
Easing school property taxes under the governor’s plan would be achieved in part by raising the Personal Income Tax from 3.07 percent to 3.70 percent on July 15 and the sales tax from 6 percent to 6.6 percent in 2016. The sales tax would also be extended to 45 additional categories of products or services that are currently exempt.
Furthermore, Governor Wolf also proposes lowering a cap on unreserved fund balances for school districts seeking to raise property taxes. School districts currently are not allowed to increase property taxes if they have unassigned fund balances beyond the range of 8 percent to 12 percent of their total budgets. The governor’s plan would reduce that cap to 4 percent.
Another proposal that will be reintroduced from last session (formerly Senate Bill 76 and House Bill 76) known as the Property Tax Independence Act would eliminate school property taxes altogether by increasing the state's personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent; increasing the state's sales and use tax from 6 percent to 7 percent (8 percent in Allegheny County) and by expanding the sales tax base to cover more goods and services similar to the governor’s plan.
Senate Bill 76 would limit increases in school budgets to the rate of inflation. While it would stop school boards from raising taxes at will, it would allow them to impose an earned income tax or personal income tax for major projects that would be subject to a no-exception taxpayer referendum.
Understanding that these ambitious proposals require an overhaul of our current school funding system, I would appreciate hearing the opinions of our subscribers on how to best approach this matter. Please take a few moments to complete the following survey on property tax reform issues. The survey will continue to run through April and I will consider the results as we deliberate this issue in the coming months.
Thank you for your insight and for your direct participation in state government matters.
Click here to take survey.
Upcoming Shredding Events
I want to alert everyone to two upcoming shredding events. On Saturday, May 9th together with Representative Dan Deasy, we are hosting a shredding event in the lower parking lot at St. Pamphilus Church in Beechview from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Then on Saturday, May 16th, along with Rep. Deasy and Green Tree Borough, we are hosting a shredding event in Green Tree Park from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
With consumer fraud and identity theft on the rise, we are hosting these events 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 card numbers and bank account numbers. Credit cards, CDs and floppy disks will also be accepted.
Please note that at this year’s events, shredding will not occur on site, rather belongings can be dropped off where they will be securely loaded onto a truck and will be shredded by a reputable and bonded company.
Table Games Revenue
Last week, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced that revenue from table games play in March was $69.7 million. That figure represents the highest single month of revenue from table games to date. Over $10 million in tax revenue was produced from table games play in March. The total revenue of $69.7 million represented a 2.7 percent increase from March of 2014. Combined with slot machines, total gaming revenue in March was over $277 million.
Table games are taxed at 14 percent with revenue directed into the state’s General Fund (12 percent) and local governments (2 percent). Slot machines are taxed at 55 percent in Pennsylvania and directed as follows: 34 percent for property tax reduction; 12 percent supporting the horse racing industry; five percent is placed in a state economic development fund; and two percent goes to local governments that host casinos.
The state’s gaming industry employs over 17,700 people and generates an average of $3.7 million per day in tax revenue from table games and slot machines. For more information on gaming in Pennsylvania and to read reports from the Gaming Control Board, please visit them online at www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
With April being National Safe Digging Month, I want to remind anyone doing any kind of digging this Spring to call before you dig. Everyone in Pennsylvania who dials 8-1-1 three business days before digging is connected to the Pennsylvania One Call System. This is a non-profit Pennsylvania corporation created to protect underground facilities before anyone begins to disturb the earth. Customer service representatives take calls from individuals prior to digging and alert underground facility owners and utility companies so they can mark where their lines are located.
This simple process will help prevent injuries, property damages and inconvenient outages. For more information on the PA One Call System please visit them online at www.pa811.org.
Did You Know…
Did you know that approximately 200,000 damages occur each year in the United States to underground utilities by excavators?
On April 7th, the Allegheny County League of Municipalities (ALOM) along with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that 42 municipalities were selected as 2015 Banner Communities. The selection as a Banner Community indicates that these municipalities implement best practices in all aspects of their operations and that govern in an inclusive, collaborative manner. The Banner Community program was first introduced in 2013.
I’m proud of the following municipalities from the 42nd Senatorial District on being selected Banner Communities: Reserve Township (3rd straight year); Castle Shannon Borough (2nd straight year); Heidelberg Borough (2nd straight year); Scott Township (2nd straight year); Sharpsburg Borough (2nd straight year); Avalon Borough (1st year); and Green Tree Borough (1st year).
In order to be eligible for consideration for the Banner Communities program, the municipality’s elected and appointed officials must meet certain criteria such as participating in educational programs, being active members and in good standing with ALOM, being active COG members, conducting a local government week activity, conducting effective citizen communications programs, and implementing long-term sustainable governing practices.
Learn & Earn – Summer Youth Employment Program
Last week Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh and Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board (TRWIB) announced the Summer Youth Employment Initiative, Learn and Earn. This program attempts to match youth with summer jobs that match their skills in an effort to learn while earning money during the summer. All Allegheny County residents who will be at least 14, and no older than 21, as of June 29, 2015 can apply. The application period ends on April 30th.
The summer jobs/internships will be concentrated in 14 career tracks based on the growing or trending occupations in the Pittsburgh area: customer service; education; community development (government and non-profit); health care; human services; information technology; insurance; park management; public works; recreation; public safety; labor/trades; financial/banking; and marketing. The daily worksite tasks will vary based upon the youth’s selected career track and tier placement.
Applications must be submitted in person to one of the following locations by 6 p.m. on April 30th. The hours at these locations are Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and April 25th from 10 a.m. -1 p.m. Applications can be downloaded by visiting www.TRwib.org, www.alleghenycounty.us or http://pittsburghpa.gov/personnel/pittsburghpartnership.
Goodwill of SWPA-South Side
2400 East Carson Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
West End Works
825 Lorenz Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15220
2305 Bedford Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
1101 Hartman Street
McKeesport, PA 15132
Goodwill Retail Operations Center
294 Lincoln Highway
North Versailles, PA 15137
401 Wood Street, Suite 1500
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Eastside Neighborhood Employment Center
5321 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
Northside Coalition for Fair Housing
1821 Brighton Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Allegheny County DHS (no Saturdays)
1 Smithfield Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Focus on Renewal (no Saturdays)
701 Chartiers Avenue
McKees Rocks, PA 15136
412-331-1685, ext. 261
807 Wallace Avenue
Wilkinsburg, PA 15221
McKees Rocks Historical Society Window Display
The McKees Rocks Historical Society was founded in 2007 to encourage community interest in the history of the area by collecting, preserving, exhibiting, and interpreting the past to people of all ages. Last fall, the Historical Society lost their window space in McKees Rocks and since then the Historical Society has been utilizing window space in my Kennedy Township office, located in Kenmawr Plaza on Pine Hollow Road.
Currently, the Historical Society is featuring an assortment of photographs taken during the 1936 flood. These photos will remain until May when a new subject will be featured.
If you’re interested in learning more about the McKees Rocks Historical Society or in becoming a member, please contact Sandy Saban by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and type the phrase “Historical Society” in the subject line. You may also visit the Historical Society online by viewing their Facebook page.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, with over 12,000 volunteers will plant more than 200,000 flowers in places large and small throughout our region this spring. Founded in 1932, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy over the years has protected more than 235,000 acres of natural lands in Pennsylvania, helped to establish ten state parks, and protected or restored more than 3,000 miles of rivers and streams.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216