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. This survey has run for several weeks 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.
The Senate State Government Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 3 (SB 3) on April 21st, which is the Medical Cannabis Act. Under this legislation, patients dealing with an array of mental and physical disorders, including children, would be allowed to use medical cannabis for treatment. Cannabis dispensers and growers would be created to distribute doctor-prescribed marijuana. The PA Department of Health would establish strict regulations and licensing fees for the distribution of the drug. Smoking would be banned under SB 3.
An amendment was offered in the committee which would exclude everyone but medical doctors and doctors of osteopathy from those who can prescribe the drug. A real-time monitoring system that tracks the product from cultivation through distribution to the patients was a part of the amendment as well as the expansion of the list of covered diseases to include HIV/AIDS and glaucoma. Lastly, patients would be able to administer the drug through nebulization under the amended version of SB 3.
The legislation now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for a vote.
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.
Did You Know…
Did you know that as many as 15 million Americans each year have their identities used fraudulently?
Friday - Deadline to Apply for LIHEAP
The Department of Human Services (DHS) is accepting applications for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) through this Friday, May 1st. The program helps low income families pay their heating bills. You can pick up an application in my district offices, or download one yourself from the DHS LIHEAP website. Completed paper applications should be returned to one of the Allegheny County Assistance Offices.
Funding for LIHEAP is provided by the federal government and eligibility is based on Federal Poverty Income Guidelines. The income limits for this season are as follows:
After your application is received, you will receive a written notice explaining your eligibility and the amount of assistance you will receive. Payments are generally sent directly to a utility company or fuel dealer and are credited to your account. For more information, please contact the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.
The Bellevue Initiative for Growth is hosting the 2015 Tour Bellevue on Saturday, May 9th from 1 – 5 p.m. The tour begins at the Bellevue United Presbyterian Church, located at 457 Lincoln Avenue. Attendees can discover beautiful, affordable homes, tour stately churches and ageless landmarks, and browse and dine in their vibrant shopping district. Tickets can be purchased online at www.Showclix.com or by visiting one of these locations in Bellevue: Bayne Library; Bellevue Business Center; Muddy Cup; or Good L’Oven. For more information please visit www.bigrbellevue.com.
Walk for a Healthy Community
The 2015 Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community is scheduled for May 16th, beginning at Stage AE on the North Shore. Walk registration begins at 7:45 a.m. with the 5K walk beginning at 9 a.m. and the one-mile fun walk starting at 9:15 a.m.
This year’s event is bringing together 75 non-profit organizations, including Focus on Renewal, and many other terrific organizations that reside in the 42nd Senatorial District and deliver vital health and human service programs in our community. You can view a list of all participating organizations by clicking here. There is no registration fee to participate in the walk but all walkers are encouraged to raise funds for the organization of their choice. Highmark underwrites the cost of the walk, so all money raised is donated to directly benefit the organization of your choice.
If you are interested in participating, please visit www.walkforahealthycommunity.org to get started. On the home page, click on the link “Pittsburgh” and then the “Register Now” tab which will allow you to select the organization you wish to support.
Coraopolis Youth Creations, Coroapolis Borough and Duquesne Light are building a playground and are in need of volunteers. Work on the new playground at Shelly Jones Memorial Park, located on 1001 First Avenue in Coraopolis is scheduled for Friday, May 15th from 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Volunteers age 18 and over are needed to assemble playground pieces, mix concrete, and move mulch. Anyone interested in volunteering should wear comfortable clothes and closed toe shoes. Gloves, goggles, and breakfast and lunch will be provided. For more information or to R.S.V.P. please contact Tiffany Huff at 412-589-3223 or Tiffany Battaglini at 412-999-6895 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Open Your Heart to a Senior
Open Your Heart to a Senior (OYHS), an initiative the United Way of Allegheny County with lead partners, Family Services of Western Pennsylvania and North Hills Community Outreach, is in need of volunteers. OYHS will be hosting upcoming Volunteer Information and Orientation Sessions around Allegheny County, including sessions in Brookline and Lawrenceville. The Brookline session is scheduled for May 12th at the Carnegie Library, located at 708 Brookline Boulevard and the Lawrenceville session will take place on May 14th at the Carnegie Library, located at 279 Fisk Street.
Volunteers are needed to help seniors remain independent and stay safe in their homes. Volunteers can deliver meals, take seniors to appointments or the grocery store, help at senior centers and much more. There is also a need for volunteers to assist with light yard work, including planting flowers, clearing yard debris and mowing lawns.
To learn more about these volunteer opportunities please email Allegheny@openyourhearttoasenior.org or visit www.oyhs.org.
Reserve Township which now rests in the 42nd Senatorial District was founded October 1, 1835. The township's name was derived from its origin as part of the Depreciation Lands settlement. It was part of the 3,000 acres north of the Allegheny and Ohio rivers that Pennsylvania set aside or "reserved" for settlement by Revolutionary War veterans. Reserve Township is two square miles with a population of roughly 3,800.
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