Upcoming Voter Referendum
On November 7, 2017, when Pennsylvania voters go to the polls for the General Election, they will be asked if they are in support of amending the state constitution to allow local taxing authorities, counties, municipalities, and school districts the ability to increase the homestead exemption from 50 percent of the median assessed value to 100 percent of the assessed value of the property. House Bill 1285 passed the General Assembly this summer and House Bill 147 in 2015, which is necessary to amend the constitution since a bill must win approval by the Legislature in two consecutive sessions before it can be presented to voters via referendum.
The current 50 percent homestead exemption is a constitutional amendment that was adopted in 1997. An example of how the exemption currently works is a municipality has three homesteads—one assessed at $50,000, one assessed at $100,000, and one assessed at $200,000. The median assessed value in that taxing jurisdiction is $100,000. At this time, the municipality may exempt up to 50 percent—in this case $50,000—of all homestead properties from taxation. So, the homestead assessed at $200,000, is taxed on $150,000 of its assessed value; while the homestead assessed at $50,000, is fully exempt from taxation by that jurisdiction.
If the constitutional amendment were approved and the local taxing authority decides to set the exemption to 100 percent, no homestead owner would have to pay property taxes. However, the local taxing authority would then need to replace that lost revenue by imposing another tax or raise the tax rates on something like the personal income tax (PIT) or sales tax. Millage rates is the only item prohibited from increasing on other real property to make up the difference. Enabling legislation by the General Assembly would then be required to allow the local taxing authorities to increase taxes and establish guidelines for local governments to follow.
It’s important to note that this law would only affect homesteads and farmsteads – one’s primary residence and the property upon which it is built – and not businesses or vacant property. Commercial properties are not a part of the potential reductions, and homeowners with multiple residences would be able to lower the assessment of only one of their properties.
The ballot question will appear as follows: “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?”
Pathways to Pardons
Tomorrow from 6 – 8 p.m., along with Lt. Governor Mike Stack, I will be hosting a Pathways to Pardons town hall event at the Teamsters Temple Local 249, located at 4701 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
This event is geared towards individuals who want to learn in more detail about our commonwealth’s pardoning process. Many individuals have made bad decisions in the past and have a misdemeanor or felony conviction on their record but have served their punishments, rehabilitated themselves, and as contributing members to their communities and society, are seeking a pardon. The Pathways to Pardons event will allow these individuals wishing to learn about pardons to engage with experts in attendance on the pardon process and what to expect as they seek a pardon.
If you are interested in the process, please click here to watch a short video that briefly explains the Pennsylvania Pardoning Process.
Talk to Your State Senator – Video Competition
I want to remind everyone of an initiative the Senate of Pennsylvania has organized to combat drug and alcohol addiction by encouraging middle and high school students to help find solutions to the growing heroin and opioid epidemic facing our commonwealth. “Talk To Your State Senator” is a statewide video competition sponsored by the Senate of Pennsylvania with support from the members of the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania (DASPOP). It is intended to get students involved in continued legislative efforts to fight heroin and opioid abuse.
The growing heroin and opioid epidemic is taking lives every day and does not discriminate. It affects communities all across Pennsylvania, and doesn’t care whether you’re rich, or poor, or somewhere in between. Having hosted two town halls in the spring on this subject I have seen firsthand what this epidemic is doing to families in the 42nd senatorial district.
Through December 10, students can submit a video, up to five minutes in length, explaining their approach to preventing teens from using drugs and alcohol. All entries must be submitted using the registration form available by clicking here or visiting www.acommonwealthcrisis.com and clicking on the “Video Competition” tab.
The video competition is available to Pennsylvania school students in grades 6-12, in public and private schools, and will be judged in two categories: middle school, grades 6-8, and high school, grades 9-12. Students will be divided into 50 regions, competing in their home address senatorial district. From the 50 semi-finalists in each category, one first, second and third place finalist will be selected. Students may enter individually or in a group of up to five students. The video submitted must address the issue of preventing teens from starting and using drugs, legal and illegal, including underage drinking.
DASPOP is providing $10,000 that will be divided into six monetary prizes. The prizes will be $2,500 for 1st, $1,500 for 2nd, and $1,000 for 3rd place in each of the two categories. Prize money will be awarded through the PA 529 College Savings Account Program and deposited into a college savings account in the winner(s) names.
The video competition is a creative way to educate young people on the dangers associated with using drugs while offering a chance to win prize money to help pay for a post-secondary education. More information on the video competition including guidelines on submitting videos, content, judging and prizes, can be found at www.acommonwealthcrisis.com, a website established by the Senate of Pennsylvania as a tool to provide information and resources on the heroin and opioid crisis. It includes information on the signs of addiction, how to get treatment, prevention, and much more.
All Senate offices will be closed next Monday, Oct. 9 in observance of Columbus Day. My offices will re-open on Tuesday, Oct. 10 as scheduled.
Voter Registration Deadline is October 10
The deadline to be registered to vote in the Nov. 7 General Election is next Tuesday, October 10. Anyone not registered can do so online at www.votespa.com. In addition to registering to vote, users can utilize the site to confirm registration status, update your registration, locate your polling place, or request an absentee ballot. You may also pick up paper applications in my district offices or download a paper application at www.votespa.com.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
The deadline to file for the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue 2016 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program runs through December 31. Rebate distribution began on July 1 for anyone who had their application processed before June 30. Through the end of 2017, rebates will be distributed as claims are reviewed and processed by the Department of Revenue.
If you need an application, or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, applications are available at www.revenue.pa.gov or at my district offices, and my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and over; widows and widowers age 50 and over; and people with disabilities age 18 and over. Homeowners with a maximum yearly income of $35,000 and renters with a maximum yearly income of $15,000 are eligible for a rebate. Keep in mind half of Social Security income is excluded. Some applicants who previously received rebates may continue to qualify despite Social Security cost-of-living adjustments that may have pushed their income past eligibility limits.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and I want to make everyone aware of the Pennsylvania Department of Health's Healthy Woman Program. This program offers free clinical breast exams, mammograms, and follow-up exams for qualifying women in Pennsylvania. Healthy Woman provides services to women between the ages of 40 and 64 who do not have health insurance, have limited health insurance, or have a gross family household income at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty guideline. To learn more about the Healthy Woman Program, please visit www.health.pa.gov and type “Healthy Woman Program” into the Search tab.
The Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition represents, supports and serves breast cancer survivors and their families in Pennsylvania through educational programming, legislative advocacy and breast cancer research grants. For more information about their programs and services please visit www.PABreastCancer.org or call 1-800-377-8828.
Did You Know…
Did you know that breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women but, when breast cancer is found at its earliest stage the five-year survival rate is 98.6%?
Fire Prevention Week
National Fire Prevention Week starts Sunday and runs through October 14. Firefighters and other fire prevention experts say to replace your smoke alarm within 10 years of the manufacturer date (which can be found on the alarm). Replace the carbon monoxide alarm within five years, or according to the manufacturers’ instructions. Smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom and outside each separate sleeping area. Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in a centralized location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home.
For more information on fire prevention and safety please visit http://www.nfpa.org/.
In Allegheny County, the arts support over 32,000 full-time equivalent jobs, generating roughly $115 million in taxes to the County. Four years ago, in 2013, 20,550 jobs were reported in the arts in Allegheny County, generating then $74 million in taxes.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol |
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
|Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library |
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212