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Property Assessment Statewide Moratorium

Those of us in Allegheny County have struggled with the property assessment issue and its impact on local property taxes for over a decade, when a court-ordered reassessment was first ordered as a result of the Wentworth Miller case. We know that the assessment system is fragmented and in need of reform, that there is little uniformity between counties, and that the current system provides little protection for homeowners who often see devastating tax increases.

I have co-sponsored and supported a variety of bills since my election to the Senate to try to address this issue. While legislators in Western Pennsylvania recognize the issue in our region, legislators in other areas of the Commonwealth do not have those same issues and so the bills have sat. In some areas, the property tax is an acceptable form of taxation to support the local schools and local government. The legislators representing those areas do not want to change the system – and that is where the problem comes in. They are afraid to advocate for a new property tax assessment system because the perception is that property taxes will go up. They will in some cases, but they will also go down in other cases. The idea is to make it fair and equitable by making sure that everyone pays their fair share based on the accurate value of their property. That’s why there have been law suits and court orders to try to accomplish a fair and equitable property tax system in some counties including Allegheny County.

I favored a statewide moratorium because I believe that Allegheny County should not be treated any differently than the rest of the state. If Allegheny County is going to be court-ordered to have a reassessment, then the entire state should also be court-ordered to do the same. I also supported a Senate authorized study of Pennsylvania’s property tax system. That study is complete and has recommendations on how the state can reform the property tax system; however, no reform legislation has resulted from that study so far. I am not sure if any true reform will ever happen in regards to reassessments. Maybe the only real solution is to shift funding of our schools away from property taxes to a local income tax.

While the recent moratorium legislation was not a success for either Allegheny County, or Washington County, it does show that more members of the General Assembly are beginning to pay attention to this issue. Now is the time to continue pressing for action to reform the state property assessment system. Whether legislation that provides for a statewide moratorium that applies to all counties is the appropriate vehicle is certainly open for discussion. Addressing the local school tax solely is another option. We have numerous studies and reports that provide significant, all-encompassing recommendations on how we can improve this system for taxpayers and it’s time that we acted on them.

Fresh, Local Produce Available all Summer

More than 120 farmers markets are open across the region and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has created an interactive map on its website so you can easily locate them. Farmers Farm to Table Pittsburgh markets are great community assets that enable people to purchase fresh produce while supporting local farmers. By clicking on each market location you can also view schedules and other information. The list will be updated throughout the summer.

In addition, the Farmers Market on Wheels program is making it easy for seniors to buy local produce. The program is sponsored by Farm to Table Pittsburgh and brings local foods to senior centers, senior residences and other community groups. To find out more about Farmers Market on Wheels, contact Farm to Table at 412-657-3028.

Purchasing food from farmers markets is just one way you can eat healthy all summer long. As I mentioned in my e-news two weeks ago, Food Bank sponsored Farm Stands are also open to the public. Farmers markets are different from farm stands in that the Food Bank goes directly to the farmers to purchase produce and then deliver it to the farm stands, which are set up in various neighborhoods. The Food Bank complements the produce with nutrition education.

Did You Know…

Did you know that Pittsburgh has more farmers markets and community gardens per capita than any other metropolitan area? This is further proof that farmers markets are a well established part of Pittsburgh culture and tradition.

Foreclosure Assistance

Pennsylvania has been approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to receive $105 million to aid homeowners facing foreclosure through the Emergency Homeowners' Loan Program, or EHLP. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) is administering the program in Pennsylvania. Funding will only be available for a limited time. For more information and referrals to local housing counseling agencies, PA residents should call 2-1-1.

Pennsylvania Fresh Salsa Benefits Charity

Pennsylvania Fresh SalsaBy making a minimum donation of $25 to the food bank of your choice, you can receive a jar of Pennsylvania Fresh Salsa. A total of 1,400 jars of salsa have been produced from the Capitol Hunger Garden in Harrisburg. A variety of vegetables are grown in the garden with the help of volunteers. These fresh ingredients are used to make the salsa, which you can get by making a donation on the Capitol Hunger Garden website. All of the proceeds go directly to Pennsylvania food banks. I am proud to be a member of the Pennsylvania Legislative Hunger Caucus which established the garden last year as a symbol of our commitment to fighting hunger in Pennsylvania. Even though you must donate at least $25 to get a jar of salsa, any donation is appreciated as every dollar will go a long way toward helping food banks fulfill their mission of helping the vulnerable and underserved.

Around the District

With so many activities going on in the district, I have decided to add this new feature to the weekly News & Views. If you have an event that you’d like to have highlighted, please e-mail the details.

Wednesday, July 13th

Green Tree Library is hosting Book Babies Storytime beginning at 10:30 a.m. in the Sycamore Room of the Municipal Building.

Thursday, July 14th

It’s Bellevue’s Sidewalk Sales Days – today through July 16th, visit the businesses along Lincoln Avenue and leave with some bargains!

Beechview’s Farmers Market is open today from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the lot at the corner of Beechview & Broadway Avenues.

Green Tree’s Farmers Market will be open from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Green Tree Park, Lower Level.

Friday, July 15th

Dormont’s Senior Fest Picnic is being held from 5-9 p.m. at the Dormont Recreation Center. Tickets are available by calling 412-343-6050.

It’s Family Night in Heidelberg! Join the Heidelberg Recreation Committee at the park beginning at 7:00 p.m. for a fun-filled evening that has something for everyone – including music, games and food!

Saturday, July 16th

Pennsylvania Resources Council's (PRC) Hard to Recycle collection is taking place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Brashear High School (590 Crane Avenue, Pittsburgh 15216). The event includes FREE recycling of televisions, computer monitors, laptops, CPUs, keyboards and mice, cell phones, ink and toner cartridges and CFLs. The e waste is recycled by eLoop, llc., a local electronics recycler. eLoop, llc., is a certified BAN e steward. Batteries and tires without rims will be accepted for a fee (.70 cents per pound for batteries and $2 per tire). Construction Junction, Global Links and Off the Floor Pittsburgh will be at the collection to accept certain items for reuse.

The John A. Hermann Jr. Memorial Art Museum in Bellevue is open today from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Join Scott Township for Movies in the Park! Tangled is the featured movie – which begins at 8:30 p.m.

Fontana Fact

Pittsburgh Parks ConservancyThe Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is celebrating its 15th birthday this year. The Conservancy was founded in 1996 by a group of citizens concerned with the condition of Pittsburgh’s parks. During its 15 year history, the Conservancy has raised more than $50 million toward park improvements.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy