Reassessments, Information on Appeals
Last week, under a court order, Allegheny County’s Office of Property Assessments mailed new property tax values to property owners in the city of Pittsburgh and Mt. Oliver. Allowing court-ordered reassessments to occur while neighboring counties have gone 30 to 40 years without a reassessment is unfair, burdensome and bad policy. When the General Assembly reconvenes later this month in Harrisburg, I will again be calling on Senate leadership to move Senate Bill 1280 (SB 1280) for a vote. The bill provides for a temporary moratorium on all court-ordered reassessments until such time that the General Assembly acts to create a uniform, statewide system.
Property owners who received notice from the County’s Office of Property Assessments and believe that their property is over-assessed have an opportunity to request an informal hearing as well as filing a formal appeal. Property owners in the city of Pittsburgh and Mt. Oliver have until January 13th to request an informal hearing. You can schedule an informal hearing by calling 412-350-4600 or visiting http://apps.alleghenycounty.us/InformalReviews. If you schedule a time and need to change it for any reason, you are able to postpone once by calling the above number at least three days in advance of your scheduled time. If your notice contains inaccurate information about your property such as square footage or the number of rooms in your house, you should consider requesting an informal hearing.
You also may schedule a formal appeal no later than February 10th by calling 412-350-4600 or by visiting www.alleghenycounty.us/opa/aforms.aspx to print out an appeal request form. Those forms must be filled out in their entirety and submitted no later than February 10th to the County Office Building, 542 Forbes Avenue, Third Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. To read more about the 2012 Court Ordered Reassessment, you can visit the 2012 Court Ordered Reassessment page on the County's website.
If you need assistance with the appeal process, including the filing of an appeal, please contact one of my district offices, and my staff will be happy to help you. My staff can assist you in requesting an informal hearing and can provide you with the official appeal request form document as well. We will also assist and provide you with eligibility requirements and the necessary forms if you have not filed for the Homestead Exclusion, a program that reduces your market value by $15,000 for county taxes and if you are a senior citizen living in the city of Pittsburgh, the Act 77 Property Tax Relief Application. Please know that my office is ready, willing and able to assist you in an effort to reduce the incredible burden this reassessment has placed upon you.
Earned Income Tax Credit
As tax season approaches, I want to remind workers they may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). In addition to introducing Senate Bill 1347 (SB 1347) that would require employers to notify employees of their potential eligibility for the EITC, I have also reached out to employers to ask that they share this information with employees voluntarily. I am grateful for the assistance of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in getting the word out through the publication of my Letter to the Editor. If you want to learn more about the EITC eligibility requirements and where to get free tax help, visit www.pghfreetaxes.org.
Changes to Junior Driver Laws
Last week, a new state law providing for passenger restrictions and additional training hours for junior drivers took effect. Act 81 amends the Vehicle Code by adding 15 hours of supervised, behind-the-wheel training for permit holders under the age of 18. Junior drivers will now need to complete 10 hours of training at night and five hours during inclement weather, bringing the total hours of training to 65 hours, up from 50 hours. Individuals holding learning permits who have not yet passed their driving test will be required to meet the new training standards.
Act 81 also prohibits junior drivers from driving with more than one passenger under the age of 18 who is not a member of the driver’s immediate family, unless the junior driver is accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. After six months, a junior driver is prohibited from driving with more than three passengers under the age of 18 who are not immediate family members unless the junior driver is accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. The new law also requires junior drivers and their passengers to wear a seat belt and makes not wearing a seat belt a primary offense, meaning law enforcement can stop and cite junior drivers solely for that violation.
2012 SBDC Outreach Schedule
Continuing my partnership with the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center (SBDC), I am pleased to announce the schedule for this year’s SBDC Outreach Days. This partnership allows small business owners to get assistance at my Kennedy Township Office on a monthly basis.
Client Services Liaison John Dobransky will be available in the Kennedy Office (Kenmawr Plaza) on the dates listed above between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Although not required, appointments are encouraged – to schedule one, contact John at 412-624-2290. The service provides small business owners with the education, information and tools they need to build their businesses as well as for those considering starting their own business. Consultations are one-on-one, free and confidential.
Small businesses are an essential piece of our economic recovery. I encourage you to take advantage of this resource.
Persian Gulf Veterans State Bonus
There are approximately 20,000 Pennsylvania military veterans still eligible to apply for a bonus recognizing their service in the Persian Gulf in 1990-91. The state-run bonus program pays $75 per month for qualifying, active-duty service members, up to a maximum of $525. The bonus is calculated based on months of service. An additional $5,000 is available to family members of military personnel who died due to illness or injury received in the line of duty during the conflict. Service members who were declared prisoners of war may also be eligible for an additional $5,000.
The deadline to apply for the benefit program is August 31, 2015. For eligibility and information on how to apply, visit the state’s Persian Gulf Bonus website. You can also visit any one of my district offices for more information.
Did You Know…
Did you know that more than 9,800 Persian Gulf veterans have applied for the cash bonus program since the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs began accepting applications?
2012 Pittsburgh National College Fair
The 2012 Pittsburgh National College Fair is taking place February 8-9, 2012 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. You can register online and avoid standing in registration lines the day of the event. The fair is free, and is expected to attract some 20,000 people and feature more than 200 colleges and universities.
College fairs such as the Pittsburgh National College Fair provide an excellent opportunity for students and their parents to speak with representatives from a variety of institutions. Preparing for the event beforehand will help you get the most out of your experience. Here are some tips from PHEAA to keep in mind when planning to attend a college fair:
- When you arrive, identify the schools you are most interested in attending and investigate them first;
- Ask questions and take notes;
- Add your name to mailing lists and bring adhesive address labels;
- Make sure you have a shopping bag to easily carry brochures and other materials; and
- Ask about ways to pay for higher education (if the college representative can’t answer your questions, look for a Pennsylvania School Services Higher Education Access Partner).
In addition to school exhibits, several college preparation workshops will be held both days. For more information on the event and the workshops, visit the Pittsburgh National College Fair website.
Free Lunches for Senior Citizens
City of Pittsburgh Senior Community Centers will continue to provide free lunches to senior citizens in 2012, Monday through Friday. The nutritious meals are provided to those ages 60 and over at 15 centers throughout the city. Participants are asked to pre-register by noon the day before going to the center for a meal. Lunches are usually served at noon, but seniors should contact their local center directly for more information. You can view January’s meal schedule, and get a listing of all 15 centers, by visiting the Citiparks’ Healthy Active Living website. You may also call the information line at 412-422-6401.
CLPGH Baby and Me Programs
Parents or caregivers and their children can take part in a program at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLPGH) designed to help with early learning skills and development. “Baby and Me” programs are held throughout the week at the main library and library branches, lasting about 20-30 minutes each. The programs expose children to language, books and playful activities in a positive and supportive atmosphere. Activities involve singing, clapping and listening to nursery rhymes and stories.
You can view upcoming Baby and Me Programs and activities by visiting the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh website. Child care providers who are interested in scheduling programs at their site or at the library should contact their local Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Children’s Librarian for more information.
Safe Winter Driving Tips
With the winter weather season upon us, you will surely see PennDOT vehicles on the roadways clearing snow and ice to make your commute safer. For your safety and the safety of others, remain alert and make sure you take extra precautions when driving near a snowplow. PennDOT offers these tips when encountering a plow truck:
- Stay at least six car lengths behind an operating plow and remember that the main plow is wider than the truck.
- Move as far away from the centerline of the road as is safely possible when approaching a snowplow head-on, and remember that snow spray can obscure the actual snowplow width.
- Never try to pass or get between several trucks plowing side by side in a "plow train." The weight of the snow thrown from the plow can quickly cause smaller vehicles to lose control, creating a hazard for all nearby vehicles.
- Never travel next to a snowplow since there are blind spots where the operator can't see. Also, plow trucks can occasionally be moved sideways when hitting drifts or cutting through heavy snowpack.
- Remember to keep your lights on when driving near snowplows to help the operator better see your vehicle. Please remember that under Pennsylvania state law, vehicle lights must be turned on every time a vehicle's wipers are on due to inclement weather.
The Borough of Thornburg was created as a suburban residential development. In the late 1800’s, cousins Frank and David Thornburg formed a company to develop 250 acres of land into a community. The borough was officially incorporated in 1909 and one year later Thornburg’s first school was constructed.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana