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 run over the next 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.
Importance of Afterschool Programs
Last week I was proud to co-host an Afterschool Bus Crawl that highlighted the importance of afterschool programs and the terrific work being done in our region. Allegheny County has some of the best afterschool programs in the country and attendees were given a unique and up close perspective on some of the programs available to children and families.
Afterschool programs are not babysitting kids; rather they provide additional learning opportunities and learning support for children. These programs provide fun, recreational programs where kids have the opportunity to stay healthy and fit, and explore cultural activities they never knew existed. They also provide a safe and welcoming place for kids and open doors to their future.
I was pleased to be joined on the tour by elected officials from both parties, at all levels of government. Our tour started at Sarah Heinz House on the Northside where high school students from the Youth Works Program in Lawrenceville visited and a discussion ensued on job training and preparing them for the workplace. We then boarded a school bus and went to Milliones/University Prep in the Hill District where we observed the Neighborhood Alliance’s GLO Program and Higher Achievement’s middle school program. Upon the return trip to Sarah Heinz House we were greeted by elementary school children, who showed us their favorite after school activities.
Thank you to all the participating organizations including the Sarah Heinz House, Allies for Children, Neighborhood Learning Alliance, Higher Achievement, United Way Allegheny County, Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time (APOST), and the Afterschool Alliance and for all the work you do on behalf of children. These organizations are great resources for parents interested in learning more or potentially enrolling their child in an afterschool program. If you’re interested in looking for an afterschool program, please visit www.afterschoolpgh.org for a comprehensive listing of programs.
Did You Know…
Did you know that in Pennsylvania, 17 percent of K-12 students participate in afterschool programs? In Allegheny County that number is 28 percent. In Pennsylvania 50 percent of kids not currently enrolled in afterschool programs would participate if a program was available in their community and in Allegheny County that figure is 70 percent.
Reminder! - Office Locations/Hours
I want to remind everyone that earlier this year I expanded my locations by adding mobile offices in the Strip District and on Pittsburgh’s Northside. Below is an updated listing of my office locations and hours:
932 Brookline Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone – 412-344-2551
Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Beechview (satellite office)
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Phone – 412-343-2080
Tuesdays, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Kenmawr Plaza, 500 Pine Hollow Road
Kennedy Twp., PA 15136
Phone – 412-331-1208
Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Strip District (mobile office)
Pittsburgh Public Market
2401 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Thursdays – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
|Northside (mobile office)
Carnegie Library – Allegheny branch
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Register to Vote!
If you are not registered to vote and wish to vote in the May 19th Primary Election, you must register with the Allegheny County Elections Division no later than this Monday, April 20th. Individuals needing to register may apply in person between the hours of 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, in Room 609 of the County Office Building, located at the corner of Ross Street and Forbes Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. All
registration forms being mailed must be postmarked by April 20th in order to be processed for the May Primary.
You may also visit one of my district offices to obtain a voter registration form. If you would like to obtain a form online, you can download and print a form at www.votespa.com. If you have questions about your registration or would like your registration verified, please call the Allegheny County Elections Division at 412-350-4510.
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 Saturday, April 18th 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
Adult Trout Stocking Schedules
The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) has announced that 2015 adult trout stocking schedules are now available online. Anglers can easily search the trout stocking schedules for locations and dates of interest by visiting the PFBC’s website, www.fishandboat.com, and clicking on the link for 2015 Trout Stocking Schedules.
On the site, simply enter start and end dates from the calendars at the top of the page to generate a schedule. The search results will provide each body of water within a county that is scheduled for stocking, the section of water, date, species of trout, meeting place and time, hatchery stocking the section, regulations that apply, and the latitude and longitude numbers. The 2015 trout season opens statewide this Saturday, April 18th.
Side Yard and Blighted Structure Program
The Allegheny County Department of Economic Development has launched its 2015 Side Yard and Blighted Structure Program through its Vacant Property Recovery Program. The program provides an opportunity for individuals, businesses, non-profits or government entities to apply for vacant lots and structures at a discounted price to the applicant.
Allegheny County will accept applications to acquire vacant properties in 37 municipalities at a reduced cost to the applicant. Several municipalities in the 42nd Senatorial District are part of this program including: Carnegie; Green Tree; Heidelberg; Neville; and Scott. Applications must be submitted no later than June 30th. Up to 60 applications will be accepted on a first come-first served basis and only five applications will be accepted per municipality to ensure that all municipalities and residents have an opportunity to apply.
Discounts similar to the 2015 Side Yard and Blighted Structure Program are available on an ongoing basis in the other 17 municipalities that currently participate in the Vacant Property Recovery Program including: Coraopolis; McKees Rocks; Sharpsburg; and Stowe. Funding for the program is provided through Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, County general funds, and applicant payments towards acquisition costs.
For more information, or to request an application, please call 412-350-1090 or visit the Allegheny County Vacant Property Recovery Program by clicking here.
Ohio Valley Hospital/Kennedy Township 5K
The 34th annual Ohio Valley Hospital and Kennedy Township 5K is scheduled for Saturday, May 16th. More than 160 runners and walkers turned out last year “for the Hill of it” to compete on this challenging course. The race, rain or shine, begins at 8 a.m. in front of Ohio Valley Hospital on Heckel Road in Kennedy.
Race participants, volunteers, and sideline cheerleaders are all welcome. A continental breakfast and awards ceremony follows the race. For more information on how to register for the race please visit http://ohiovalleyhospital.org/programs-and-events/. If you are interested in volunteering please call Megan Eaton, Race Director, at 412-777-6365.
This week is National Library Week, a national observance first sponsored in 1958 by the American Library Association and libraries across the country as a celebration of the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote and support library use. In Allegheny County, we’re fortunate to have a federated system of 45 public libraries, including the Carnegie Library system that delivers service in more than 70 locations. While the libraries are independent, this consortium allows the libraries to share a countywide catalog, jointly offer downloadable books, audios, and videos as well as online database.
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