Bill would eliminate school property taxes

Last updated: December 16. 2013 11:29PM - 3798 Views
By - smocarsky@timesleader.com

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NANTICOKE — A representative of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors on Monday urged seminar attendees to ask their state senator to support a bill that would eliminate school property taxes.

Chuck Liedike, who presented a seminar on truths and myths about House and Senate Bill 76 at Luzerne County Community College, said 25 of the state’s 50 senators now co-sponsor the bill, which would substitute a 1 percent increase in sales tax and a 1.3 percent income tax increase for the school property tax.

CAPTAXES, Luzerne County, an organization encouraging tax reform legislation, sponsored the seminar.

The bill is expected to go to a vote in the state Senate in January, Liedike said, so property owners who want to see an end to school property taxes need to contact their state senator as soon as possible and urge their friends and family members living in other districts to contact their senators as well, given that organizations such as the Pennsylvania State Education Association opposes the bill and are lobbying against it.

Locally, Liedike said, Senators John Yudichak and Lisa Baker support the bill, but Senators John Blake and John Gordner have not publicly backed it.

In his presentation, Liedike focused on a series of “myths” and “truths” about the legislation that are featured on www.RealReform76.com — a website dedicated to passage of the legislation.

One myth is that the bill would help only senior citizens on fixed incomes. Another is that the sales and income taxes are regressive, and that increasing them further hurts the most vulnerable. Also part of the myth is that the bill amounts to a “renters tax,” in which homeowners would see relief and renters would be stuck with the bill, Liedike said.

But Liedike said the bill would provide property tax relief to all Pennsylvania homeowners and small businesses who pay the taxes, regardless of age. He said the tax burden would be lifted from property owners and fairly spread among those who consume and earn the most.

Renters would have more stable living costs and could be spared dramatic rent increases in the future. And businesses would no longer have to pass the cost of property taxes on to consumers.

He said the biggest myth is that school boards would lose local control of how much money could be raised for education and how it could be spent. Audience member Deborah Scott, of Warrior Run, asked about that issue as well as how school district debt would be handled.

Liedike said school districts would get annual increases to their state allocations based on inflation. They could continue collecting a portion of property taxes currently dedicated to paying down old debt until it’s paid off, but once that debt is retired, the school property tax would be totally eliminated.

School districts could raise additional capital funds by instituting a new tax, but not on property, and it would need approval by a voter referendum, he said.

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